The Royal Academy recently ran a wheeze whereby the public were encouraged to buy pounds 30 postcards in the hope that they would turn out to be valuable works by established artists like Peter Blake, Eduardo Paolozzi and Frank Auerbach. Even the losers in that particular lottery may turn out winners if the artist they sponsored goes on to achieve fame and fortune in the future.
There is nothing quite like being in at the beginning of someone's artistic career to give your reputation as art-lover, talent spotter and all-round flaneur a much needed kick up the bum. "Of course, we saw her in Giselle when Nureyev first brought her over" etc. For reasons of pure snobbery, attendance at debuts always carries a certain cachet (even though a debut performance is usually marred by nervous errors) and seeing shows before they transfer to the West End is a must in some circles (even though it entails schlepping to Hackney in heavy traffic with a disgruntled taxi driver).
The Place Theatre in London's Bloomsbury, is the spiritual home of the promising newcomer. Modest in scale and eclectic in outlook, The Place has always hosted the work of new, occasionally untried choreographers as well as providing a medium-scale venue for more established companies. Every January the theatre has staged Resolution!, a dance platform for budding choreographers such as Mark Bruce, Mark Murphy and committed naturist Javier de Frutos who have developed successful careers since those first tentative steps. A great deal of them haven't, of course, and for every Russell Maliphant, whose debut you will always remember, there will be a dozen derivative, ill- trained drongos in pyjamas you will study earnestly to forget.
Fun though. With at least three companies on show each evening, the tedium never gets too great and the audience is a combustible mixture of new dance groupies and supportive friends and relations of the performers.
Among this year's 100 companies there are several making return visits from last year's season including Modem and Retina Dance Companies who were both favourably reviewed last year. The company names may be unfamiliar but the choreographers' often ring bells. This year's dancemakers include Karen Greenhough, Kathy Crick (a Yolande Snaith collaborator), Keith Brazil (former dancer with Adventures in Motion Pictures) and Yuri Zhukov of the Birmingham Royal Ballet who choreographs "The Quest" which will be danced by his colleagues Catherine Batcheller and Joseph Cipolla under the guise of The Gnu Dance Company. Hard to imagine a company called The Gnu topping the bill at the new Sadler's Wells at the turn of the century, but you never know.
EYE ON THE NEW
Those who prefer a tried and tested hit will probably opt for English National Ballet in Ronald Hynd's charming production of Coppelia which is revived at the Royal Festival Hall next week. Among those dancing Franz is Zoltan Solymosi, a former principal with the Royal Ballet until all went horribly wrong.
Royal Festival Hall, South Bank Centre, London (0171-960 4242) 13-18 JanReuse content