The Week in Arts: The easy way to open a national dance house

Share
Related Topics

One of the cultural campaigns of the early 1990s was for a national dance house. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But it fizzled out, as cultural campaigns do, and was not mentioned again until this week, when out of the blue we suddenly had a national dance house.

One of the cultural campaigns of the early 1990s was for a national dance house. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But it fizzled out, as cultural campaigns do, and was not mentioned again until this week, when out of the blue we suddenly had a national dance house.

In case you hadn't noticed, the announcement was made by Alistair Spalding, the head of Sadler's Wells in London. His building, he said, was henceforth the nation's home for dance. He said it on Monday. On Tuesday, Sadler's Wells presented the critically derided Sleeping Beauty on Ice. That wasn't great timing, as choreographers are wont to say.

But, ice dancing aside, let's applaud Sadler's Wells. They have shown how easy it is to become a national institution. You just stand up and say: "We are it". Think how long it took to create a National Theatre. None of that nonsense for Mr Spalding. I declare my building national, he declares. And that's that. No need for a royal decree, no charity gala, no need even for the permission of the Department of Culture. Just do it. It is the postmodern approach to running an arts institution.

He's not wrong. Dance needs a national base. Too often it can be the poor relation of the arts world. The Royal Opera and the Royal Ballet share the Royal Opera House. But it is called the Royal Opera House. We do need a national dance house. Interest in it never really wanes, and hip-hop has heightened and expanded this interest. Mr Spalding, wisely, says hip-hop dance will be among his initiatives, as will a formal partnership with artists such as Matthew Bourne. Sadler's Wells, since its renovation, has excellent sightlines and a rather buoyant and classless atmosphere.

However, being Britain's first national dance house brings with it some responsibilities to the dance-loving public. Mr Spalding must ensure that Mr Bourne doesn't mount his productions at Sadler's Wells with an orchestra, and then tour them nationally with recorded music. That is the case with his current production, Highland Fling.

The National Dance House must ensure the nation is treated equally. Second, although it is from this week a producing house, Sadler's Wells must continue to show the best of the world's dance as well as mount its own productions.

But good luck to Mr Spalding and Sadler's Wells in raising the profile of dance and showing a tardy arts world how simple it actually is to be a National Dance House. Now I'm back off to my house in Pinner, or as I have now renamed it, the National House for Arts Journalism.

Try throwing a few laughs our way

The smashing comedian Jennifer Saunders seems to be in confessional mode. In an interview this week, she admitted that her last series with Dawn French was not up to scratch. "Dawn and I enjoyed it, but I think we were the only people that enjoyed it thoroughly," she said.

She added: "I think we misjudged the pace of it and misjudged how much other stuff we might need for it... In our heads, we were making a late-night BBC2 show, because we always forget we've developed into mainstream now."

That's an iffy memory indeed. And doesn't the BBC have producers to remind its stars what channel and what time of night their show is aimed for? Never mind. Ms Saunders can now delight us with a new sitcom. I suggest the central character should be a brilliant comedian of middle years who undergoes a crisis of confidence when she realises that her last show is aimed at the wrong audience at the wrong time of night. She ends up being the only person to enjoy the show. Can't fail.

¿ I am delighted that Harold Pinter's retirement from the stage looks like being one of the shortest on record. I wrote on this page last week that Pinter should not leave playwriting in order to concentrate on being a political activist, as playwriting is one of the most effective forms of political activism. I hear that part of my column was read out to Pinter in a session at last Saturday's Aldeburgh Literary Festival.

Humphrey Burton, the broadcaster and author who interviewed the playwright at the festival, and had his copy of The Independent on stage throughout the session, tells me that the playwright ended up conceding that he might indeed write more plays. Welcome back to the stage, Mr Pinter.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn