All of my professional life at the BBC I worked with choreographers and dancers. How lucky I was. Graham, Ashton, Macmillan, Cunningham and Robert Cohan, to name but a few. I also worked with the Film and Video Department of Arts Council England, for our series Dance for Camera, which introduced so many to the possibilities that the camera and editing could make on the dance and movement they created. Over 50 short dance videos were commissioned.
The most important thing to remember is that making a dance film is very different to making a work for the stage. All you have is what you record through the viewfinder and then edit into your dance film. A slight turn of the head or a slight movement of a hand can be more powerful and say much more in your video than any grand jete on the stage.
Sadly, my work can’t be seen; it’s locked away in the BBC’s film and video archive, most significantly the studio versions of Robert Cohan’s work made for his London Contemporary Dance Theatre: Cell, Waterless Method of Swimming, Nympheas and Stabat Mater.
These works were made well before the small video camera and mobile phones. They were shot in a large television studio with four or five cameras supported by a wonderful team of professionals and then edited and finally transmitted. The BBC wasn’t the only public service broadcaster making dance programmes. Sweden, Germany, France, the Dutch and many others made dance programmes and these were shown on the BBC, allowing audiences the chance to see television versions of these stage masterworks.
That doesn’t happen as much now, but today choreographers are making their own dance videos, perhaps not seen by as many people as 30 and 40 years ago, but they are valued works of art. I’m proud that South East Dance, of which I was chair for many years, is supporting this exciting work and I look forward to seeing it develop when South East Dance moves into its new home, The Dance Space, in Brighton.