Thursday, September 1, 2016

Eddie Nixon and The Place

Eddie Nixon, the Director of Theatre and Artist development at The Place, London was here in Chennai as a part of the jury for the Prakriti Excelence in contemporary dance awards, and The British council had arranged for him to deliver a talk on his work. It was a great oppurtunity to listen to a man so much involved in the best of contemporary dance and Theatre happening in UK and Europe. Eddie fashioned his talk around explaining the birth, growth and functioning of the Place and therby giving us a complete panaromic view of the contemporary dance scene in UK.
Eddie Nixon

He started off with the elementary details, explaining where the funding comes from and where it goes. An institution that started off as a simple venture by a wealthy patron of arts in Robin Howard, who started this inspired by performances and success of Martha Graham, and bought in one of their proteges, Robert Cohan as its first director in 1969, in a Victorian place that used to be a drill Hall. it was a revelation to see how state funding can raise it to a phenomenal level of efficiency in the national culture scene. He did not shy away from pointing out the difficulties faced in selling out a show, convincing state officials on staging new and experimental works at state owned venues etc.

Eddie has the most important job of identifying talent and nurturing them. The Place invests in a long term relation ship with its artists supporting and helping them grow deep and reach across. at present there 11 artists who are being supported at the 'work place' A trailer video showing the works of these different artists impressed upon us the diverse range of artistic experiences that The Place is particular about nurturing. while he was talking about supporting the artists, one naturally starts wondering about 'grooming' ( if it may be said so) an audience.

It was heartening and encouraging to know that The Place was taking great steps in  addressing that concern aswell through a variety of initiatives. There were these simple well made introductory videos to Contemporary dance, ' Landing on Planet dance
' , for the uninitated audience that walks in once in a while and says,' that was a great piece, but i could not make anything out of it' 

And for the audience who are regulars and want to improve their engagement with dance The Place has programs where these audience are introduced to some basic creative practices and also provides them an oppurtunity engage with a production in progress. It was exciting what a beautiful experience that could be for an audience that wishes to cultivate and groom its interest.

While i tend to believe that writing on the arts was one way of reaching out to the larger public, Eddie had diifferent thoughts and believed ' writing' was more for of academic interest and tends to further complicate one's experience of the arts. However, Karthika Nayar was very quick to point out The Place's initative to groom new writing in dance criticism by publishing amature writings alongside professionals and making space for identifying new writing.

Eddie was very eloquent and frank about his work and threw open to the audience a great window to the world of Contemporary Dance in UK, left us wondering if such institutions would see the light of the day here in India.

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