The Guardian’s dance critic Judith Mackrell – following a Rambert performance late last year – asked if choreographers needed editors. Sometimes it is a common view, other times not so much, that dance work might benefit from an external eye cast over it to ensure it is succinct and comprehensive. This view may smart with some dance creators, however it seems necessary in order to create the best work possible for the future.
Late January 2015 therefore saw Rambert host a discussion for an audience of dance professionals to explore the question in more detail. Judith chaired a panel which included Mark Baldwin and Paul Hoskins, Rambert’s Artistic Director and Music Director respectively, together with Peggy Olislaegers, the Director of Dutch Dance Festival. They were joined by three more directors: Robert Casarotto of Balleto di Roma, Christopher Hampson from Scottish Ballet and Sharon Watson from Phoenix Dance Theatre. Also taking part were two dance producers: Emma Gladstone from Dance Umbrella and Alistair Spalding of Sadler’s Wells.
Hampson’s response implied some brilliant artists would not accept editing of their work by someone else, in addition to the fact choreographers are constantly self-editing during creation. Spalding then warned of impeding artists that work ahead of popular or critical opinion; as Baldwin put it, it is like asking a choreographer to unscramble an egg in response to the impossibly difficult demands for change can be.
Despite this, Watson and Gladstone maintained that external circumstances can force change onto a work, and often there just may not be time to go through and see the piece critically. As identified by Casarotto, if this can be difficult for relatively well-resourced organisations, it is far harder for those working independently. Alternatively, Olislaegers felt that among younger practitioners, collaboration is more common and a choreographer’s autonomy less so.
The consensus seemed to advocate a supporting structure for creative processes, which could easily involve editors, producers, critical friends, organisations, networks: the list goes on.