MY STORY Doing dance - and doing it large
Amy Dolan will be only the second tour co-ordinator for Dance Consortium since it was set up 18 years ago by a group of 19 large-scale UK theatres to serve their audiences with contemporary dance
You’re succeeding Heather Knight who has been with Dance Consortium since it was brought together in 2000. What is her legacy to you?
I was first introduced to Heather Knight in 2010 whilst studying music, theatre and entertainment management at The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), when I shadowed Heather on various tours with Dance Consortium - Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Companhia de Dança Deborah Colker in 2010, and Ailey 2 in 2011. During these tours, Heather shared a wealth of knowledge with me about the processes and best practices involved in touring large scale international companies, and the experience inspired me to become an arts manager. Since then I have worked with a range of companies, from Birmingham Royal Ballet to Disney, and from New Adventures to Scottish Ballet, and Heather is still mentor who continues to inspire me today. As Dance Consortium approaches its 20th anniversary in 2020, I am honoured to build on Heather’s incredible legacy. I think it’s safe to say there wouldn’t be a Dance Consortium if it wasn’t for the various conversations Heather instigated with Sadler’s Wells and Arts Council England in the mid-1990s.
You come from having been Scottish Ballet’s Company Manager and international tour producer, and before that fulfilling similar roles at Birmingham Royal Ballet. What will be so different about this job?
I am excited by the challenge of working with a diverse range of international companies. Much of my previous experience has been with taking UK artists and companies overseas, but in this role, I’ll be bringing international artists and companies to the UK. As a people person, I enjoy getting to know different people and different cultures. This can often be challenging but is one of the most rewarding parts of the job.
It would be fair to say that Dance Consortium was formed at a time when contemporary dance was struggling for audiences, and taking modern dances to large scale theatres of more than 800 seats would be a gamble. How has this changed?
As Dance Consortium continues to push boundaries with its diverse programming, there is always a challenge when introducing new audiences to international choreographers and works. Since the Consortium has been in place, the members have developed their knowledge of international dance, which in turn has helped them develop their local dance audiences. Dance Consortium is always looking to reach the widest audience to challenge, provoke and excite them through contemporary dance.
Have you worked with Dance Consortium before?
As I’ve mentioned, while I was studying at LIPA I shadowed Heather Knight during four Dance Consortium tours between 2010 and 2011. This mentoring scheme has now been formalised between LIPA and Dance Consortium, and along with the Consortium’s Future Leaders programme, and an ongoing relationship with One Dance UK and their Dance Ambassadors scheme, I have seen first-hand how invaluable these opportunities are. I’m looking forward to developing these initiatives further once I am in post.
You will be working with the executive director Ros Robins. How are the roles different?
It is the role of executive director to provide dedicated leadership to the consortium of theatres – to work with venue members to deliver an agreed business plan and to build a touring programme for the future. Ros has responsibility for exploring opportunities for new initiatives and partnerships to ensure that the consortium continues to thrive, particularly in relation to audience engagement, learning and participation and digital innovation. The tour coordinator’s role is more about logistics and is a facilitating role – being more hands on with the day to day running of the tours.
Presumably not every show goes to each theatre in the group. To what extent do you find shows to offer your member theatres, and to what extent do the suggestions come from them for you to offer the consortium?
It is a collaborative effort - the members then have the final say about whether a company tours or not. The venues are experts at their market and know what will work or won’t.
How many of the touring companies are from overseas, compared with British ensembles, and how good are British contemporary companies in comparison?
All the companies that Dance Consortium (http://www.danceconsortium.com) bring to the UK are from international markets. A lot of the works are very different to those that British companies offer, which gives UK audiences a variety of choice and opportunities to develop their contemporary dance palate.
You will help Heather with the autumn tour. Will you have to accompany the touring company to each of the theatres, and how many will be there be on this tour?
I will accompany Heather at a few venues during The Trocks UK and Ireland tour this autumn. For the Mark Morris Dance Group’s Pepperland I will join the company at all twelve venues during spring 2019 tour. This ensures not only that the visiting company receives the warmest welcome, but we continue to be an efficient and effective organisation. During a tour, the tour coordinator is on hand to answer any questions and resolve any issues, so it’s important I’m there at every venue.
Will you need to travel the world seeing foreign performers, and is there a company you'd most like to take on a UK tour?
Like many of Dance Consortium’s audience, I am also inspired by and have a love for dance. I like to challenge myself to see as much work as possible throughout the world. That said, with new technologies like Vimeo and YouTube it is much easier and more cost-effective for promoters to see work in the first instance on the screen. The Consortium arranges ‘go and see’ advance trips, giving venue members an opportunity to see a range of companies before touring decisions are made and finalised.
Could the consortium be larger, and would you welcome that?
Dance Consortium’s mission is to bring contemporary dance to as many people as possible, therefore more members would help deliver this.