ISMENE BROWN

dance and arts journalism

(placeholder)

An archive of 25 years of British dance

(placeholder)

THIS SITE

is a selective filing cabinet of more than 25 years of my writings as a reviewer and close observer of the British and visiting international dance and ballet scene, published in The Daily & Sunday Telegraph 1992-2008, The Arts Desk from 2009, The Spectator 2014-16, and other publications where online. It consists of interviews with major performers and creators, features and commentaries on arts issues,  reviews and previews of shows that seemed significant above the usual run (including premieres of some now-famous events), and obituaries.

     It isn't critically organized, but, to my eye, the accumulation of reportage of the dance waterfront during the period is defined by the emergence and prominence in the artistic conversation of the dancers Sylvie Guillem, Tamara Rojo, Uliana Lopatkina, Irek Mukhamedov and Carlos Acosta, and the choreographers Akram Khan, Wayne McGregor and Matthew Bourne.

     This is essentially a conservative era in British dance history, symbolised by the deaths of Fonteyn (1991), MacMillan (1992) and Nureyev (1993), its creative content somewhat paralysed by problems with defining heritage and the artform's curation, and by the grip of box office and social and institutional politics.

     Most of the dance innovators who had enriched and diversified the landscape in the previous quarter-century were finding the road harder, and Britain's standing as a primary host for the great foreign modernists was being shaken by economic winds. The toll of the dead over the period includes the creative giants of American modern dance, headed by Merce Cunningham and Pina Bausch, and the final survivors of the birth years of British and US ballet.

     Still, although many threads of the artform's history were stretching thin or snapping, my cuttings are first-hand evidence of the blizzard of variety to be found in dance-going up and down Britain, classical, neo-classical and contemporary ballet, modern dance, physical theatre, dance theatre, flamenco, hip hop, mime, folk dance, circus, jazz, cabaret, installation dance, video and digital work, with their frequent merging and mixing reflecting increasingly eclectic training systems, creative options, cultural tastes and employment realities.

     The sheer volume of my coverage also reflects the Daily Telegraph's unstinting attitude to communicating performing arts as part of its reader package in much of the period. This in itself marks an era now past - independent of the Covid pandemic's ominous effects.

     It's unclear whether dance activity will always be recorded in a way that properly represents its reach and multiple textures, offering a wide-ranging guide for new spectators with a taste for travelling. I know myself how important in my own enjoyment other chroniclers are, and it's in that spirit that I have assembled this archive.

     If you want to republish or extract anything, kindly email me on this link.


BACKGROUND     

I am an arts journalist and Russianist historian of news background and musical training. I was the Daily Telegraph's dance critic for 15 years (1993-2008) and their dance obituarist to this day, and The Spectator’s dance critic for two years (2014-16). In 2009 I designed, launched and site-managed the award-winning critics’ site The Arts Desk (named Best Specialist Journalism Site in the 2012 Online Media Awards), was a founding director and its dance editor 2009-2012, and I remain an occasional reviewer.

     I trained as a pianist, singer and violist at the Royal College of Music, London (ARCM) and gained an MA in Russian Studies at University College, London in 2014. I have been a national newspaper subeditor, a regional newspaper editor, a local politics news reporter, a BBC and commercial radio news presenter, and a classical music radio presenter.

     This year I gained the degree of DPhil at Oxford University for my thesis on the Soviet politician and Minister of Culture Ekaterina Furtseva, on whose biography I am working.