Originally referring to dance notation, by the beginning of the twentieth century the term came to mean the art of making dances as this is understood in the context of Western theatre dance forms. In the radical social, political and artistic climate of the 1960s the notion of choreography was deeply questioned, directly affecting subsequent dance production in both the American and British scenes.
   In British ballet, new approaches to choreography became possible in direct relationship to major structural and administrative changes within the institutions involved, such as the Royal Ballet. In 1966, Ballet Rambert was transformed into a modern company with a focus on blending classical and modern tradition, and supporting work by both American (Glen Tetley) and British choreographers (Christopher Bruce and Richard Alston). In 1966, the foundations of British modern dance were successfully laid. Robin Howard formed Contemporary Ballet Trust, an umbrella organization for the promotion of modern dance in Britain with particular emphasis on Graham technique, initially including a school and, a year later, a company (Contemporary Dance Group) under the artistic directorship of American dancer and choreographer Robert Cohan. However, New Dance, an alternative dance movement born in the early 1970s, became the most radical British territory in which choreographic practices were reconsidered. In the American avantgarde dance of the 1960s, Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, David Gordon, Steve Paxton, Lucinda Childs and Meredith Monk used pedestrian movement, chance procedures, improvisation and indeterminacy, speech and elements of popular culture in alternative choreography. Visiting New York in the early 1970s, the British choreographer Rosemary Butcher was inspired to develop a personal approach to choreography driven by her own questions about dance and a working method informed by visual art practices.
   In 1973, American dancer and choreographer Mary Fulkerson was appointed head of dance at Dartington College of Arts in Devon to run a programme of alternative dance training. Fulkerson was also responsible for the organization of the Dartington Festivals (1978–87) which hosted the main manifestations of British experimental dance throughout the 1980s. The ADMA (Association of Dance and Mime Artists) Festivals of 1977 and 1978 in London had similar purposes but were less successful due to ineffective organization. In 1978, Dance Umbrella festival was also inaugurated in London under the initiative of Val Bourne and featured work by both American and British artists throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Rosemary Butcher, Miranda Tufnell, Laurie Booth, Yolande Snaith, Ian Spink, Gaby Agis, Sue Maclennan and Emilyn Claid are some of the key artists whose work shaped the identity of British alternative dance under the name New Dance.
   The birth and consolidation of New Dance would not have been possible without the support of X6 collective, an artists’ organization which safeguarded and promoted the philosophical, artistic and political principles of British alternative dance. In 1975, Emilyn Claid, Fergus Early, Maedée Duprès, Jacky Lansley and later Mary Prestidge formed X6 to face collectively the lack of space for training as well as rehearsing and performing alternative dance. They ran classes and workshops, mainly led by American dancers and teachers such as Mary Fulkerson, Steve Paxton and Lisa Nelson, and organized informal presentations of work. X6 also launched a quarterly publication under the name New Dance (1977–88). The role of X6 was highly and overtly political, in the sense that the collective was concerned with achieving specific social changes. This element becomes rather crucial when one attempts to explain the unique characteristics of British alternative dance from the 1970s onwards. The agenda of X6 included issues of freedom and equality approached not only through choreographic work with specific meanings but also through the methods and policies adopted in the making. Dance was understood as a non-specialized activity, and as a space in which the personal could be expressed, encouraging in this way the subsequent development of both community dance and highly personalized professional choreography. Dance was expected to make people aware of social and political issues; hence an early interest in exploring women’s issues, which soon became a strong enthusiasm for issue-based work.
   British New Dance shared with American avantgarde dance of the 1960s and 1970s the use of pedestrian movement, non-trained performers, improvisation, collaboration, non-traditional performance spaces and the interest in alternative movement systems (release, contact improvisation), alternative approaches to the body (Alexander technique, Feldenkrais, body-mind centring), and non-Western movement techniques (martial arts, tai chi, capoeira).
   During the 1980s some of the small independent British companies, such as Janet Smith and Dancers, Extemporary Dance Theatre and Second Stride, moved to middle scale, while the majority of independent choreographers became increasingly clearer in their aims. By the early 1990s British independent dance had become a vast arena of diverse statements choreographically manifested in a multiplicity of ways. The spectrum includes Emilyn Claid producing feminist and lesbian dance, Lloyd Newson and his company DV8 critiquing sexual stereotypes, Michael Clark exploring gay and camp work, Nigel Charnock blending movement and text in queer work, Wendy Houstoun bringing movement and text in cabaret style solo work, Shobana Jeyasingh and Nahid Siddiqui fusing classical Indian dance with Western contemporary dance elements, CandoCo Dance Company pioneering integrated dance work which brings together able and disabled bodies, Julyen Hamilton and Kirstie Simson working in improvisation, Liz Aggiss experimenting with movement, speech, singing, props, projections and elaborate costume to create an overall sense of image, Lea Anderson exploring the visuality of dance through a range of means including film, Jonathan Burrows and Russell Maliphant questioning their classical dance backgrounds through formal exploration of movement in relation to light, Matthew Bourne concentrating on highly subversive reworkings of the classics, Mark Baldwin introducing the use of computers to choreography, Wayne McGregor working on the threshold between live dance and virtual reality, Javier de Frutos interested in the uses of nudity, and company Ricochet celebrating the concept of a dancers-led company.
   Further reading
    Mackrell, J. (1992) Out of Line: The Story of BritishNew Dance, London: Dance Books.
    White, J. (ed.) (1985) 20th Century Dance in Britain: A History of Five Dance Companies, London: Dance Books.

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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