In England, Closing a Chapter of Modern Dance

In England, Closing a Chapter of Modern Dance

So what happened? Since its beginnings, the Richard Alston Dance Company, which is based at a London contemporary-dance center called the Place, has been supported by Arts Council England, which funnels public money into the arts. In recent years 62 percent of Richard Alston’s budget has come from this public source — a situation most American art institutions can only dream of. (By contrast, the Mark Morris Dance Group, which is based in Brooklyn, receives less than 4 percent of its budget from government sources.)

But times have changed. Over the last decade, the government subsidy to the Arts Council — and thus to the arts — has diminished by a third, said Eddie Nixon, artistic director of the Place since late 2018. And applications for that funding have been tied to a list of priorities, focused on diversity, accessibility and cultural relevance. Eventually, it became more and more difficult for the Place to justify dedicating such a large portion of its public subsidy (nearly 24 percent) to a single, veteran company, devoted to the art of one man, Richard Alston.

In November 2018, he made the difficult decision to fold. Instead of having a resident company, going forward, the Place will fund a variety of dance artists and projects under its umbrella.

The reality is that today, in Britain as in the United States, the idea of a dance company as a permanent home is fast disappearing. All but a few dance ensembles function on a project-by-project basis, with dancers splitting their time between several short-term projects and seeking out (and paying for) their own dance classes and physical upkeep.

That constancy is something Mr. Alston’s dancers will miss. “Already last summer,” Ms. Braund said, “I started to realize how important it was to have that discipline and go to class every day.” Mr. Alston puts it more simply: “Dance thrives on continuity.” Now, that continuity will be lost, for the dancers, as well as for the repertory.

Amid this upheaval, Mr. Alston was knighted by the queen, gratifying under the circumstances. “It’s not something I’ve dreamed of,” he said, but “I was very surprised at how delighted I was.”

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