a future for independent dance

A conversation with Josh Slater.

Words Ines Carvalho.

There are many concerns right now about what the future will bring after the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, we spoke to independent artists about those concerns and how they are overcoming this worldwide situation. But will the independent dance sector be the same after 2020? Is the digital world becoming the main trend in dance? What are the biggest lessons from the current situation? 

Regarding these topics, we spoke with Josh Slater, an independent artist and lecturer in dance, theatre and performance at Plymouth University. Josh has worked across the north west and south west of England over the past eight years in teaching, creating, touring and researching the independent dance sector. Since the pandemic, he has been setting up an independent dance artist network and digital performance platform — LATITUDE — that gives the chance to dance artists to connect, have support and share their work during this pandemic.

Read our interview with Josh about the future of independent dance:

DAJ: In your opinion, what’s the greatest challenge for the independent dance sector after this period of social isolation?

J: Openness and accessibility. This pandemic has meant that classes, performance works and artists have become more accessible and open to a much wider group of audience and participants. People have connected in some incredibly meaningful ways as a response to the social isolation and lockdown. I hope that as an industry we don’t revert back to old habits of closing doors and being too busy to speak to one another.

DAJ: Do you believe that the way we experience dance will be changing in the future?

J: Yes, I think there are some hard choices to make in the short term, especially for performance venues and training schools. But with every limitation there’s the possibility of a creative response. I think we will get used to watching more dance films, which is really exciting. As well as new ways of being an audience in space, I think we will see more site-specific outdoor work which will ask us as makers to change the way we build and see work, and the way we tour it.

DAJ: What will be the role of digital platforms in dance?

J: I hope to keep bringing wider groups of people together. I think there’s some really interesting participatory performance work that can be created through digital video platforms. I hope this can be developed so we can create strong screen dance and video participatory dance performances too. I think it would be great for some classes to still exist on digital platforms, but it is so important to get back into studios and train together for safety and our mental wellbeing.

DAJ: What will be the main lesson for the independent dance after the pandemic?

J: That we need to try and find more stability with our funding bodies, theatres and companies we work for. Our creativity and value are huge, but the precarity that so many of us have felt because of this pandemic is concerning. I think that stability and the communities that we have formed during the pandemic need to be taken forwards.

DAJ: Can we predict a future for the independent dance?

J: I think that we can predict that a future definitely exists. I think it will be changed by this, but the independent dance sector is vital for the development of dance forms, audiences, and prospective dancers in the future.

Image: Matthew Harrison-Lord.