Outstanding Achievement in Dance is an Outstanding Raspberry

The Olivier awards, theoretically the West End’s pinnacle of theatre awards, nominated for the ‘Outstanding Achievement in Dance’, um, no dancers. Sorry, run that one past me again? Not one. Apparently no dancers were considered ‘outstanding’. Sorry, dazzling dancers of Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal. Sorry, Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Sorry, Alina Cojocaru and Sergei Polunin. None of you is remotely outstanding.

The ‘dance’ achievement, the reason we all go to dance performances, according to the geniuses of the Olivier dance committee, is set designs (two) and a drummer. Sic. Sic as a dog.

I have nothing against the people who were nominated. John MacFarlane, who designed Liam Scarlett”s perfectly pleasant, if slight, Asphodel Meadows, is a designer whose work I enjoy enormously. The artist Antony Gormley (the category’s winner) has produced some wonderful work for dance theatre. And Yoshie Sunahata, the kodo drummer in Akram Khan’s Gnosis, was a completely mesmerizing stage presence. It’s just that she was not, er, how to put this, not, well, not a dancer.

Can you imagine a category ‘Best actor’ that nominates a designer? If you can’t, why is it all right for the Olivier Awards to continue to stuff ballet into a little ghetto, with designers, choreographers, musicians, lighting technicians (and sometimes, when we’re lucky, a dancer or two) all thrown in a heap together? Is it possible to express more contempt for an art form? And if so, how? (Answers on a postcard, to the Olivier awards judges, complete with raspberries, please.)

Following the schlock-horror-movie Black Swan, this is supposed to be the year of dance. (I know, I’m not seeing it either.) Olivier judges, administrators: I’m trying to be restrained here. My suggestion for 2012: why not say what you really think, and just name the category ‘Oh hell, who gives a good goddam?’

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