New Territories 2009

Gareth K Vile sees New Territories make a natural evolution, as it continues to push the boundaries of performance

Feature by Gareth K Vile | 19 Mar 2009




As programmer for the New Territories season, Nikki Millican has been responsible for bringing some of the most exciting art to Glasgow. This year, as it inhabits Tramway for a month, she reflects on what has defined this annual festival.

“For me, there is no real separation between main New Territories and The National Review,” she muses. “Over recent years I’ve been merging them and there is no delineation there. Somehow, serendipitously, things merge quite naturally.”

New Territories begun in the 1980s as New Moves, a dance festival. Now, it defies categorisation, incorporating music, drama and new technology, often within the same show. “Ten years ago, I was losing the sense of wanting to do just a dance festival,” she says. “I wanted so much more!”

The line-up is remarkable, ranging from Sylvain Emard’s dance trilogy through Ubu’s take on Beckett to Paulo Ribeiro’s two nights of gender exploration. New Territories sketches the artistic frontier.

“It’s not our job to repeat what other people are doing – it is a premiere programme as far as I can make it”, she says. Millican is utterly committed to originality and verve: “They flip between categorisations. It’s not purely dance, not purely theatre, it is interesting work. I can’t think of anywhere else in the UK that promotes those kind of artists.”

“But I love it when artists play with traditional things,” Millican adds. “Like the way Cas Public dances on pointe, but makes it so much more relevant, more rock’n’roll – and still maintains wonderful technique.” This mixture of quality and radicalism is the hallmark of New Territories.

At The Arches, the RSAMD’s Into The New is a festival unto itself. Deborah Richardson-Webb, Head of Performance Pedagogy, is delighted that this annual showcase for the Contemporary Performance Practice students has integrated into New Territories. “Nikki was our first external examiner: over the years twelve artists have been selected as platform artists at the National Review. There was always cross-over.”

The support of New Territories has energised and expanded Into The New: there are multiple performances, workshops, a symposium and a evening featuring the work of graduates.

“It seemed a natural progression. The NRLA has been a huge influence on the development of the course,” Richardson-Webb acknowledges. “It was always our intention to have a much bigger event, one that became a platform for other artists.”

She is excited about the venue. “We wanted more multi-purpose spaces, say for installations. The Arches gave us those nooks and crannies. The Arches is a gift.” Event co-ordinator and mentor Kate Stannard agrees: “This year, all this different space can be used. Some students are working site-specifically.”

For Stannard, this enhances the performances. “When you make work, sometimes you don’t know where it will end up, so looking at the space, to see how it helps the work progress is really exciting.”

Aside from offering a programme that is the envy of any major city, New Territories is cultivating the next generation, offering them new opportunities. Here is a festival that sacrifices neither quality nor integrity for size and success.