News Story

The Place was founded in 1969 and we have joyously celebrated its 50th anniversary a few years ago, all while steadfastly focusing on the future. Today however, marks a different significant day – the birth of an idea…

On 1 March it will be 70 years since Robin Howard, a hotelier and art collector with an enthusiast’s love for dance and an expert eye for the next big thing, first saw Martha Graham and her Dance Company perform in 1954, while they were touring in London for a three-week season at the Saville Theatre. Legend has it that he went every night!

The London audiences and critics initially did not share Howard’s infatuation with Graham, but for him, the experience was one of “shock, and then marvel and wonder”, and this infamous evening ignited his passion for contemporary dance and began his journey that would lead to the creation of a movement in the UK, and of course to founding The Place.

"Though I didn't know it at the time, my life was undoubtedly changed that night...", he recalls in London Contemporary Dance Theatre, a book by Mary Clarke and Clement Crisp. Howard invited Graham and the company to dinner at his hotel – when no other official body felt compelled to honour the visitors with a reception - he financially backed the company's second London season at his own risk, and paid expenses for British dancers to travel to New York to train in Graham technique. Then he invited Robert Cohan to London and instructed him to "form a company based on love"... and the rest is history.

Thank you to Sue Hoyle for lending us the original poster of the event that started it all. The poster was a gift from the late John Travis - dancer, teacher, archivist and former CEO of of BBODance - who was an avid collector of dance posters, photographs and books and very generous in sharing his collection. When he invited her to choose one of his posters to keep, she chose this one of the Martha Graham company because it brought back memories of the happy period working at The Place (1998 - 2003). It has brought us all a sense of joy and celebration this week!