Charlotte Constable is a third year student at the University of Winchester studying Choreography & Dance and Psychology. She is currently watching, writing and waiting for her big break in dance criticism.
Wednesday, 6 March, 2013
Saturday, 5 January, 2013
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You log onto a community dance website. You select the page listing the timetable of classes. The first image you see upon opening the page, spread unashamedly across the top, is of a ballet class. All of the dancers you can see in the foreground are male.
It must be a specificied all-male class, surely?
No. This is a dance class for adults with learning disabilities.
Unfortunately I cannot locate the site where I saw this image, but it resonated with me nonetheless. Having volunteered with a local sector of Mencap recently, and experienced a contemporary class run by their theatre organisation, I was familiar with the high proportion of men willing to give dance a go.
At the class I attended, men accounted for approximately 25% - a low percentage on paper, but in comparison to the dance classes I have witnessed throughout my life, surprisingly high. Integrated company StopGAP also demonstrate this higher proportion of male performers; Chris Pavia (who recently made his choreographic debut at Resolution! 2013) and David Willdridge make up 20% of the team.
Talk of the female in dance is huge right now. The Female Choreographers Collective (FCC), founded by AD Dance Company's Holly Noble and Beyond Repair Dance's Jane Coulston, began the initiation for change and debate in October of last year. The initiative aims to support female choreographers in a society in which less and less big female names seem to be receiving the funding of their male counterparts.
There may be a lot of big money men in the spotlight - Hofesh Schechter, Akram Khan, Wayne McGregor, to name a few. I have no doubt that the FCC has emerged at the right time. But the lack of men attending those vital community classes and after-school clubs which spark so many a young girl's passion (and led me to my degree, my work ambitions and this very blog) remains startling. My classmates and I were recently visited by the charming and confident contemporary dancers from community dance school Kobika Dance - each and every one of them female. Oh, and so are all my classmates.
It is a bizarre dichotomy - arguably some of the biggest names on the UK choreography scene are male, yet the lack of men attending classes remains evident. The exception seems to be offered through initiatives offered to adults with learning disabilities. Why? Are they simply more welcoming, less judgmental? If so, they set an excellent example.
But wait - are female dancers in fact fearful of a rising male competition for professional roles? Is this the elephant in the room? With the current frustrations over sexism demonstrated in the FCC's argument, it is unsurprising that up-and-coming male dance stars pose a threat to the female dance maker. Professional dancers do tend to divert their attentions to choreography when younger bodies offer potential to live out creative ambitions.
It seems the men can't win in this argument. Then again, neither can the women off the page and on the pay rolls.