Open Letter to Judith Mackrell
Tuesday, 1 June, 2010 |
I am writing to congratulate you for your 'Critic's notebook' story 'I'm shocked at how soon dancers move on' (Guardian G2, 27.05.10), reproduced online as 'There is no sense of family in dance now' (Guardian Link), which I thought was both thought-provoking and timely.
In the body of your story you attribute the turnover of dancers between different companies to their wish to experiment with as wide a range of choreographers and techniques as possible, but it is your next sentence that really hits the nail on the head: "Factor in the current precariousness of their professional lives - the short-term contracts and minimal wages - and it's not surprising many feel they have to keep on the move to survive."
Here I believe you have touched upon what I consider to be one of the greater failings of the Arts Council, dance schools, impresarios, Equity and most arts journalists to properly address: the appalling levels of support for performing artists in general and dancers in particular.
I know this is a perennial problem - but why is it? In quoting Shobana Jeyasingh's example you seem to take her side in hinting that dancers move on from even the largest - or at least higher profile - companies even when they DO have some kind of contractual security (sic) - and that this is somehow the dancers' fault. I think this is most unfair.
Quite apart from the personal dynamics inherent in these situations, and the immense physical toll (and consequent burn-out) some choreographers exert upon their dancers, you appear to have forgotten that most dancers are schlepping round the UK and Europe at their own expense to attend one-off auditions or rehearse and perform one-off pieces not because this is what they want but because it is all that is on offer.
We mustn't forget that performing artists have to revalidate their worth every single day of their working lives in class and rehearsal and performance (with the added risk of injury haunting dancers). Does any real security - including a living wage, not just subsistence - exist for these essentially freelance performers? Of course not. Minimal wages? Any wage at all would be a bonus for most dancers. The assumption that they achieve even the national hourly minimum wage for long days of training, choreography, rehearsal and performance - while also paying for local digs - is just risible. And this quite apart from the awful manner some companies and choreographers treat dancers attending their auditions, particularly in continental Europe.
I am not saying it is your role as a dance critic to call for change - but I do believe it behoves you as an arts journalist to do so, just as I believe it incumbent upon Equity, the dance schools and supporting arts organisations to start to do something about it. You all base your careers upon writing about, training or otherwise supporting these extraordinarily hard-working individuals, yet appear to me to do very little to ensure they can pursue their careers in the same conditions you all do.
It would be nice to see such influential voices take up the 'equitable employment' cudgels on dancers' behalf. Shocked or not, you might have started the ball rolling with your story. Congratulations.
Thursday, 15 April, 2010 |
Just read your 'Creation' article and wanted to comment but I think they are closed... You make an extremely important point in relation to the frankly scary 'off the record' comment about being able to pay dancers more if you employ less of them.
I've heard the question, "are we training too many dancers?" but never, "are we employing too many?"!!!! The statement may be technically true but contains seriously flawed 'logic' for all reasons you put forward. I particularly wanted to support the very good point made about employing more dancers than 'needed'. Research has shown that the most common cause of dance injury is fatigue and overwork.
There of course could be various contributory factors to this, however a major one is inevitably work load, not to metion insufficient preparation (rehearsal) time. When all dancers are performing all the time (having had barely any time to get 'fit for performance' if having to do other work between dance jobs and only given 2 or 3 weeks rehearsal time) and no slack is built in to compensate when injury inevitably does occur, the result can be even more injuries as other dancers' workloads are increased to compensate.... and the cycle continues.
If companies employed even fewer dancers you'd run the risk of more cancelled performances which is clearly not what they are being funded for.
Bottom line is, fund companies sufficiently so that they can employ the number of dancers they need, pay them a fair wage and provide the support they need to stay fit and available for performance and you have a more sustainable art form through which the creative juices can freely flow.
The Vexed Question
Thursday, 26 November, 2009 |
I'm grateful for the raising of this issue. It's loaded with big questions about how we change aesthetic and cultural norms and how art and society evolves. Article19's short and to the point questions imply it's very simple and straightforward to just all change. In one way I totally agree. It should be that simple. But since that's not the world we have belonged to, there's a lot that needs to change and artistic directors and dancers, just like disabled artists, but with more onus, have to find creative paths through a changing landscape.
If we forced integration of disabled artists across the spectrum of current dance companies and their various artistic directors, there would probably be a lot of pain and heartache for all concerned and some very bad and non-inclusive art. Of course there could also be some great art too.
Being taught by a disabled dancer or dancing in work choreographed by a disabled choreographer should also be part of the conversation. I'm thinking about different ways we can exchange and learn from each other, challenge aesthetic norms and shift the power base. I'm sure we could make some beautiful and meaningful dance through working inclusively, but we have to learn how to.
In the new and, I believe already emerging, landscape, I imagine companies led by disabled choreographers and directors who may or may not have come through current dance companies. There are already disabled dance artists on the scene who could lead mainstream dance companies. They are coming in from the margins with rich experience and the resources of the hungry and I think these artists are already making an impact.
When the issue of cultural entitlements for people with disability first came up I attended two relevant SAC and ACE conferences. I tried to imagine our dancers doing class and pushing their physical boundaries alongside dancers with a pronounced physical difference. How could it work that we could all be equally challenged and achieving, without huge frustration all round? We would need to rethink our training and ask what dancing is and could be. What about the work; would a disabled performer get stuck in certain kinds of roles, or not being used by choreographers who were intimidated by this new challenge. we would need choreographers to learn how to work inclusively and discover and support disabled choreographers. That's a lot of change.
A breakthrough moment was seeing a collaboration that Greyeye offered as part of the second conference when two RADA graduates and two disabled actors performed a scene from an Oscar Wilde play. The casting was perfect and all four were very able actors. I couldn't imagine it being half as good with non-disabled actors. How great to have such a range of casting options, like including the whole world. Ping! The penny drops.
We are all on a spectrum of abilities and disabilities of course. Everyone is differently abled. Could it be so different and difficult?
I had been inspired by first seeing CandoCo and it helped to know such an amazing performer as David Toole was out there. I didn't think I wanted us to become an 'integrated dance company' with that main mission and responsibility. I don't have the special knowledge that Celeste and Adam acquired. I more wondered how the whole world picture could change and we could all arrive at a different way of being and seeing. What role can we all play in changing that societal and artistic landscape?
Artistic directors are always looking for the best performers, within our own perception. Mostly young people with disability still don't get offered possibilities to imagine that they might want to be performers, so few come forward to participate and demand those college places in our Lottery-funded, fully- accessible, mainstream dance schools. Inclusion in education from school to post-graduate level for aspiring disabled artists is something we can all play a part in. Dance companies can definitely make an impact through finding role models, introducing and sharing integrated practise and opening doors. We can also support the work of disabled artists in various ways. As a venue-based company, SDT is working to include disabled artists in our dance programming,(performances and a disabled dance artists residency) and improving accessibility backstage.
When the company started work on Angels of Incidence, choreographed by Adam Benjamin, no Scottish dancers with disability came forward to audition and we ended up with two Australians and one American and only one per former form the UK. These performers all brought skills and qualities that blended with and enhanced those of our dancers. They also brought different - and more - life experience, since three of them were older than our dancers. This, of course, was great.
We had two excellent teachers for class in our then Assistant Director, Michael Popper and guest teacher Sean Feldman. They each took a different approach to teaching integrated classes, feeling their way. We learned what extra things we needed to think about. The SDT dancers had their normal class either slow down or significantly change so they were challenged and sometimes struggled to adapt. They were willing, but it wasn't easy. It was hard for the guest artists to adapt things quickly enough.
We had breakthroughs. We invented Caroline's box so that she could get out of her big electric chair and move with greater freedom. One insecure young SDT dancer came into his own during the process of working with our generous, self assured guest artists, which was wonderful to see. I think, also, that we all gradually grew to realise that making integrated dance was not a mystery requiring highly specialised skills and quite a few of us got curious to try it ourselves.
Angels of Incidence not just the the creation and tour of a work over 6 months, it was also the journey we all went on together that has led Scottish Dance Theatre and Caroline Bowditch to where we are now. Caroline is our Dance Agent for Change, a two year post funded by the Scottish Arts Council. She co-created a duo, which started life in our educational SDT Interactives and immediately became part of the main performance programme we toured last season. This week Caroline is finally presenting a research paper on the impact of Angels of Incidence.
In the meantime a disabled dancer wrote in to audition and I invited him along. Marc Brew's fantastic creative skills and performance strengths came through in the improvisations and performance tasks, where you could see all the other interesting auditions eagerly seeking the chance to work with him. But when it came to our current repertoire it was clear that the work would need to be specially adapted to encompass a dancer in a wheelchair and that we would need to start from scratch together on new work if Marc were to join the company.
I didn't give Marc the job, but he came, shortly afterwards, on a Future Leaders placement, via Suffolk Dance. This stay has been extended with an Associate Director Fellowship for another year. During this time Marc will co-create and perform in NQR, (Not Quite Right), along with Caroline Bowditch, (also to perform in the work) and myself.
There are will be new problems to address, Like dealing with injuries and double casting work. This is a new challenge with different movers. Does it change the work? We have sometimes come across this issue of changing readings in relation to, say, a female dancer standing in for an injured male dancer or vice versa. I guess with new work we can discuss and prepare for such eventualities as injury/illness and sort out understudying as the piece is being created.
We will take NQR out as part of the company's national tour in Spring 2010 and continue on this journey of discovering what happens next.
Caroline and Marc are helping us ask and face the difficult questions. They are also working, highly successfully on defining their own future directions and are very much in demand as independent makers and performers. So perhaps they are forging different future paths for dance that mainstream dance will wish it had not missed out on? Perhaps in the 21st century it is the telling of everybody's stories that audiences will hunger for, told in different and inclusive ways. If so, artists like Marc and Caroline could help us to get to get there in realising what's possible.
Scottish Dance Theatre
Rafael Bonachela Misunderstood?
Saturday, 13 December, 2008 |
I'm still trying to get my head around this arrogant and infuriating posting from the Evil Wimp regarding Rafael Bonachela's position at Sydney Dance Company. It is obviously meant to provoke debate, yet it generates an unnecessary amount of the very 'mean spirit' it accuses Rafael of, and I can't stop myself from making some facts clearer.
Article19 only needed to do a tiny bit of research to notice that this company has had the same director for 30 years, performing solely his work and consequently has been in dire need of new energy and focus. Now that Sydney Dance becomes a repertory company they need performers that can handle the contemporary work that Rafael will commission not simply dance in his own work.
Six months ago, I assisted Rafael for an 8week creation period with the company or sixteen as they were and we both got to know each dancer intimately gaining a true and full sense of their skill base.
Far from asserting authority just for the sake of it, Rafael, on getting the directorship, had 8 whole weeks of creative process to reflect on when establishing would be most suitable to stay and I'm sure went to great lengths to make the transition as good as possible for those performers without renewed contracts. Those of us who have actually worked in big companies know that there are always employees who need to move on, but need to be encouraged by a director to do so and in many cases this can actually be considered a gift of an opportunity for that dancer.
I have first hand correspondence with the Sydney dance scene and know they have warmly welcomed Rafael and have appreciated his thorough embracing of the whole dance community there, way beyond the walls of the institution.
This is so far from the projected imaginings of a group of office people in Leeds who clearly don't know Rafael, the way he conducts his work or the needs of Sydney Dance Company itself yet seem determined to bad mouth him for some reason. Rafael's work may not be to TheLab's liking and their doubts about him being up to the challenge is one thing, but to accuse him of asserting authority where in need not be asserted is unfounded and cruel.
Without an exception, all of the dancers who have worked with Rafael's company in the U.K. have thoroughly loved him as a boss and I consider the Sydney Dancers to be very lucky. TheLab seems to turn a blind eye to numerous choreographers in this country whom lack respect for their company dancers well being and instead pick on one of the most generous directors around.
Whilst posing as a genuine inquiry into the needs of Sydney Dance and the individuals involved, this posting stinks of some personal unresolved issue Article19 has with Rafael, his recent directorship announcement being merely a chance to slander his name.
I think on a more general level, the anonymous writer of this blog needs to think about the repercussions of this ongoing, easy and bitchy posting. Who is really acting like Simon Cowell here?
I ask the dance community this... does dialogue and opinion about dance have to be centered around this ill informed twits drivel which purports to be intellectual yet remains badly researched and cowardly?
It is an argument I personally hear very often. Such and such a person is a supremely "nice guy", beloved by all and can do no wrong, etc, etc. It is a point of view similar to that of a dysfunctional marriage. People stay together on the basis of unquantifiable personal feelings and practicalities and personal actions are ignored.
Whether or not someone is "nice" or "lovable" is completely irrelevant.
I'm sure it was lovely for the seven dancers who were fired (or did not have their contracts renewed as you put it). I know dancers love it when they get kicked out of a company large or small, they really do appreciate the opportunity and enjoy telling other potential employers about why they were let go.
Actions speak louder than words, at least on this occasion, Mr Clinkard and this is our assessment of those actions, like it or not. I'm sure it is very difficult when you see a friend being written about in a negative fashion in the media but let me assure you that there is no axe to grind, no agenda, no score to settle. I personally don't have that kind of time.
I'm also not buying your suggestion that anybody who has come into contact with Mr Bonachela on a professional basis has nothing but love and admiration for him. I've been in this business for too long so please, let us talk as adults, even the Pope has his detractors.
I have no idea what Leeds or "office people" have to do with anything mind you.
You speak of cowardice but you refuse to name the dance makers who, as far as you are concerned, are so blatantly mis-treating their dancers.
I am responsible for what is published on Article19 so the buck stops with me and with me alone. On the same page of the form you filled in to send this message to Article19 there is a phone number. I note that you declined to call it, such was your outrage.
Also, "Evil Wimp", I see what you did there, that's funny.
Wishing you the very best of everything at all times.
London International Dance Film Festival
Thursday, 6 December, 2007 |
Thank you for your polemical and fabulously ill-informed op-ed bit. However, better to be talked about than [not]. Have much to discuss about grown up attitudes to creativity generally and dance film in particular and not getting bent out of shape choreographically, pre-supposing one has the vaguest notion of what "shape" might be in the first place.
Put your name and credentials where your mouth is please and by the way, vis-a-vis calendars. South East Dance operates the Arts Council Calendar which I believe bears absolutely no relation to any other temporal orientation whatsoever.
We had no option [on] our dates, driven as we were by the expediencies of Riverside programming and for your information - until September 2007 SED did not give the dates to anyone other than the group at MEDIA & DANCE, approximately three months after we had announced the LIDFF dates, however, for the last 18 months, owing to a clearly defined curatorial policy which has been wilfully and occasionally mischievously identified as "anti" conceptualist, we have been deliberately ignored by a huge swathe of what could be arguably referred to as the "dance" film community, AKA the scholastic tendency.
Anti nada, please check our programming for a practical rebuttal of any revisionist or reactionary accusations. hmmmmm..............
I think the general public and, particularly, the relatively small dance film audience could care less about the scheduling problems of festival organisers. I would imagine that all they would ask is that they not be programmed on exactly the same dates, if it's not too much trouble, which clearly it is when assessing the debacle that is this particular case.
Perhaps venues, festival organisers and the others involved in the arts administrative infrastructure would like to drag themselves out of the 19th century and stop programming things so far in advance and, apparently, in secret they they, inevitably, begin clashing events on the same dates.
If the LIDFF and SED were kids I think the pair of you would be getting your heads knocked together.
If you want to know who we are, then you have only to look!
Difficult Perspective Kickback
Monday, 3 September, 2007 |
Companies are restricted by touring funding and you can't perform in Manchester AND Blackpool because they are considered too close! This is the difference between college students getting a bus to the venue, or a trying to organise a coach with the extra cost and the travel.
I always thought a better way to organise a tour would be to visit the home area of every dancer in the company, in turn they would give a list of contacts to marketing that would include family members, their primary school, secondary school, old workmates, youth group and offer workshops lead by that dancer in their old school, I have found that schools are usually quite supportive of their old students.
Dance Company Communication
Friday, 8 June, 2007 |
I would like to get something of my chest. It’s about the don’t call us we’ll call you culture in the dance industry (amongst others). I have spoken to quite a few colleaugues, working and not working and the way a lot of auditionees are treated in terms of notification whether they have been taken on or not is really disappointing.
Of course there is the infamous don't call us we call you line, and than you never hear back. Or we will tell you as soon as possible, and you will hear exactly the same line at the same audition next year.
In truth I don’t understand why it so often is like this. In many other professions, companies manage to organise themselves and notify any interested employees of the outcome of an interview. In the day and age of the internet communicating has been made so easy.
We can send monkeys to the moon but not notify someone whether they have the job or not! I think it is only courteous, to let someone know what the situation is so they can actually plan and organise there lives, it's already hard enough as it is. I have questioned some choreographers on this behaviour.
Their explanation is that they are too busy with the production, and they trust that I will understand. Truth is that we are all busy, some working, some trying to find work.
Why am I writing to you about this. Article 19 has a big voice/is a voice in the dance community and I am hoping you will find this issue important enough to give some attention in your magazine.
I hear many dancers complain about the don’t call us we’ll call you culture, change tends to happen very slowly in this industry. And I am hoping that this could be a possible first step.
Please let me know what you think, any answer will be greatly appreciated.
Name and Email Supplied
Nothings up with Hip Hop
Monday, 4 June, 2007 |
Just a very quick response to your 'What's up with hip hop' article. I don't think it's necessarily fair to say that contemporary dance has moved on and hip-hop hasn't.
Some comtemporary work has moved on and some hip-hop hasn't, that's fair enough, but the reverse is also true.
Yes, there's a lot of hip-hop dancers out there who think if they take their top off and spin on their heads then they're really pushing the boundaries (man) but then there's a lot of contemporary dance companies who think the same when they do a load of physical movement which is a lot less innovative than what Ultima Vez, for example, were doing in the eighties.
Bad dance is bad dance whatever genre and whoever's doing it. Thankfully, as Article 19 consistently demonstrates, there's a lot of fantastic contemporary work out there. But there's also quite a bit of good hip-hop dance too.
Saturday, 12 May, 2007 |
Hello there. Hope all is well. Just reading some of your articles and thought it would be useful for all dancers to know about the medical insurance that Norwich Union offer.
There are no penalties to pay for dancers, which is great!! I pay in the region of £23 per month and when I had my brain hemhorrhage they contributed £18,000 so I did not have to go on a waiting list and stop my dancing, marvellous!!!
So, for all you dancers out there I think this is a pretty great insurance!!
ACE's Arts Debate
Sunday, 1 April, 2007 |
We were really interested to read your article about the Arts Council's arts debate. I'd like to encourage you to show your support and backing for the arts by taking part in the debate.
Why don't you and your readers make the case for the arts on the arts debate website? artsdebate.org.uk. These are the comments that will be used to shape our future policy.
Jo Saucek, Online Editor, Arts Debate
Just by writing the piece Article19 is contributing to supporting the arts along with the several hundred other pages that this particular website has published over the years supporting dance. If you want to have a real debate you know where to find us.
Dancers in the Slammer
Friday, 16 March, 2007 |
Did you know that it is a potential criminal offence to organise a performance of dance in England or Wales - without a licence issued under the Licensing Act 2003? The maximum penalty for unlicensed performances, where a licence is required, is a £20,000 fine and six months in prison.
Some places are exempt, like places of public religious worship, royal palaces, and, oh yes, the back of a moving lorry.
You're OK too if it is morris dancing, or dancing of a similar nature (so long as the accompanying music is unamplified).
The government says the licensing regime is necessary for public safety, the prevention of nuisance, crime and disorder, and the protection of children from harm. But big screen broadcast entertainment, football or music, is exempt, anywhere, anytime.
Oppose this daft law! Join more than 50,000 who have already signed the online petition: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/licensing/
No More NDA
Tuesday, 13 March, 2007 |
Oh dear Article 19 is very out of date. Technically there is now no such thing as an NDA. They are Dance Houses or development agencies.
And in this list of website reviews you should have included the fabulous Dance South West and its even more fabulous e-newsletter Fresh!
Our website isn’t perfect and is due for review and revamp very soon – but at least it’s up to date…
Kate Castle, Director, Dance South West.
Feeling The Love
Monday, 5 March, 2007 |
Does the dance world like or maybe even love you or your website? I think you are very funny and say the things that more dance people need to hear, can you and I open an Australian version of this website, because we really need it down-under!
Sorry to be so boring, I do find this dance world very silly sometimes and your website seems to be impossible to please?
I'd like to know what sort of dance creation would your web analysis present as a dance work, why what when how and please for god sakes, keep up the good work.
Saturday, 6 January, 2007 |
I have been in this wonderful business of performing arts and contemporary dance working professionally for the last 3 years. I know I'm one of the lucky ones and of course I've come up against a number of hurdles, thousands of auditions and an abundance of bad practice.
I have always prided myself that I would remain honest to myself and stand up for both my own rights and the rights of others with whom I've worked - of course this isn't always met favourably by those in positions of power and I have to confess has prevented a couple of people calling me back to work for them again, but anyone worth their salt is willing to discuss the issue at hand and come to a compromise.
Anyway, my point is that over the course of the last 3 years I have also been paying a great deal of money to Equity without ever really understanding why - yes I did fall into the trap of doing that blonde as a child thing of paying because I was told to be a member at college!
I am now a little more well informed of its benefits particulary as I had to call on them recently when dismissed from working with a company, and I have to re-iterate that they were most helpful. I spoke to normal people who were willing to tolerate any questions I had to ask and [they] really did want to stand up for me and inform me of my rights - I know some might say it’s their job, that's what they're their for but I don't think I really understood that [until now], and I'm sure a great number of performers aren't members!
So I guess my point was to inform others that although I hope no-one else should have to deal with a situation like I had to, I will never have any qualms in paying my membership again and would advise others to become join. I know it’s a lot of money but one day you might just need it and you can write it off as expenses anyway!
A word of advice from a seasoned audition goer who wishes under these circumstances to remain anonymous!
Email Address Supplied, Name Withheld
Monday, 16 October, 2006 |
This [ choreographer's directory ] is so f@#:ing funny! I've just graduated and was trawling through the web for auditions and came across it, you perked up my evening (how sad am I?) but seriously it's funny - it's just what everyone thinks but never says.
Where Are The Dancers? No, Seriously!
Monday, 25 September, 2006 |
I do not understand this pay thing. I think we, dancers and the companies, are running in a vicious circle. I think the industry believes there is not enough money to pay for all of their expenses and that includes us, the dancers.
Another thing I do not get is as a young choreographer running her 1st research and development period, I paid my dancers 450 pounds per week, if I can do it, why can´t everyone else?
That pay level was advised by West Midlands Arts, so why are all companies not following this? Please, if you have any answers please tell me...
Stand up for yourselves guys, :)
Cut Throat Company?
Friday, 15 September, 2006 |
I'm fuming. Fuming I tell you. Not on my behalf, but for a situation slightly amiss. A company (who I would dearly like to name but won't due to the fact I only know all of this through fairly reliable, yet potentially biased word of mouth) has disappointed me.
Last year a production of theirs was sincerely lauded, its cast of actors and dancers praised by the influential and the resulting action was a co-production with ...... (even here if I go in to details I'll no longer remain opaque).
The directors kept some of the original actors, but auditioned for dancers with sparkling CVs, possibly more on-paper experience than the originals, rather than keep those who worked well for them in the past, part earning them their present situation and more high profile status.
Apparently some of the current dancers have not even seen previous work and while this should never be mandatory, knowing the specifics of the company's tendencies, it would have made sense.
So what do we have: companies feeling the pressure of The Big Time and dropping it's stalwarts (with, I'd like to add, absolutely no communication as to their decision). A little shallow, cowardly and unfair? Or just the reality of a cut 'n thrust artistic world?
Maybe their decision was for the sake of the work. Still...just thought I'd let you know how cross it makes me. Is there to be any solidarity among choreographers and perfomers - and where does decent levels of communication and tact come in?
Best wishes to you. I am so very glad Article19 exists. I'm likely to be in contact again though possibly under my real guise.
We look forward to hearing more from, perhaps in the shady confines of an underground parking garage!!
Where are the Dancers Reply (4)
Sunday, 20 August, 2006 |
Dancers, from a young age are continually being told that what they are doing isn't quite good enough, should be better, and that you should work harder if you want to make it in this competitive world.
These are but a few comments that are drummed into our consciousness whilst our brains and bodies are still forming as a young dancer. Is it any wonder that we are a breed of insecure artists that feel we shouldn't complain because we are lucky to have a job! The majority of the time dancers are treated like children. Using one example, the person leading a rehearsal will quite often be heard to say "let's take it from the top of the 'girls' section" - 'girls!' - I am a 34 year old WOMAN!
A small example, but it clearly indicates the mentality in the dance world. The reason why I feel dancers endure the poor conditions of the dance world is simply because we love to dance and only feel truly ourselves when we have the opportunity to do so.
But enough is enough. We now need some recognition for all those hard hours of discipline and commitment. I would be very grateful if you could pass on some information to me as to who to contact to start to try and tackle this problem. Reading your article has stirred a range of emotions within that need to be spoken.
A good start would be to try and get a regular forum started where professionals meet with and discuss issues relevant to you (not the NDA), ensure there are records of these meetings and establish a timetable for them to follow up on the issues you have raised and describe what action they have taken.
None of this will be easy, not by any stretch of the imagination. Article19 will be here 24/7 if you need backup, technological or otherwise.
Where are the Dancers Reply (3)
Thursday, 17 August, 2006 |
I completely agree with this article there is real culture of silence about important issues. Such as working conditions, auditions etc... I think there is a fear of making yourself unemployable if you speak out.
As a young dancer in college you are taught to put up with a certain amount of unfair and off hand treatment. I have friends who are singers and musicians and there is NO way that they would put up with the working conditions and treatment that dancers put up with.
I don't know how you can change this code of silence when jobs are so few and far between and dancers feel completely dispensible. I have, and have heard, many stories of unfair treatment etc., but would feel incredibly uncomfortable sharing them under my real name on a website like this.
Where are the Dancers Reply (2)
Thursday, 17 August, 2006 |
Thank you for this article, I have often felt in this profession that you have to either shut up or walk. I'm tired of it, and to be honest when I do speak my mind to whoever I'm working with, whether it be about money, schedules or working conditions, it has always helped.
To to be open and honest about it, and discuss options and whether there are any available, and if it has lost me a job...then it really wasn't the right job for me in the first place. I really feel that some fo my contemporaries will put up with hell, knowing that there are at least 20 other dancers out there wanting to take their place, but would we put up with as much working in any other profession?
I have walked out of offices, where my health and safety were at risk, but less at risk than dancing in some of my project work. But somehow it makes it alright to loose a little of my self respect, because it's my "Passion". I think it is time to step up and make ourselves counted, not just as dancers but as the people underneath as well, I am more than just a line in space !
Dance and Football
Wednesday, 16 August, 2006 |
It's all very good stating the obvious, that footballers are paid ridiculous amounts to be crap in this country (face it they never actually do their job properly) but the problem remains that dance doesn't have the audience in this country that football has' the main reason being that dance isn't unpredictable and people can see dance for free on MTV.
There's no live atmosphere like there is with football because dance isn't interactive, so people won't be interested on a larger scale like they are with football. What we need is anoher theatrical revolution to reform dance in a way that makes it more entertaining and appealing to a larger audience, basically someone who can do what Brecht did for theatre.
Otherwise dance as an artform will never be as lucrative as football and therefore the job propescts will always be bad, but regardless people will still do it because we'd rather do this than being stuck in the rat race.
I would also question just how football is in any way 'interactive' and just exactly where on MTV can you watch a dance performance of any kind?
Where are the Dancers Reply
Tuesday, 15 August, 2006 |
Yes, I quite agree! It always does feel like you can't speak up. Perhaps because this profession is so damned competitive (and I enjoy being a competitive person to a point) that one step out of line puts you out of consideration for a job or opportunity/. I know, I've seen it many times. The positive recognition is inexcusable; but let's face it, how often do people stand up to the world and pontificate about the greatness of, well, anything?
One point: the £375 p/wk Equity minimum? Well, I was paid that for 1 job. With a theatre company, not dance. Where all the actors were horrified at the pittance contemporary dancers are paid. I was living in ignorance of the difference between West End dancers salaries (even just the ensemble) and contemporary companies. Oh yes, my point? What was your point on that score? That the £375 should be enforced or that it is low anyway? The contemporary dance world is so far removed from the rest of society I can't tell anymore.
I was at Impulstanz this year and met a lot of dancers from all across the world. They all said to me they were surprised I was from London. Very few of them have any intention of coming here (to London), despite the recognition that there are more companies here than in many of their countries. However, they already know it is such an expensive city that quality of life just goes down the drain and the likelihood of finding a dance job is miniscule anyway. British contemporary dance is an island culture, and it's not helping itself.
I'm not sure if it can actually, but I'm also not sure it's aware of it. Many huge companies in continental Europe don't tour to London or anywhere else in the UK due to the cost. Much of the fluidity comes from individuals taking their own initiative. Perhaps this is what art is about? In our high speed culture of global communications we should be educating our audiences and practictioners faster than ever.
The gates need to be open for dance to evolve. I know hundreds of dancers and the vast majority would say there are no, or a very very few, UK based chroeographers or companies they really connect with artistically. It's hard enough to squeeze a toe in the door of any company. I want to feel the effort is worthwhile with a British dance culture that is vibrant, innovative and relelvant to contemporary society.
Dancer Activism, Where Is It?
Wednesday, 31 May, 2006 |
Just reading some of the past letters that have been sent in and I have to say C'MON GUYS!!! Get with it!!!! It is refreshing that Article19 has the balls to REALLY give opinions as it does not happen that often in the dance world. We have often been trained to keep our mouths shut if we are going to question what is performed out there, or taught etc.
But, let us start to take pride in our work again and not just be accustomed to saying 'oh that was lovely' or accepting any old pay rate as dancers. Let's stand up for our art form and say what we like and what we dislike, with our reasons of course.
General slagging off is not healthy but as the philosophers say, questioning is!! So people, reply not with anger but with reasoning and explanation, everyone is entitled to their opinions, dance as an art form should be open to that and should respond. Then perhaps things for dancers could get a bit better and maybe more people would go and see dance instead of watching reality TV.
Value vs Cost A Response
Friday, 7 April, 2006 |
Read your article with much interest. I believe that you are being extremely diplomatic.
And the double edged sword for the dancer is.......
Blow the whistle on companies that demonstrate bad practice and potentially you could be seen as difficult and word does spread fast so don't work much in future. Say nothing and hope the choreographer/company trips over their own feet again and make too many mistakes that they land face first eventually.
Alternatively here's a novel one... Actually ask the dancers to contribute to the project evaluation / report. Oh... but I had forgotten the independent dance manager's want to ensure their own future so paint the rosie picture in their reports to the funders. Ask the people that took part in the creative process what really happened... don't be silly.
So the dancers, independent dance mangers, National Dance Agencies don't want to rock the boat and for what reason? Are they afraid of what little money that receive from the Arts Council will be removed or refused? Clearly this question needs to be thrown open to your readers, a varied bunch, who may shed more light? Are their other people experiencing this kind of treatment? Is it regional? Does it happen more in small companies or larger organisations?
Maybe we could take a leaf out of the government's own book. Isn't NAME and SHAME the governments latest ploy on improving standards in its' public service industry. Perhaps the Arts Council could do a public funding fraud hotline to out bad practice or maybe Article 19 it's time for you to step in and provide the platform for debate?
We shall ask Arts Council how they deal with errant artists and large sums of money
Dance Europe, Israel
Monday, 20 March, 2006 |
I am enclosing a letter I wrote to the editor of Dance Europe magazine. It was written in response to your article regarding their policy on companies from Israel. Thank you for reporting on this subject.
'To whom it may concern:
Your magazine's policy regarding companies from Israel is abhorrent. Irrespective of the policies of the Israeli government (of which I am often morally opposed) art remains a vehicle for transpersonal communication.
To assume that this censorship is a productive means of achieving valuable results regarding this sensitive issue only ensures that your magazine undermines the very values you hope to inculcate. Some of the products of Israel's dance has vitality that is agreed upon by many serious critics. It seems to this reader that to expurgate artists thus is to indulge in a societal ill no less grievous and one that is a potential catalyst for the very same trespasses you protest.'
New York, USA