The EvilImp™Hold The Junk

Published on Sunday, 2 December, 2012 | Comments

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Clarion Call

Monday, 10 December, 2012

A Man With A Plan

Thursday, 29 November, 2012

For the most recent Coda Dance Festival in Oslo Ballet de Lorraine from Nancy in France brought a new work from Norwegian dance maker Ingun Bjørnsgaard.

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boyz.jpg

As dance companies go the Ballet Boyz are a bit different, different in that they appear to be more focused on the physical appearance of their dancers (The Boyz) than they are on the work the company creates and tours.

Don't believe us? Just take a quick look at last years documentary, made by the AD's William Trevitt and Michael Nunn, which features the company's new employees getting haircuts and new clothes so they look right for a photo shoot.

Seriously! Who does that?

The company also spends an inordinate amount of time focusing on the fact that their dancers are both young and male.

Mr Trevitt and Mr Nunn are also completely tone deaf, not musically, but morally and socially. Again, as evidenced by the same documentary, they can be seen and heard wandering the street of Addis Abbaba in Ethiopa, one of the worlds poorest countries, complaining about how expensive things are.

Robes

It is this tone deafness that brings us to the current fracas. On or about November 21st the Ballet Boyz official Twitter account posted an image of the company's dancers. Taken in what appears to be a dressing room, all but two of the dancers are completely naked.

The two dancers standing at the front are wearing robes that have been left open. One dancer is covering his groin with his hand while the other appears to have something hanging over his penis to cover it up.

A caption attached to the message read "Wouldn't you just like to be a fly on the wall ...?" Well, no since you ask but let's move on.

Upon seeing this image we, here in TheLab™, thought back through the last 20 or so years to try and remember the last time we saw a company exposing their dancers in such a way. We couldn't think of a single occasion. Probably because no other dance company would be this stupid.

Of course dance companies do, on occasion, use semi-nude or completely nude images to promote work. However misguided that may be dance companies tend to frown upon their dancers taking cameras into the changing rooms before throwing the resulting pictures up on the internet.

Just from a potential sexual harassment/hostile workplace lawsuit point of view you would have to be completely out of your mind to even associate such an image with your company.

Approximately 36 hours after the message was posted the Tweet was deleted. The image, hosted on an Instagram account, was also deleted.

Tip of the Iceberg

While people are fighting tooth and nail to get the Department for Education to take cultural education seriously we have an NPO dance company acting like a bunch of frat boys by literally holding their dicks in their hands and posting snapshots on the internet.

Just boys horsing around in the changing room you say? We feel sure that schools, youth group leaders, parents and politicians will feel the same way because they always react calmly and proportionally when kids are exposed to this sort of thing. Right?

After a performance or a day of workshops who doesn't want their 10 year old flicking through a company's social networking pages only to be confronted with badly censored images of guys letting their junk hang out of their robes?

Question Time

Just exactly what is the message they are trying to send?

When asked why the image was posted in the first place or why it was taken at all the company directors declined to answer. A strange position for them since in their own media then can't help but put themselves on camera to extoll their own virtues or those of their company.

They also declined to answer questions regarding the example they were setting to their younger followers. Currently there is a growing problem of children posting inappropriate images of themselves to social media websites and subjecting themselves to bullying, harassment and possible exploitation in the process.

Given that the company, through their marketing and general demeanour, actively court a younger demographic to attend their shows and follow them via social networks it only makes posting the image to begin with all the more ridiculous.

Neither Mr Nunn nor Mr Trevitt would say who took the photo or who tweeted the message on the company's Twitter account.

All they would say is that the image was posted, they decided they didn't like it and it was removed.

Junk

Whatever the origins of the image and its appearance on the company's Twitter feed those ultimately responsible for this are the company directors.

When you look at the company's films and publicity materials the perception is that the company's dancers are little more than commodities. A collection of young male faces that the AD's can put on posters and websites to sell tickets to shows.

The documentary mentioned at the top of this piece barely mentions the names of the company dancers at all, a point we made in our piece about that film.

When images like the one described appear in the company's official publicity channels they're not doing a whole lot to dispel that perception.

One final point if we may. Imagine the photo featured a female dance company doing exactly the same thing. Do you think the push back would be "just girls horsing around"? Or would the words used be slightly more insulting and altogether more degrading?

  • Peg

    Now that I look at some of the past articles on this site about the Ballet Boyz, it's apparent you've disliked them for years. That may be the biggest reason they refuse to acknowledge you.I reckon you secretly love that photo. It gives you moral platform to say exactly what you've wanted to say. The photo was harmless cheek. What do you think of people who create, promote and perform works such as these? http://www.guardian.co.uk/stag... Do they have obligations to youth? Does the Guardian, who printed these photos? Is there really a difference? My guess is that had a similar photo been put up by someone whom you actually admired, you'd had a different opinion. Yes, I am accusing you of being subjective.

    As for saying they have no talent or skill-that's you opinion. But they were RB stars, dancing the leads to lavish productions. Not very many dancers get that opportunity. These aren't rich brats with pushy daddies. They've been working since they were teenagers. The Ballet Boyz are reaping small rewards of years of hard work. You may not like their style of dance, and that's fine. But at least acknowledge their accomplishments, which most dancers would kill for. You may find it hard to believe, but leading dancers, choreographers, and future stars all WANT to work with them. At least they are in a position to employ a few more dancers professionally. Dancers can always use more work.

  • Your argument relies on the absence of context. Equating a live show, where the dancers were nude, is not the same situation and is another discussion in and of itself.

    The dancers in the Ballet Preljocaj piece, we feel sure, would have a very different view of somebody showing up in their dressing room with a camera whether the pictures were for professional or personal use.

    Your references to "stars" suggests you come from a ballet perspective on dance where such things are, apparently, of great importance to some. In the real world however someone's previous position does not give them a free pass to either public funding, of which the BB's receive a large amount, or a free pass when you treat your dancers as little more than commodities.

    Should any other dance company start using such images of their dancers, however unlikely that may be, they would be tackled in exactly the same way.

  • Peg

    Meh. I don't think your opinion is wrong per se. It's just your opinion. Now that I read back to some of your older critiques, I actually respected you more when you just plain said they sucked and that you wanted to ship them off to North Korea. It was better than hiding behind "MY GOD! WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN!" which is what every indignant, pearl clutching harpie hides behind whenever they see something they don't like. I certainly didn't expect it on a contemporary dance magazine, off all things. Who knows? Perhaps you do have some otherworldly insight into the minds of all the other companies out there and know without a doubt you'd never see a candid photo of backstage naughtiness (I know for a fact it happens). The photo wasn't some huge marketing tool you make it out to be. It was a candid photo, in a dressing room, of cheeky young guys having a laugh. I can pretty much guarantee it won't be in any of their programs. And as far as their dancers being commodities--that's really unfair. I know that is not true. Besides, there isn't a dance company out there that--well, let me put it this way. If you get injured, no matter who you're with, someone else will be out on stage in your place.

  • Don't worry, we stil think they should be shipped to North Korea, no question about it.

    To your dismissal of the effect on young people. Suggesting that kids be taught, by example or otherwise, about anything other than succeeding on their merits, on the strength of their intelligence or skills, on their ability to articulate a compelling argument no matter what field of endeavour they choose to take part in is as asinine as it is ridiculous.

    Sadly it is a battle that is being lost, in no small part, thanks to television shows like X-Factor, et-al that the Ballet Boyz, by their own admission, are keen to emulate.

    In your comments you claim to be in possession of a lot of "facts" but offer very little evidence.

    The company used the image on their Twitter feed, they used it as a promotional tool and, once again, if they were so confident and so sure in the use of that image then they could easily have articulated their arguments when asked.

    But they didn't.

  • Kema

    Peg? Is it?

    I haven't said they are talentless, we can all acknowledge Darcey Bussell was a fantastic dancer, but that doesn't automatically mean that she has a right to start an Arts Council funded dance company only based on a fantastic career as a principal dancer in the Royal Ballet.

    Back to the images. Let's just get back to reality for a moment. Some Arts Council funding has an expectation that you will do workshops and education work.

    Ballet Boyz are NOT role models but as with any publicly funded organisation that works with young people there is also an expectation that you have a responsibility to them.

    To use your dancers sexuality as marketing is totally wrong.

    Remember when Phoenix Dance Company used some naked dancers in their marketing and an audience member complained to the Advertising Dancers Authority?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/eng...

    cheers

    Kema

  • Peg

    Kema, you better reread that article!!! The audience member complained because there WAS NO nudity in the performance. lol

    When it comes to funding, I don't know where 'right' comes into it. The Arts Council gave it them, as they do many other artists. To assume they received the money just because of the 'right' connections is completely off base. You don't know that. Moreover, if Darcey Bussell came to the council wanting to fund a performance for herself and a few choice former colleagues, she'd get it based on her reputation as a dancer. Of course she knows many good dancers, choreographers, and would make use of those contacts. I don't see the problem with that.

    I did check out the Ballet Boyz website, and they do hold workshops and other things. http://www.balletboyz.com/educ.... Of course, if you dislike them, you can write off those workshops as shams, not the right kind, etc. I've never been to one, so I can't comment on their quality, but they do have them. Continually whining about taking public money means you have an obligation to the public is just nonsense. Get 100 people together and try to make them agree on the color of an orange. I guarantee you'll have a couple of hold outs. Every one of those people dispensing public funds knows there's always going to be someone out there who doesn't approve. I personally don't believe that nudity is necessarily a bad thing. Dance is by nature a very image and body conscious medium. A great deal is put into a dancer's body, their 'lines', and their overall visual appeal. A instagram photo on twitter is hardly using sex as a marketing tool. I've seen far more revealing photos on various tour programs of major and minor dance companies. Is it selling sex, or is it celebrating the body as an art form? You'd have to ask them.

  • Kema

    "A instagram photo on twitter is hardly using sex as a marketing tool. I've seen far more revealing photos on various tour programs of major and minor dance companies. Is it selling sex, or is it celebrating the body as an art form? You'd have to ask them."

    Peg, you've got it exactly right!!

    They ARE using sex as a marketing tool and yes you have seen dance "marketing" with more revealing photos.

    Instagram/Twitter/Facebook are social media marketing whilst the posters/flyers etc are print marketing.

    My point with the Phoenix poster was the fact that an audience member was expecting "nudity" on stage.

    There would be some people who wouldn't really watch dance but the poster would have drawn them in.
    A footballer even got in touch with the female dancer because of the poster!

    I saw Javier de Frutos a long time ago and the poster had two naked males on it, when the performance started and the dancers were fully dressed a man sat in the front stalls centre stage got up and walked out. (yes he was wearing a mac)

    Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake was marketed on it's male cast even though it had the normal AMP cast.

    Protein Dance;s B for Body: Nudity in the piece; how much bigger do you think the audience was than a normal contemporary dance? I wonder why?

    Michael Clark: Always the chance of a bit of male or female nudity.

    Royal Ballet: All Wayne McGregor works, look at the barely there costumes. Do you think the audience are there for the choreography?

    In Europe nudity in theatre is something that has always been there. In the UK it's a way of getting a bigger audience. It's double standards Nudity in lads mags and porno is filth but on stage/photos/paintings/films and dance we can justify it to use your words as "Celebrating the body as an Art Form."

    Even though the Twitter picture was removed there will be loads of teenage girls who shared it and will be looking forward to seeing the next B-Boyz performance come to their town and hoping their teacher gets a workshop in.

    A few more seats filled and a £200 2 hour workshop. Bingo !! marketing works.!!

    cheers

    Kema

  • kema

    "Continually whining about taking public money means you have an obligation to the public is just nonsense."

    It's far from nonsense!! Why do you think we have such a problem with MP's expenses taking Public Money it's because they have an obligation to the taxpayers.

    Money from my tax goes towards whatever The Arts Council is currently over funding down South!

    Whilst my bins are only being emptied once a fortnight and Educations funding cuts have made the Sport and Dance my children get at school disappear. Artists getting funding for new dance work is my last priority to be honest.

    Why didn't Rambert just pay for their own new building?
    "The total cost of the project is £19.6 million, with £12 million raised by the company from private sources. £7 million was awarded by Arts Council England."
    http://londondance.com/article...

    If Rambert can raise £12million through the private sector why do they even need Arts Council funding at all? They even got the land for free just having to do community work.

    They could have redeveloped an old building like Siobhan Davies did and have money to spare.

    cheers

    Kema

  • Peg

    Sounds like sour grapes to me. I don't know where we get this expectation that every person who performs for the public in some capacity has to censor themselves as a role model. It's a tired, ridiculous argument, and completely unfair. Not everything is for kids. Thank God. While I do understand that any personal decisions a person in the public eye may choose will be up for critique by their fans and the public at large, it doesn't make them a role model. It merely makes them visible.

    Nunn and Trevitt did the classy thing. They took the photo down because they decided to and refused to engage you in your petty snit. Many people would at the very least put the link to your article on their Twitter or website, hoping their more excitable fans would emblazon your comments section with backlash.

    As for their 'boy band' status--you'd do well to remember that before The Talent both Nunn and Trevitt danced themselves. neither were young nor possessing pretty boy looks. They also rarely were shirtless. Fact is, they are former First Soloist and Principal of RB, and that does lend them some pretty influencial contacts.

    In any art or business, people who don't use their contacts are idiots. The fact that they've hung on to so many over 20+ years of dancing should speak quite loudly about their character. As for the photo, I found it cheeky, not offensive. If you don't think dancers, women included, pose provocatively or merely naked, then google is your new friend.

  • Peg is it? The company actively courts a very young audience, that's what all the shirtless photos and endless references to the "boys" are all about and that's exactly what that particular image was about. Your argument regarding role models is the one that's tired.

    As for the AD's being "classy" enough to take it down? If, as you imply, took the photo down simply because we asked them some questions about it doesn't that reveal that actually they are very weak? So weak in fact they couldn't stand by the decision to publish it in the first place or explain why it even exists?

    Why don't you use "Google" as your friend and show us any other NPO dance company that has published that kind of image on their Twitter feed or anywhere else for that matter, we'll be happy to follow up on it.

    You did hit the nail on the head regarding Mr Nunn and Mr Trevitt's "contacts" though. That's pretty much all they are, people with contacts. Skill, art, class, etc, really doesn't come into it.

  • Julia K Gleich

    Without the funding issue to concern us, I would be happy to label them the boy band of dance. Take a look at some of the rosters of older boy bands, Menudo for example--commodities (until their voices broke). And we have always known that a man with his shirt off in dance trumps all.

  • Kema

    Why did a company started by two ex-Royal Ballet Dancers manage to get Arts Council funding? By their own admission they couldn't choreograph. (See 1st episode of Rough Guide to Choreography)

    So what they did was get a few dancer mates together and then "buy in" Forsythe/Maliphant/Cunningham rep for them to perform. At the time they weren't even running workshops alongside their performances.
    So no original work, no community or outreach work; no track record as choreographers.

    There are loads of female ex-ballet and contemporary dancers who would have loved to start a company, but I could see them getting knocked back on lack of choreographic experience!

  • Katie

    It's good that you've flagged this up - their social media activity seems to be wholly focussed on the dancers' looks, and not as their abilities as dancers. Sure, there are plenty of pretty boys out there, but that's not a good enough reason for people to buy tickets to see them, or for them to receive NPO funding.

    Or are they actually any good? You'd never guess, from their Twitter account.

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