Blog : Serena MorganManifesto?.. Nope, Just a Bad Notion

Published on Sunday, 10 March, 2013 | Comments

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My name is Serena Morgan and I am a freelance dancer. After training at London Contemporary Dance School I went to work as an apprentice with Tavaziva dance company before joining the cast of STOMP.

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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We all make the occasional bad decision in our lives (some more than others), whether it be a choice of clothing, which film to rent or maybe which number you choose from the Chinese menu. We are only human and we all make mistakes, usually the mistakes are personal (sometimes embarrassing) and we keep it to having just ourselves or very few others involved.

Then usually (hopefully) any upsets we cause will come out in the wash. However as we get older and the world sees us as an adult, all the decisions we make can create more of a stain so they have to be even more thought about and other people's need's to be considered. So to make a conscious, uneducated decision as an adult, it takes a real... dick.

As you get older you realise that you cannot get away with the things that you could as a child, and people are not so forgiving. Forgetting birthdays, cancelling arrangements, even the odd lie, it's relatively fine before 18, 21 and maybe (at a push) 25 but soon you will realise that the bad decisions you make will eventually come back and bite you in the ass. So if you are going to make a deliberate bad decision and THEN put it online, you better be ready for the consequences.

When you are establishing yourself as a student dancer in the 'dance world' where you haven't even begun to struggle or succeed, the last thing you want to do is make enemies or taint not only your personal reputation but the reputation of the institution which has given you the opportunity to live your dream (a place where you may turn to for support in the future). Whatever intention you have behind an idea, make it clear, make it plausible and make it educated.

Art comes in many forms and with many different opinions, ideas and voices, which are widely accepted if well thought out. However if your idea is inapplicable, haughty and well, just plain spiteful, maybe you should keep it to yourself... it's just another one of those things that defines the difference between a professional and an amateur.

When you graduate, everything changes and you are no longer sheltered by the comfort of your institution. My mum always told me that you don't know how to drive until you've passed your test and your out there in the car alone and it's the same in dance, you won't learn how to really dance, or find your way until you graduate.

You won't appreciate the stage, the studios, the routine of the classes or the support of your friends until you leave everything that is being handed to you and it is no longer available. It's bad enough that we can't get a job because there is not enough of them to go around, we are already struggling to create a status for ourselves we don't need ignorant students to make it harder for us.

When you are associated with an institution and make work, you are representing yourself as well as your institution and everyone involved so if you decide to show your idea to the world take a moment and think, be smart, not selfish and arrogant. Be innovative, not ignorant and rude.

Oh, and try not to be a dick.

Also when you name your piece... make it relevant.

MANIFESTO
noun
a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization.

NOTION
noun

1. a general understanding; vague or imperfect conception or idea of something: a notion of how something should be done.

2. an opinion, view, or belief: That's his notion, not mine.

3. conception or idea: his notion of democracy.

4. a fanciful or foolish idea; whim: She had a notion to swim in the winter.

5. an ingenious article, device, or contrivance; knickknack.

(Please note that I write this now because I know the video has been removed, this is something I don't wish to promote... just comment on.)

Have a good week guys :) And good luck to all those who had auditions this weekend x

  • serena

    Ms Thomas, the blog post on is an account of my thoughts when seeing the work, it was a reaction to an action... to be more specific a reaction to one particular line that was repeated numerous times, it was a personal opinion and open to critique as well as objection. I understand that it may be an upsetting read, provoke argument and debate - as do a lot of things in this world - and I totally agree that my words have cruel connotation but the post also refers to life... not just a video and most people I have spoken to haven't actually seen or even heard of this video . I am not writing to inform people about dance, promote or review it, I am simply a dancer in the 'dance world' (who has openly admitted in other posts to being very new in this world) who is expressing her feelings and reactions to what she see, hears and feels... and sometimes I am just saying what others are thinking. I am certainly not being sanctimonious and I do not preach professional cowardice I simply speak from my heart and in doing so may sometimes cause agitation, amusement or pertinence. That aside I thank you for critiquing my post, standing your ground and defending your students. I am not ignorant, I assumed such a response may eventually occur, we are all entitled to our own opinion and I do not disrespect yours. We could continue this through comments but I'd eventually find it tiresome, however.. should you wish to take this discussion further then I would suggest a coffee.

  • TS

    SATIRE
    noun

    [mass noun]
    the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues

  • Phil Thomas

    Well this was a depressing read. I am astounded at your choice to discuss an undergrad dance project on this site but, as I am the lecturer responsible for setting the students the project which you so sanctimoniously discuss in this post, I feel compelled to point a few things out to you at some length:

    If you want to be picky about definitions (and you do) your definition of “art” as coming ‘in many forms and with many different opinions, ideas and voices, which are widely accepted if well thought out’ is utter nonsense and to use your own term frankly “uneducated”.

    Art is not inherently democratic, it is not consensus making, it often confuses, provokes or luxuriates in its ambiguity – that is its power. There is no causal connection between the conceptual clarity of art and its public acceptance. What counts as ‘well thought out’ art? Would this be art that nestles meekly within the hegemonic culture of the time?

    This is not a vision of art that I can care about.

    You say that the video is not strictly a manifesto but that’s completely missing the point (a bit like using a spellchecker on lolcats.com). The video was a creative response to a workshop on the power that the manifesto form has as a platform to call for change. Artists often write manifestos (there are many historical examples from the Futurists to Claes Oldenburg). I asked the students to make some kind of manifesto/intervention about something they felt passionate about wanting to change. The students who made the video had all experienced the confusion of friends, family and the general public when it came to discussing their chosen career. The video is a tongue-in-cheek satire of common preconceptions about dancers and dance, these are stereotypes that they will be working to challenge throughout their careers but which they wish they could change instantaneously. It’s full of hope and play, like many of the best artists manifestos, few of which could be said to have the virtue of being ‘well thought out’.

    Although you condemn the project and charmingly refer to my students as ‘dicks’ you don’t actually discuss the content at all, or acknowledge the accuracy with which they mimic pop video aesthetics (Beyonce/Shakira etc) and humour with which they gently poke fun at the discipline which they are passionately committed to, but which they are worldly enough to see is a small world that often seems incomprehensible to non-dancers. For one thing it shows that some serious dancers do actually manage not to take themselves too seriously – I thought that this was pretty encouraging. The elephant in your post is the question of power and place of institutional critique. I see from your profile that you’re an ex-student of LCDS and clearly invested in "protecting" the institution and publicly and
obsequiously displaying your loyalty.
    
Your entire post is a masterwork of passive-aggression concerning the dangers of appearing to critique the institutions where we work/study. The level of harm that you suggest my students’ work poses to the institution is incompatible with your implication that the institution will wreak its revenge on my students at a later date.

    You are preaching professional cowardice. I can only hope that in your later career you are able to develop a political or ethical standpoint which will allow you to critique the institutions, companies and artists that you work with rather than live in constant fear of reprisal. The idea that my students’ work would damage your prospects of employment as an independent artist is absurd. Since when has a parody video destroyed the legitimacy of an artform? Rudolph Nureyev danced with the Muppets!

    Students, staff and management possess different kinds of power; management requested that the video be removed and the students did so. The discussion will end here and no one else will see the work. It’s hard to see the institution as the victim in all of this. After all, the views of management do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff or student body and it’s all of us that make up this institution. I would much rather be part of an institution and art form where this kind of work can be made and debated than one which is so ossified that one tiny nudge shatters it into pieces.

  • There is some hypocrisy here. You criticise Ms Morgan for writing about the piece and defend the right of the students to make the piece yet the piece is no longer available. "The discussion will end here" as you put it.

    You want to provoke debate but you removed the provocation. Why did you do that? Make your statement and stand your ground, as is happening in this comment thread.

    No matter who makes what or where they put it or perform it then people will comment about it both positively and negatively. That is out of your hands. As soon as you publish people will make of it what they will and that is "the end of it". One form of freedom of expression does not trump another simply because you disagree with it.

  • Phil Thomas

    I didn't 'remove the provocation'! As I explained, the video was made 'private' by the students who made it at the request of the schools management, of which I am certainly not a part.

    I certainly didn't want to start debate on this thread, I wanted to defend my (18 year old) students who have taken an absolute beating for this work, I was
    genuinely shocked to read the blog post above, it was so censorious. I have no interest in debating 'freedom of expression' with writers who use their public platform to label undergrads 'dicks' simply because they disagree with what they say.

    I'm not triumphant that 'the discussion will end there' but unless we all want to get worked up on rumours and outrage (the net can certainly help amplify that process), there's only so much that can be said about a video which has been removed - that's not hypocrisy, more a statement of fact.

    ...we've got over this.

  • Once again you seem determined to "not debate" something you are debating.

    Did the school "request" they take the video down or did they "make" them take it down? because if LCDS is prohibiting free expression by their students then there is a wider issue that needs to be addressed here.

  • James Morgan

    And you are determined to avoid the point... And to now turn around and comment on the 'wider issue' of censorship is so hypocritical its kind of funny.

  • Phil Thomas

    It was a request I believe, however if it was forced - then yes I absolutely agree there's a big issue at stake here about institutional censorship which needs debating online and offline.

    On a practical note, the students would have needed to edit out a section (where they'd failed to get the subjects permission to put their image online) before they could reasonably put it back up and I don't think they've felt they had the time/ inclination.

    I'd love to see it back online (on a personal note N.N you are well aware how delighted I am with their work), but it's not my choice to make. If they decide they want to reedit and put it back on line I'll send you a link!

  • disqus_rzn4jW2xZW

    We were forced to remove this video, and the fact that this is 'Parody' mocking not only ourselves but the image dancers have to a wider audience, has been blown up and taken (in a negative way) out of proportion to the point we have been named as 'dicks' and 'uneducated' is astounding i really hope people aren't that dismissive of 'alternative' work or one thing is for sure the dance world will NEVER be allowed to move forward or make BIG enough statements.

  • NS

    I've seen the 'manifesto' and I saw it as harmless banter, that to be honest is extremely tame compared to many other viral videos on the internet. I think describing someone as a 'dick' who you obviously have never met is ridiculous. Yeah these students have an establishment to represent, I understand that... but thats what they are; students. Students are people that are learning. To be critiqued as harshly as this, for something that was a 'school project' is completely over-dramatic.

  • KB

    It was made for a class as part of a project on manifestos which is why it was called 'manifesto'. It was a jokey response to a task that's being taken far too seriously.

  • Sophie

    Wow, I think this is a tad harsh. They made a mistake, but hey they're young! Give them a break, its really not the end of the world! And you come across as a right know-it-all!
    I agree with Keith - dull week in the dance world.

  • Keith

    Article19 commenting on a video made by students for a project in cultural studies. Dull week in the dance world?

  • "Article19" did not write this, this is a personal blog entry on Article19.

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