'Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determiles how well you do it.'
UK dance training.
Who wants to talk first?
This topic seems to have provoked a few people huh?
Chroeographers are going to want to say one thing, Directors of the schools are going to say another and then those who want to work with those choreographers are going to be upset and those who don't are going to fight that not everybody wants to dance for these people Who is mediating the situation? And who is actually speaking the truth?
Is there a truth?
One thing I will mention is that it's not only contemporary dance..
'Is the Royal Ballet failing young British talent? Over the weekend, former ballerina Bryony Brind expressed her shock that the company now has just one British woman and two British men among its 21 principals. With the company dominated by foreign talent, Brind believes that a whole generation of young British dancers are lacking the inspiration of a homegrown star such as Darcey Bussell.'(Judith Mackrell encourages us to celebrate foreign dancers in the royal Ballet)
what about a daily mail headline..
'They come from Siberia, Slovenia and Venezuela. No wonder Brucie can't pronounce their names! Why are nearly all Strictly's dancers foreign?'
Do these quotes necessarily mean that these dancers being referred too were not UK trained? No, but it is suggested. However, why are we arguing here that the UK training is poor why are we not arguing for example that the new generation of students no longer approach dance how they used to?
Look at the list of opportunities in the UK and the opportunities abroad; there are more versatile jobs here, you don't necessarily need to be the fittest strongest dancer to do what it is you want. Look at the amount of work that there is in the UK and the amount of work that there is abroad (in dance or in general), it could encourage a more relaxed approach towards training. Also something that you might not think of is what dance and the arts means and/or represents to the British culture and what dance means and/or represents to others. Culture plays a part, financial situation plays a part, population plays a part. America is HUGE and therefore competition is increased by tenfold. There's probably a lot of dancers who are training abroad that wish they could afford to train in the UK but can't so think they have to work twice as hard in order to 'compete' after graduation. Not to mention that a lot of companies (not all) will ask for dancers with at least 3 years experience and not even consider your CV unless it has a reputable name on it. So if you have just graduated from the UK and you are living in London and you have to wait three years and you didn't get (or don't want) an apprenticeship and you want to dance for an established dance company, you are reduced to working your nuts off just to pay your rent, unable to take class everyday and unable to get an audition. Understandably, your standard, strength and moral is likely to (not definitely) reduce. Also I hate to say it... what about bias of choreographers'? Dismissing CV's due to age, weight, gender, colour (eye, skin or hair) I'm sure it's still happens and therefor these factors also apply. Don't forget that Lloyd Newson, Lucas Silvastrini and Sidi Larbi Cherkauoi for example will cast some of their pieces, not a problem but still a factor.
So what is being done and what is being suggested by those who are so quick to tell us that our UK training is not on parr with other global training? Are they coming to the schools and teaching workshops? Do they put themselves on the board of the schools to suggest teaching tactics? Do they open their class to other professionals to join? What are they doing with their reputation other than using in to publicly voice their opinion. Is it their 'job' to do something? No, but if they argue that, then thats just as bad what they are originally stating... That the training in the UK is the reason for the low standard of dancers. To be exact these statements are not true but every factor does play its part with it's success or failure.
Dont forget that these Choreographers also graduated 10+ years ago when contemporary dance and Contemporary dance training was very different, there was a lot more money available and a lot less job opportunity.
Besides... when there are hundreds of graduates per year, hundreds of dancers out of work and 1 job position available what are the chances of the person picked being UK trained OR fresh out of training?
Is the training of UK dance poor? It is a very sweeping statement to make. Personally I wish I had more physical training from my teaching, more versatile classes, I wish we had more opportunity's to work with Choreographers of my choosing, I would have danced from dusk till dawn if I could, but I also worked 30 hours a week in a bar so I could eat... anymore and I would have broken. I used to get in early and work out before warming up, at one point I cycled in and out every day. What I couldn't get from the school I found in other places, I did my best. The training cannot cater to everybody's needs and if it's not catering to yours then maybe you are in the wrong school, I went to Bird College and dropped out because it wasn't for me. Don't forget that institutions such as Laban, LCDS or Northern are training dancers, choreographers, teachers, critics, and everything in-between whilst meeting guidelines set by universities for degree validation and constantly having their funding revised, it can't be easy, courses are constantly changing to ensure they are giving the best training they can to creative artists.
The individual needs to fight from the beginning of their training and not just rely on the school's name and reputation to carry them through. We don't just learn from our teachers we learn from our parents, our culture and our peers aswell and in order to criticise education you need to know how it works and not just expect these schools to produce the dancers that you particularly want. Some people say that the British culture itself is lazy and expectant... but we also live in a world of stereotypes.
LLoyd, Hofesh and Akram are not the only Choreographers that are thinking this and it is not the first time that I have heard this statement being made but there could be an element of truth in what they are saying otherwise they wouldn't have said it. These choreographers have been in the business a while and have been auditioning for a long time...they know what they are talking about but it's easy to be in that position and point the finger, say your bit and expect something to be done.
So the thing is, what happens now? Farooq Chaudry has agreed with the statement and is glad that this has been put on the table.. and has now resigned from Dance UK. So there's one person who agrees with the statement who was probably in a powerful position to help the change and he has now resigned. How do we take the responsibility and not necessarily change the training (if it doesn't need changing) but evaluate it and change the attitude towards it? The arrogance and elitist behaviour has to go and the passion has to return and not just from the institutions but also from the professionals. People need to stop acting shocked at these comments and process them, if the students need more then give them more don't just sit in the corner defending yourself and your opinion. Students need to stop feeling like they've already made it when they've only just begun, they need to understand how difficult this job really is.
There are many factors involved in the training of a dancer and yes the institution is one of them but the individual is responsible for a lot. Ultimately though even with great facility, the best training, a great attitude and the perfect work ethic (no matter what area of contemporary dance you go into) you still might never be good enough - it's true in all fields of work not just the arts. You've either got what they want, or you haven't. Also, great teachers will harness your learning and help you discover your true ability but if the individual is not ready, or open or not present inevitably nothing will help. Even with talent and teaching you still need the motivation and attitude and that comes from the individual. Maybe it's got nothing to do with the training, maybe these institutions are accepting the wrong people into the course in the first place... Maybe that's what the problem is.
We won't know until we come together.
You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.