What Needs to Happen in 2013

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

watch now

by Neil Nisbet

More than five years ago we published a piece entitled "10 Things That Need To Happen in 2008". As the dance profession, en masse, moves into another new year what better time to take a look back and see if any of the things we discussed actually happened.

"ACE needs to support DanceUK's National Centre for Dance Health and Performance."

Not only did Arts Council England not support the renamed National Institute for Dance Medicine at all but they completely de-funded DanceUK. Despite that set back DanceUK did manage to open a starter clinic in London last year of which we shall have more in the coming weeks.

We should note that during the last 5 years ACE has squandered huge sums of money propping up failing, large scale arts institutions, handed over millions for pointless new buildings (looking at you Rambert) and continues to pay its senior executives salaries, that evidence suggests, they are entirely undeserving of.

So if it wasn't the lack of money, then what was it?

"Dancer's pay needs to get real."

Given the debacle last year with the English National Opera and the notorious £327 per week pay cheques and the fact that many dancers report not earning enough money to even qualify to pay any income tax we shall go out on a limb and suggest things have not improved a whole lot.

Equity minimums are still a complete joke and long term employment prospects and career development are pretty much just a fantasy for most professional dancers.

Over the five year period we have failed to note one single substantive position piece written by somebody in the dance profession about creating jobs for dancers.

If we missed it, then do point us in the right direction.

"A touring structure for new companies."

The National Dance Network had a brief experiment with some touring project or other but it was so brief and so badly publicised we can't remember what it was called. Resolution is the same as it ever was and a grander plan to get the work of new dance makers touring around the country on a regular basis is nowhere in sight.

"Dance companies need to actually embrace new technology, not just pretend they do!"

On this front there has actually been some progress. Websites, at least some of them, have improved and the overall content is better, if a little dry most of the time.

The standard and type of videos being produced is still very hit and miss however with too much emphasis being placed on marketing strategy as opposed to providing actual information or a compelling watch.

Just last week Dance4 released a video about 'Big Dance 2012' that was so laden with meaningless statistics you could have printed it out on paper and it would have made more sense.

"Dance bloggers need to write about stuff that's real."

This one is a little more difficult to measure but most of the blogs that were active in 2008 have either completely disappeared or are languishing, unloved and lacking any updates.

Thewinger.com, started by former NYC Ballet dancer Kristin Sloane, had a grand total of three updates last year, a depressing fall from grace.

If you know of any other dance blogs that may be of interest then please let us know, because we sure as hell can't find them.

"National Dance Agencies need to work together more."

Not only is that not happening but a few them are directly responsible for undermining the profession as a whole with some pretty ludicrous projects and wasting huge sums of money. Far from being a wealth of experience and knowledge they come across as ivory towers, in a swamp, surrounded by an impenetrable forest!

"Arts Council England needs to open up."

Stop laughing at the back. If anything they have gotten worse and the funding monoliths fake "live chats" over the internet are evidence of nothing at all.

Spare Change

So five years later and it seems not a lot has changed in the wide world of dance. If anything things might actually be getting worse.

Change is often slow to happen but some of the things we were asking for, like ACE being more open to the public about discussing their policies and admitting their failures, are pretty simple things to achieve.

Far from dance companies and agencies becoming more collaborative, at least in terms of how they talk about, debate, promote and support the art form, they look increasingly isolationist in their behaviour.

We are of course generalising but that still doesn't excuse the lack of progress in a lot of areas. Bad policy and bad decision making still persists throughout the industry.

Here in TheLab™ we can't make people do things differently, all we can do is keep highlighting the problems. We did ask for Phenomenal Cosmic Powers™ for Christmas but none came.

Without sounding like a commercial for Coca Cola the only thing left is for you, whomever might be reading this, to lead the charge for wider changes in the dance world on a whole range of issues.

Proactive organisations like the Female Choreographers Collective are one example of a big idea led by just two people (Holly Noble and Jane Coulston). It might work it might not work but at least they're giving it a shot.

Carol Lee, a costume designer from Leeds, took on the Big Bad (ACE) and lost, sort of, over their less than honest funding practices. Ms Lee fought the good fight however and that's better than nothing.

If you don't ask then you don't get, so start writing, start Tweeting or start calling because the ways things are going we won't see any substantive change until at least 2346.

  • Sam

    I have found an interesting blog which relates dance to current affairs and other things, by a dance student! nickyprianou.wordpress.com

  • Rhiannon Faith

    I agree which is why I did this. You have to make it happen your self.


    Golden Bohemian is the new project from the Rhiannon Faith:dancingtheatre, the company founded in 2009 by choreograoher Rhiannon Faith with the aim to create accessible dancetheatre performances that are in dialogue with other art forms. While Rhiannon Faith's work has explored since the beginning the breaking of boundaries between dance, music and theatre, Golden Bohemian wants to take a step further and generate opportunities for the dance company to collaborate with other creative workers such as actors, visual art- ists, fashion, make-up and set designers.

    Golden Bohemian is therefore the title of a series of performances put together by the company in collaboration with other artists taking place in different underground venues in London. Each event explores a certain historical theme and presents an integrated performance that places the members of the audience in unusual circumstances, inviting them to take part in the narrative and simultaneously engage with different forms of art.

    During our performances we have a group of professional contemporary dancers delivering highly physical, contact work alongside the live music of
    emerging UK bands. The performance also involves the work of professional actors, visual artists and designers, all working together in the delivery of an audience experience that intends to platform the work of young artists and stimulate debate and social commentary.

    While we propose to take the audience in a journey through time and look at different periods and scenes, we are not stuck in the past. We want to celebrate the work of current artists and integrate them in a scene that belongs to them by own right. Consequently we work with recent dance and theatre graduates, unsigned bands and young artists and designers that are beginning their careers and struggling to express their ideas in a highly competitive world where the importance of the arts is not always fully realized.

    I will be doing another event this February 15th and 16th. We are un-funded, but will make this happen. We would be grateful for your support.

    Rhiannon Faith


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