The 30% Cut

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

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Article19's intrepid reader, one of the few who dares to argue with us, is on a long term sabbatical in Nepal, where he/she is partying on down with the Dalai Lama, just as the funding cuts announcement hits. This time the problem isn't with us, but with the big bad cuts and the big bad government so he/she hooked up the satellite phone and gave us a call.

So, 30% cuts, we're all doomed then huh?

Not so fast there chuckles. Things are bad, the arts are down, but by no means out!

Stop stalling, give me the skinny, the batteries on this thing are running low. Do you know how hard it is the find a power outlet up here?

Looks like hanging out with Lama man has mellowed you out. Yes, 30% is bad but the government bods have warned ACE not to cut "front line" arts by more than 15% so it's bad but not yet fatal.

Front Line Arts? Is that as ridiculous as it sounds?

The terminology is tortured but for our purposes, in the dance world, it refers to dance companies, National Dance Agencies and other small to medium scale organisations funded as an RFO. You can also include ballet companies in there but we mostly refuse to acknowledge their existence because they're pretty ridiculous.

Details in terms of money?

Well, if you're a Regularly Funded Organisation (RFO) and you get £250,000 per year in funding from ACE then do the math. It's a significant loss of revenue from organisations already struggling to build and move forward.

Other funding, such as touring money, is not so "protected" from being cut however so dance companies might have to come up with new ways to pay for touring or lower the fees they charge for putting on performances.

When does this start to kick in?

Actual cuts to organisation funded by ACE have not yet been announced but the 15% drop should occur over the next four years. It should not be immediate. If it is then ACE will have, once again, proven that the only problem with it is the people responsible for running it.

Are dancers going to be out of work?

That's a distinct possibility. We might not see smaller dance companies, they can't get much smaller, but you may well see less work available for freelancers in education projects, one off works and fewer non RFO companies.

Of course non of this will help with dancers pay, job security or health care. Guess that little lot will be on the back burner for a few more years or maybe decades.

So bad news for the emerging folks then?

Perhaps the biggest losers over the next couple of years will be new dance makers trying to build their careers. Initially there will be less money available for small one off creations but in 2012 funding from the National Lottery will be increased substantially to about £50Million per year.

This is where money for Grants for the Arts (GFA) comes from so things may start to improve then if your looking for funding on a project by project basis.

However, a lot of money will also be lost from local government funding because their budgets are also being cut. The biggest losers in this area will be festivals, education programs and local arts activity.

How can we counteract that nonsense?

There are many ways but RFO dance companies might be able to help by offering administrative assistance, rehearsal space, apprentice programs, performance opportunities, etc. Several companies already do this type of thing, we just need to see more of it so the new folks can have their shot and breaking through.

The companies will of course have less money to work with so it won't be easy.

How would ThaLab™ handle the cuts?

Easy, you cut the big guys more than the little guys. National Theatre, ROH, BRB, etc can more easily absorb funding cuts because they have more things to trim than small to medium scale. They also have a better chance of raising money from large donors and corporations. Citibank has no interest is sponsoring small to medium scale dance companies and you wouldn't want their money anyway because they're evil, or stupid, one or the other.

What about the National Dance Network, guess their party is over?

We can only hope but don't count on it. ACE may see their activity as more politically palatable in terms of community classes, outreach, etc. Some of them also have to support their very expensive buildings which they just finished paying millions of pounds for.

I'm almost afraid to ask this but, how would you deal with them?

Firstly a swift kick up the backside, just for the hell of it then down to business. Every NDA must be forced to have an independent, in house full time dance company in their building that isn't Richard Alston Dance Company (we're looking at you The Place).

Those dance companies should be integral to the activity of the building itself. Delivering classes, workshops, support to professional dancers, and playing a wide reaching role in the artistic policy of the agency itself.

They should get free office space and free rehearsal space (basically their own studio) and any interference from the NDA itself in their activities results in a tasering (or a telling off whichever you prefer).

NDA's must also be required to unreservedly act as advocates for the entire profession both online and offline by developing a coherent national policy. That means talking about and informing people about the wacky world of dance if it's on their doorstep or at the other end of the country.

An in house professional company should provide a massive level of dance expertise inside these agencies and helps cut costs for that company thereby helping them to survive. If the internal NDA organisation don't like it? Well, don't let the door hit you on the arse on the way out as you pursue an alternative career in the commercial sector.

I knew I shouldn't have asked that!


How are dance companies reacting to this?

For the most part, the ones we have spoken to, are being completely pragmatic. The smart ones will continue and keep on producing, touring and teaching. They're not kicking up a fuss, at least not in public, although we imagine that on a personal level they regard these cuts as nothing more than petulant rhetoric from an ideological government. That is of course, pure speculation on our part.

How are NDA's reacting to this?

No idea, looking at their websites you won't even see the word "cuts". Their commitment to advocacy is still as strong as it ever was. We'll contact them as soon as ACE makes their funding decisions.

What about ACE?

The funding monolith has been told to cut its operating budget from £29Million to half that over the next four years. Only time will tell if that's even possible but by 2014 ACE towers will be a lot leaner and one can only hope, a lot meaner because during this whole exercise the top brass have been more timid than the world's most timid thing.

Is there any upside to this debacle?

Well, maybe the Place Prize will get cancelled and they'll re-direct the sponsorship into something useful. But that would make sense, so don't count on it!

The Dalai Lama says hello!

Give him a high five from us.

[ Photo by Dhilung Kirat ]

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