Hold on to your hats dear readers, you all have hats right?, because things have just gone from crazy to completely batsh*t crazy in the wide world of dance.
In July of 2013 we published a piece concerning the massively over funded and completely unnecessary National Youth Dance Company that stalks this land like a.... well, like a completely unnecessary youth dance company.
With £400,000 in annual funding from Arts Council England (ACE) and the Department for Education (DfE) this particular group came from nowhere to a position in the top 10 in terms of annual funding for contemporary dance companies in the UK.
Perhaps the most fantastic part of the NYDC, from the point of view of the people that run it, Sadler's Wells Theatre in this case, is that they don't even have to pay the dancers, at all. The folks at The Royal Opera must look upon them with envious eyes.
In 2013 ACE told us that the funding for the company was by no means guaranteed at the same level for future years, what with all the cuts to their own funding and cuts to local authority arts provision sweeping the land at the time.
True to their word the Big Bad has taken the tough decision to to drastically........ increase the funding of NYDC by another £50,000, bringing it up to a total of £450,000 for 2015/2016.
What this means is that a dance company that doesn't pay its dancers, meets for a few weeks in the year and will perform just 7 times gets more money than Phoenix Dance Theatre, Motionhouse Dance Theatre, Jasmin Vardimon Company, Candoco Dance Company, Ballet Lorent, Hofesh Shechter Company and DV8 Physical Theatre, to name but a few.
Did we also mention that the NYDC is completely unnecessary?
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Arts Council England's explanation for this nutty behaviour is as follows;
"The Arts Council has clear expectations for the additional £50K of funding that will be available. Our expectation is that this amount should be used towards activities that will increase the engagement in NYDC programmes by young disabled people in line with our ambitions around the Creative Case for Diversity, as well as them undertaking additional fundraising to increase sustainability"
Since ACE is being so generous when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusive practice in dance then we expect both Candoco and Stopgap will be receiving an offer of an additional £50,000 in their NPO settlement any day now.
They are two companies working at the forefront of inclusive practice in the UK and both of them receive less annual funding than the NYDC. In fact both companies had their funding cut by ACE following the most recent NPO funding decisions in 2014. Also, they have to pay their dancers.
Normally when a organisation is given an increase in funding from ACE it's because they filled out a lot of forms justifying the many reasons why they required more money. In this case however Sadler's Wells told Article19 they they did not ask for any more money, ACE just offered it to them, citing the reasons above.
Among the current intake of youngsters into NYDC there are 4 dancers with disabilities out of a total of 30 dancers in the company.
As for the NYDC being unnecessary?
The company is essentially duplicating existing practice already being undertaken by CAT, Candoco, Stopgap and other youth dance companies and educational outreach projects being delivered all over the UK, services on the receiving end of cut after cut.
What about the touring you say? Well, OK, if you want to give young people the experience of being bored sitting on a train for hours then mission accomplished!
While it is admirable that ACE has realised a need for investment in inclusive practice the £50,000 in funding is completely disproportionate to what the NYDC would need to address the issue, given that they already had £400,000 per year to begin with.
The raison d'être of this company is to encourage the participants to follow a path into full time training to become, one day, a fully fledged professional dancer.
What does it say to the kids in this company that, should they follow the path to professionalism, they will be looking for jobs with companies that can't afford to pay them very well or employ them full time because they receive less funding than the youth dance company that encouraged them to get into the business to begin with?
The £450,000 cost of this company would cover the three years of tuition fees for more than a dozen students at any UK dance school. It could cover the cost for dance companies and dance artists to operate their, already well established, youth companies that encourages both participation in dance and possible advancement to full time professional training.
If the DfE and ACE are so committed to advancing the causes of dancers with disabilities and learning difficulties maybe the £450,000 would be better spent establishing a training centre within an existing dance school so those dancers have somewhere to train!
The National Youth Dance Company exists for no other reason than the people who think these things matter want to say that England has a National Youth Dance Company.
"We support the arts and we support participation in the arts" they will say as they point to a picture of lots of happy kids doing a synchronised jump on the main stage at Sadler's Wells.
Like so many things that happen in the arts today it's nothing more than press release arts policy and it embarrasses all of us.
image courtesy of Snoopy.com