A couple of weeks ago a minor storm erupted when an audition notice for Ace Dance and Music, based in Birmingham, was released that stated the company would charge dancers £20 each for attending.
Charging for auditions (or in this case an audition workshop) is generally not accepted practice in this country or any other. We do, on occasion, see Israeli companies charging for auditions but even that is not standard practice.
Leaving aside the issue of companies trying to charge for auditions for now what was more striking was the company's response after we communicated to them that charging was highly irregular and would not go down well in the dance world at large.
Approximately 30 minutes later the company had dropped the charge from the audition notice and their website and other materials were updated within a couple of hours.
It didn't take three weeks, multiple emails and phone calls and lots of hand wringing and clumsily worded emails from press flacks trying to justify the reasoning.
There was a decision, a reaction and a change of policy, all in the space of 30-40 minutes. Which is exactly how it should be.
No Comparison No Contrast
If we compare and contrast the above to two recent interactions we had, one with The Place in London and one with Rambert Dance Company, the outcome could not have been more different.
In the land of pompous self-entitlement the reaction, if you dare to ask actual questions, is a lot of childish fist thumping on the desk as the flacks play out their "Press Strategies For Dummies" book in their heads.
More often than not all that happens is that simple, and perfectly legitimate, enquiries turn in to massively complicated problems for no other reason than too many press people in the arts are playing at doing their jobs as opposed to actually doing their jobs.
We once had to enquire about CRB checks and the change in policies surrounding those checks. The civil service press spokesman we talked to on the phone was able to have a detailed conversation, with no preparation, on the several questions we asked. That person knew the details of their department and its policies and was able to converse, on the record, with ease.
If only it were always that simple.
ACE Dance and Music showed that it is possible in the arts to react to emerging problems and either change the policy or comment about that policy and do it very quickly.
We shall leave you with a famous quote from American novelist Upton Sinclair;
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it."
That quote could sum up quite a few people in the arts. They operate in blissful/wilful ignorance because their jobs literally depend on it.