The procedure for Article19 securing permission to film a performance is pretty straight forward. We call or email the company, explain what we want to do, the company, almost always, say yes. The company then let the venue know that a camera operator will be there and that's pretty much all there is to it.
Over the last six or seven years only two companies have said no, citing specific, individual reasons, and they are perfectly entitled to do so. Sometimes you just don't want your work to be filmed.
Never before however has a venue refused access to film, until last week when Dance City (DC), one of the UK's National Dance Agencies (NDA) based in Newcastle upon Tyne in England, denied access to Article19 to film in the Dance Lab, their built in performance venue. From that point on the whole affair descended into farce.
The company performing at the venue, the show was on Friday, had given permission, they know us well enough and were happy to accommodate the single camera. We have also filmed within Dance City and their Dance Lab dozens of times before so it was quite a surprise when an email came from the company explaining that DC had refused access to Article19 but would not say why.
We then attempted to contact DC's General Manager, Judith Cashman, to no avail because she was "on a course". Several attempts were made to contact the acting Artistic Director/CEO* Nuritza Daghlian to obtain an explanation. When we couldn't get Ms Daghlian on the phone a message was left on her voicemail, this message was never returned.
After much banging of heads on tables we did manage to talk to their marketing people who told us that the decision to deny access was taken on high by "management" and they didn't know the reason why, they were only there to "enforce" the decision. Yes, they really did use that word.
In the meantime all we could do was ponder just why DC was getting a bit hostile and not letting us through the door? There was an incident late last year when, in an email, we did call one of the people an "ass". The joke was a little more contrived than that but you get the idea. Meetings were had, explanations were offered, we parted on reasonably good terms, or so it appeared!
Between then and now however Article19 has filmed within DC's walls on several occasions. One of our video features was shot in the very same theatre we were being denied access to. Between that point and now only one satirical piece was written with that particular NDA in mind. [ Babel Fish ] was a satirical take on the job description they published about the new AD/CEO position that had opened up with the departure of Janet Archer to ACE in London.
Surely a piece of satire concerning an inanimate piece of paper could not be the reason we had drawn the ire of DC?
As the show approached, several phone calls were made, again, to DC, in an attempt to contact the Acting AD/CEO. Front line staff could note locate her anywhere in the building. We called back repeatedly, whereupon it was speculated that the Acting AD/CEO may have been "in the bathroom". "For half and hour" we enquired?
A further voicemail was left and, once again, not returned.
Saner minds then decided to intervene, we can't say who, and several dozen phone calls were made to various people to find out just what was going on. About 2 hours before the show was about to start we received confirmation that filming could take place, but with some restrictions.
First of all we would have to buy a ticket!
OK, it's petty but fair enough.
We could only film one of the pieces of work and not the other one!
We could only film one of the pieces of work but not the other one!
Where the hell does a venue get the authority to intervene between a dance company, that had granted permission to film, and Article19 and determine that one piece of work can or cannot be filmed?
No answer, came the reply!
Being mischievous types we filmed both the pieces anyway (remember, we had permission) and, at the time of writing, the world is still turning. We are still awaiting an explanation from Dance City.
This whole affair brings up some very troubling questions about freedom of speech, media access, priorities and supporting dance in general.
Here in TheLab™ we are well aware that our particular style does not sit well with some of those
completely lacking a sense of humour working in the dance industry. They are of course free to disagree with us, they are free not to read what we write. Should anyone have a problem with Article19 there are numerous ways you can voice your concerns. This is not a closed shop. We have telephone lines, instant message capability, email, contact forms and a forum all of which are freely available for our readers to use their own voice.
At no point in the last 9 months has anyone contacted us from Dance City to express their opposition to something we have written not even, on that one occasion, when it was about them, sort of.
It is also troubling that the decision to effectively ban Article19 from covering dance performances or anything else within, what is a public facility, was taken without actually bothering to inform Article19. Even when we did find out, no one had the courage to speak to us and explain why.
The whole issue of DC determining which works we can or cannot film when agreements between relevant parties have been made simply beggars belief. DC has crossed so many lines with that type of interference it is difficult to know where to start.
When Article19 films a company for editorial reasons, to run a feature, it's not about us, it's not about the venue, it's about the company, their work and promoting dance. We do this because we don't just want to write about what dance companies are doing we want to show our readers what they are doing. Article19 gains nothing, it costs us a fortune to run this thing but what the hell, we'll do it anyway because nobody else is doing it and we're pretty good at it.
It's nothing short of embarrassing when, so-called, professional organisations get so caught up in their own hurt feelings over some satirical writing (we presume) and can't see the bigger picture. It not about them or us, it's about dance and the sooner they get that the better.
*Apparently all the AD's of NDA's are now Chief Executive Officers, presumably because they're going to start selling mortgages or something.