The last few weeks for dance and the arts in general have been one long list of stupid. From the outside looking in, the whole arts profession, from top to bottom, has the appearance of a clown car driving through a living manifestation of a Salvador Dali painting and driving that car are the alleged best and the brightness in this business we call show. So, let us, here in TheLab™, sum it all up for you so you can get on with your life or just sit in the corner sobbing!
We start with the ongoing idiocy at English National Ballet and the self-inflicted wounds of the company's director Tamara Rojo and her apparent inability to comprehend the fact that having a relationship with one of your employees is a really bad idea. Mix that together with allegations of bullying and useless management made by current and former dancers, inept, fawning journalism, ridiculous comments about how dancers can only find love among their own and you have the perfect recipe for a shit sandwich.
Article19 covered this nonsense in our piece here but since that time the Evening Standard has released an interview with Ms Rojo that reads more like a Jilly Cooper novel than a piece of competent journalism. If you have the stomach for it you can read the piece for yourself but there is one point that is worth pondering. Ms Rojo states that there was never any secret made of her relationship with dancer Isaac Hernández but the question that needs to be asked is; just exactly what were any of the dancers in the company supposed to do with that information?
If a dancer did bring it up with Ms Rojo like; "hey AD, don't like the fact that you're sleeping with my co-worker, can you knock it off because it makes me super uncomfortable and creates a really unpleasant work environment, also, he's acting like a douche! Mkay, thx!". What would the outcome of that conversation be exactly? Would Ms Rojo put here hands up and say, "totally understand, he's transferring out tomorrow, ENB is trading him to Paris Opera for three Corps and a Character artist, sorry for the inconvenience". We think not.
The London Times also published a piece yesterday (paywalled), that highlights some hypocrisy from Ms Rojo after she told the company's Ballet Master Jose Martin that "he could not remain with the company and in a relationship with a dancer. Mr Martin and Kerry Birkett left the company in 2013 and subsequently married."
For this situation the fix is easy, Hernández ships out for pastures new and Ms Rojo fixes the mess she has made in her company by learning how to be a better person. Nobody has to get fired and nobody has to clutch their pearls. There, we fixed it for you.
The Tartan Skirmish
The tartan covered, haggis hunting Scottish equivalent to Arts Council England (ACE) for the kilted folk Creative Scotland (CS), has gotten its metaphorical knickers in a knot because they cannot, evidently, handle funding applications without running headfirst into a brick wall. Following the announcement of their regular funding decisions all hell broke loose when it became clear who the losers were. As told by the Scottish Stage website;
"And flak there has certainly been over the last few days. In particular, Scotland's theatre artists (I have yet to hear a single voice in CS's defence) are outraged that two leading children's theatre companies (Visible Fictions and the world class Catherine Wheels) and major disabled theatre groups (Birds of Paradise and Lung Ha's) have been shoved out into the fiscal cold. One might add to that unique street and site-specific theatre company Mischief La-Bas, who have been rewarded for their brilliant, critically acclaimed recent show Nursery Crymes by having their financial support removed."It's not unusual for people to kick up a fuss when funding announcements are made but this time it was different because the fuss was loud, it was everywhere and wasn't going away anytime soon. Just a few days and several editorials later Creative Scotland had backed down completely (they had a meeting) and the funding decisions were all reversed.
This presents CS and the arts in Scotland with a number of problems. If CS had made multiple mistakes with their assessments of these applications is it not reasonable to assume that other organisations that were denied funding also deserved another look?
If the funding assessment process was demonstrably flawed then how do we know the organisations that were successful in the first place were, in fact, worthy of that success? Is it also fair to say that the denial of funding under the flawed process is also grounds for not allowing the decision to grant funding to organisations to be reversed because it's fairly obvious that nobody at Creative Scotland has any idea what they're doing?
It's a nightmare that is paradoxical in nature and the only person that could probably explain it was Stephen Hawking but, sadly, he passed away just yesterday so he can't help us.
The French (Canadian) Connection
From Scotland we move to Canada where it's even colder and lots of the population speak French, because why not? Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreál (that's really what they're called) planned a new triple bill of works that were all about women, ostensibly, but were, in fact, to be created by 3 male dance makers. Far from being shocking however this type of crap is pretty much exactly what we, here in TheLab™, expect from an art form with its' misogynistic head stuck so far up its' misogynistic ass (ouch! Ed!)
Kathleen Rea a choreographer and former dancer with National Ballet of Canada was suitably outraged and started a petition to get at least get one female dance maker on the list. Ms Rea told the Winnipeg Free Press;
"When I danced with the National Ballet company of Canada, out of the 40 or 50 ballets I danced, only one was choreographed by a woman -- and that was 20 years ago," said Rea, who runs a small dance theatre company."
The petition had the desired effect, sort of, as one of the male dance makers, Medhi Walerski, did back out stating his support for women across the world and their never-ending fight to not be ignored as the reason. We think he backed out because the whole project is completely tainted and anybody who takes part is just going to look like a comically tone-deaf jackass but we're probably wrong because people always do the right thing, especially when the world is watching.... Right?
We noted than Mr Walerski wasn't so outraged before he took the job that ultimately became the source of all his outrage. Article19 did not reach out to Mr Walerski for comment because, honestly, what's the point?
The company's AD Ivan Cavallari, a man who is very obviously too stupid to insult but let's do that anyway, changed the name of the evening, re-wrote the terrible press info and then resolved to hire another male dance maker to replace the one that had quit because, as we just told you, he's really stupid.
The Bintley Bounce
Taking a sharp right at Newfoundland we come back to the UK for no other reason than we have to and we have yet to find the tunnel that will get us the hell out of here.
Two male ADs have decided to call it quits and leave their ever-so cushy jobs to spend more time with their choreography, or whatever. Mark Baldwin from Rambert Dance Company is calling it quits at the company because he's tired of working in a £17Million building that some idiot put right next to Waterloo Bridge in London and there's only so many times you can watch 'Rooster' before you get the overwhelming desire to take a shovel to somebody's head. That really is the reason, we're not making this up you know!
The other one making a break for the door is David Bintley, who you probably don't know is the AD of Birmingham Royal Ballet and has been for several hundred years. The official reason is that he's super happy but wants to spend more time making his internationally recognised choreography (stop laughing at the back). Weirdly, BRB is also housed in a building next to a really horrible road, this time the A38.
During this difficult time of transition for the company we took a quick look into their financial documents and as it turns out BRB had just one female dance maker in their 2016-2017 season out of 17 pieces they performed. The majority were not only male but they were also dead. Female dance makers can't compete with men even after they've left the mortal coil to spend more time pushing up daisies. As before, this is exactly what we would expect, no surprises here at all.
We made this information public, but nobody cared. As before we could have sought comment from BRB about this but, again, what's the point?
Where To From Here