The Evil Imp

Aches and Pains

Last week the Royal Ballet announced that they were cancelling a performance of ‘Tetractys – The Art of Fugue’ (seriously? Ed!) crafted by Wayne McGregor because one of the dancers, Natalia Osipova, had received a concussion during a matinee show and another dancer, Thiago Soares, had become ill.

Such was the shortage of time there was no way to prepare an alternate cast for the evening performance so the company duly offered either full or partial refunds to their audience, whatever they wanted.

How Ms Osipova came to be suffering from a concussion was not revealed.

If you take a look at the video we filmed of Motionhouse Dance Theatre and their performance of ‘Broken’ there is one thing that you will certainly not notice. All of the dancers, apart from one, were suffering from a particularly bad case of the flu on the day of the show.

Even the company director, Kevin Finnan, was afflicted and if you listen to the full audio of the interview you can clearly hear that the man is not at all well.

Yet, there they all were, doing the show because the show needed to be done and nobody else was going to do it for them.

For a company like Motionhouse there is no alternate cast. They don’t even have an understudy dancer just incase something goes wrong and just one company member cannot perform, never mind 90% of them.

In-fact, Motionhouse usually have seven dancers in the company but their numbers have been cropped thanks to the nonsensical funding cuts that have been plaguing (pun intended) the arts for years now.

The story is the same for any mid-scale or small-scale touring company across the country. Dancers have to perform while ill or suffering from injuries not because of brutal directors cracking the whip but because the repercussions of cancelling a show can push you so far over the red line financially the company probably won’t recover.

When dancers literally cannot go on stage pieces are hastily reworked, rehearsal’s rushed through, usually on the day of the show. It’s not ideal, but what else can they do?

Continuing to work while you are ill extends the amount of time it takes for you to recover so you suffer longer. Bad enough if you work in an office environment, worse still if you’re putting your body and your mind through a live theatrical performance night after night.

We have all heard the stories of dancers performing while injured thereby exacerbating those injuries and causing new injuries in the process. A never-ending cycle of injury, partial recovery and then more injury.

The reason we have all heard those stories before is because this problem has existed for decades even though the fix is very simple.

Increased funding, not decreased, means more dancers, more jobs, more injury cover, less extended injury and illness for individual dancers, more productivity, more output, better dance culture, etc, etc, etc.

We’ve spoken before on Article19 about the very obvious class system that affects dance in this country. The haves can cover injuries, most of the time, with a new cast along with paid sick leave for the injured dancers.

The have-nots have to perform while they are ill or injured, cut the number of dancers they employ and they, almost always, have no sick leave pay at all.

2014 and the dance profession is still living in the dark ages. An age where even the most basic of safety provisions are unavailable to many dance companies for the lack of the money that is currently paid to the upper echelons of the Royal Opera House management.

Maybe the great and the good should have discussed that at British Dance Edition this year.