The Evil Imp



A long time ago, in a piece of writing far far away we, here in TheLab™, made a lot of fun of the Rural Retreats project being run by Dance East, one of the UK’s National Dance Agencies.

In defiance of all logical reasoning the project is still running and the latest “retreat” wrapped up on January 8th after 3 days of hard talking.

This time the collective brain trust of dance “leaders” have come to the conclusion that dance needs to be re-branded in order to free itself, so they say, from “dance form fragmentation”.

Let’s be clear from the offset, we have no ******* idea what that means!

Dance East themselves were unable to comment on the whole re-branding idea either since the report from the retreat is not yet available. Also, some of the participants don’t want their particular views on this matter released to the public.

We bet they don’t!

The press release does say this much; “the group of future leaders agreed collectively that dance needs to re-brand under one umbrella, ‘Brand Dance'”

Sans any firm answers all we can do for now is speculate. Presumably this “branding” exercise is all about, what we will call, the Ballet Boyz Virus.

It’s simple, all you do is take everything and boil it down to the most basic, generic level. It’s not about work, style, content or substance it’s about marketing, shirtless photos, sound bites, bad tv programmes and buzz words. It’s about screaming girls and big smiles.

No more contemporary, hip-hop, breaking, ballet, kathak, tap, fusion, etc it’s all going to be just Dance™

Subtlety and variety is out, black and white is in, you’re either Dance™ or you’re not. You’re either Dance™ or you’re “little people”. (nice-one on the Bladerunner reference. Ed!)

This is Snow Joke

None of this nonsense is at all surprising given that one of the speakers at the “retreat” was a man called “Sir” John Hegarty. Mr Hegarty works for an advertising agency (the improbably monikered Bartle Bogle and Hegarty) and, as we all know, advertising agencies really enjoy the substance of things, don’t they?

In the press release Mr Hegarty is credited with coming up with the advertising campaign from years ago for Levi jeans. The one where Nick Kamen strips down to his underwear in a launderette because he was too poor to own more than one pair of trousers or something.

Maybe that’s part of the plan. Dancers stripping down to their underwear for photo shoots in FHM and Heat with the tag line; “It’s So Hot In The Studio”.

You’re laughing now dancers, but just you wait!

Another one of the other speakers was a former rowing coach. A person who teaches other people how to row, you know, people sitting in a boat going backwards. If ever there was a metaphor for the people gathered at this meeting.

The Rub

We can only surmise that as a group this lot are just one step removed from the current crop of Republican politicians vying for the presidential nomination for their party in 2012.

They’re saying a lot of words out loud in the vain hope that the people paying attention to them won’t realise that none of it makes any sense.

The issues facing the dance profession as a whole have nothing to do with branding. They have everything to do with massive funding imbalances, lack of job creation, insecurity, rudderless marketing strategies and arts organisations run by petulant five year olds more concerned with being “in the huff” instead of engaging in substantive communication.

At present the dance profession is lacking strong leadership. People willing to speak, on the record, in the strongest possible terms about the problems faced by dancers, dance companies and the profession in general.

If this lot are the future of that leadership, if they really do think that dance has a “branding” problem that can be solved by ad agencies and tag lines, then, once again, we really are screwed.

[ Dance East PR ]