Rage Against The Machine


This coming November the Government will announce their, so-called, comprehensive spending review. This review will determine just how much money goes where from the national budget of approximately £500Billion.

Arts Council England has been fretting about this review to such an extent they have been slashing budgets and sounding the death throes of the arts for over a year now. Their primary cause for concern is the London Olympics in 2012. Just how much money the Government is going to divert from, among other things, the arts has been cause for much speculation.

Spending cuts, if they happen, will almost certainly lead to job losses and a reduction in opportunities for new artists to make work and build a career.

Let’s just say the worst comes to the worst and the funding cuts are deep and long lasting. If that happens then a number of companies may well be pushed out of regular funding support and into the never ending, form filling, black hole of Grants For The arts applications. The number of job opportunities for dancers will slow to a trickle (at least less of a trickle than at present) and if we’re not very much mistaken, the world will refrain from turning!

What would the reaction be from this particular profession were all that to happen?

It’s hard to imagine the reaction would be anything more than muted disapproval followed by a fair amount of head shaking. Beyond that you really cannot visualise anything more biting and, dare we say, militant coming from the dance profession.

Despite the level of commitment, diligence, energy, intelligence and strength (both mental and physical) needed to keep it together in this business, fighting the bureaucratic machine is not something that comes easy to professional dancers.

It really is very difficult to understand why.

Gnawing Doubt

Of course it’s easy for us, Article19, to get away with criticising, berating and even humiliating those that cause so many problems for the dance profession. They can’t do anything to us, there is no revenge they can enact, we have no table for them to thump their collective fist upon.

We don’t receive any funding from anybody, there is no board of directors to satisfy and no patronage to guarantee. We are the proverbial “loose cannon” and we don’t have to answer to anybody except our readers. It really is rather good fun when you think about it.

Yes, there are rats gnawing on the power cables around our crumbling Labâ„¢ and eating baked beans on toast is getting a little old but at least we have our freedom.

Dancers face many of the same issues. They have very little in the way of real support, they are very poorly paid, have no health insurance, no job security and are treated like a commodity by more than a few dance makers. Short of eating beans on toast all the time and sharing a residence with big furry rodents, dancers are pretty much in the same boat we are.

All of which begs the question; Why are they being so polite?

Get Mad, Get Even

Here in TheLabâ„¢ we struggle to imagine what more this profession could possibly do to so comprehensively piss-off the very people who are required to make the thing work properly.

We’re not talking about dishing dirt on dance companies or choreographers, unless that dirt happens to be something unethical or illegal. What we’re talking about is openly voicing your concerns, frustration and well founded points that all too often this business is run with all the professionalism of a Butlin’s talent competition.

When your local National Dance Agency is ignoring you for no other reason than the Artistic Director is acting like a buffoon then kick up a fuss. If Arts Council England, or any other funding bureaucracy for that matter, is asking you to supply the same information over and over again, simply to justify their existence, then raise hell about it.

If you actually have a job and the teaching programme is a piece of worthless, condescending trash, then politely point out the situation and suggest that those responsible change their strategy.

When a dance company is holding secret auditions in secret places and then fails to let you know whether or not you actually got that low paid job in their particularly crap piece of work then do tell. Don’t just tell us, tell them, tell their funding providers, tell other dancers.

There are a thousand more issues we could point out, but you get the picture.

You’re not causing a ruckus out of spite, you’re causing a ruckus because the problems mentioned above are all too real and chip away at the resilience you need to keep doing the job. Allowing the cretins who make your life a misery to get away with the crime scot free is only going to make things, wait for it, worse!


Apparently, as Article19 has learned, nobody likes a “complainer”. Being liked however is slightly overrated and is not a reliable indicator of respect or having any actual skill or talent.

Raising your voice may well bring you some unwanted attention and there might be some repercussions from the subject of you ire. But what you have to ask yourself is this; What can “they” really do to you?

The arts is not a spy novel. You’re not going to get “rubbed out” by some faceless henchman from ACE and there probably isn’t a wide reaching conspiracy to keep the little guy down and mess up the career of anybody who dares to voice an opposing opinion.

We know this because to do so would require a level of operational sophistication that is simply beyond Arts Council England, Scottish Arts Council or the others. We did it again, we just called them stupid and the world keeps on turning.

Sure, calling out a dance company for their shortcomings will almost certainly mean you won’t ever work for them again. But why would you want to?

We also shouldn’t think of raising issues as nothing more than a road to confrontation. Organisations and individuals alike do not enjoy being told they are wrong or have problems but most of the time a little tough love is the only way to make them listen.

Real debate and discussion go hand in hand with practical problem solving and the arts has more than its fair share of practical problems to solve.

The people in charge need to be pulled out of their comfort zone and the only way that is going to happen is if dancers make them really, really uncomfortable.

[ top image by Paul Morley ]