The Evil Imp

The Curious Incident of the Choreographer in the Night

We return from our extended hiatus to find the wide world of dance in turmoil thanks to a pandemic and an established dance company reduced to ashes by a spectacular “self-own” worthy of only the very worst super villains.

Rosie Kay Dance Company (RKDC), an Arts Council England “National Portfolio Organisation” (NPO) in receipt of £150,000 in annual funding, faces an uncertain future after the company’s founder and current AD Rosie Kay quit her job following multiple accusations levelled against her of transphobic behaviour by six professional dancers hired to work on a production of “Romeo and Juliet”. At the core of the accusations are statements made by Ms Kay at a party she held for the company at her home where, as detailed by the dancers in an open letter, it is claimed Ms Kay said the following;

“Identifying as non-binary is a cop out”

Dancers Open Letter, Medium, December 11, 2021

“Can you just confirm that you have a penis, and you have a vagina? Your mothers know that you’re a boy or a girl because they gave birth to you and saw you had a penis or a vagina”

Dancers Open Letter, Medium, December 11, 2021

“Transwomen are a danger to actual women in toilets and only want access to female toilets to commit sexual assault”

Dancers Open Letter, Medium, December 11, 2021

“Allowing trans people to take hormone blockers is creating eunuchs”

Dancers Open Letter, Medium, December 11, 2021

“There is no such thing as non-binary, you are one or the other and if you believe that you are non-binary then you are insane”

Dancers Open Letter, Medium, December 11, 2021

The veracity of these claims is backed up by Ms Kay issuing not one but two apologies, one verbal and one in writing, all of this during an active “grievance procedure” being conducted by the company’s Board of Trustees following complaints made by the dancers. Despite this procedure not being completed Ms Kay, in a fit of pique, decided resignation was the best policy and off she went, straight to the national press of all places.


Until this point the wider world was not aware of anything untoward going on with the company, why would they? On December 9th however that all changed when Times journalist Janice Turner decided that credibility in journalism is overrated and published a piece so comically terrible one might imagine it was satire. The piece is very carefully constructed to paint Ms Kay as the heroic, aggrieved party citing extensive, platitude laden biographical information and numerous personal accounts and experiences that have nothing to do with the accusations of transphobia directed toward her from the company’s dancers.

Through reading the piece we can ascertain this much though, no attempt was made to communicate with the dancers and get their side of the story, which is precisely what you do when you are constructing a favourable narrative. Normal practice would dictate that Ms Kay’s comments would be relayed to the dancers for clarification with, at the very least, a curt “the dancers deny this version of events” included for some semblance of clarity.

For their part the dancers did respond with the aforementioned open letter containing a point-by-point rebuttal of all the claims made in the Time’s piece.

Janice Turner also states that, “Feminists inside the Arts Council have said privately that they will back her new venture when she’s ready.” We’re not sure how Ms Turner knows these individuals are feminists, why that matters, or why they are admitting to bypassing the rules of ACE’s own funding application process to financially support an, as yet unknown venture from a dance maker but we, here in TheLab™, have asked the funding monolith for comment.

According to The Times the final straw for Ms Kay was this;

“The board of trustees wrote to the Arts Council and the Charity Commission telling them that [Rosie] Kay was under investigation for transphobia. It hired a lawyer (sic) and demanded that Kay be investigated by an external HR consultant. “But I refuse to submit to an investigation which does not acknowledge my gender-critical beliefs are protected under law.”

Janice Turner, London Times, December 9 2021

Evidently, Ms Kay’s lawyer, possessing even less common sense than the dance maker herself, decided that the entire process was rigged, and she should play no part in it, so resignation and national press attention was the only way to go. If only a PR specialist had been in the room…. If only! Ms Kay started a fundraiser to pay legal fees, presumably to the same lawyer.


One thing is certain, Rosie Kay Dance Company is finished. The company has funding until 2022 and, technically, a new choreographer could be hired to run the place but nobody with an ounce of sense is going to take that job. Whatever the outcome of any legal action taken by the dance maker (which could take years to resolve) Rosie Kay Dance Company is unlikely to remain an NPO.

Up until the point Ms Kay decided career implosion was the best course of action none of this was a public matter, the dancers were keen to stress this in their open letter. Now however that’s all changed, and the dancers are on the receiving end of some very unpleasant push back from the Twitterverse® with a few writers publishing hit pieces for good measure. We shall repeat none of it here, nor will we provide links, but it all bears a striking resemblance to the story from 3 years ago when dancers complained about Tamara Rojo, then and now the AD of English National Ballet. The commentariat mob went on the rampage with Ms Kay herself joining in the hunt, commenting on a Facebook post by dance critic (stop laughing at the back) Graham Watts, stating;

“She’s doing an extraordinary job and I’m not surprised that makes some who can not (sic) keep up disgruntled.”

Rose Kay Facebook 27 January 2018

In that situation the main thrust of the arguments against the dancers was not only their abilities as dancers but their choice to remain anonymous. The reasons for that choice are now clear to understand.

Some are painting this debacle as a free speech issue. Ms Kay was in her home, so can speak as she pleases and how dare these ungrateful children question her position, or words to that affect. This could not be further from the truth of course. At issue here is nothing more than Ms Kay’s unprofessional, abusive conduct. It’s an employer asking her employees about their genitals and making offensive comments about transwomen being “a danger to actual women in toilets and only want access to female toilets to commit sexual assault.” A horrifying narrative not unlike the claims given voice by homophobes that gay men should not be allowed near children for fear they will molest them.

Yes, you are free to hold whatever views you please and express those views in any venue you choose within certain limitations. The game changes when you are an employer, and you are speaking to your employees. Under those circumstances there are rules and there are laws, and the dancers followed an internal grievance procedure to sort this problem out. Ms Kay is the one who started shouting from the rooftops, her downfall is hers to own.

As always happens in these situations more dancers have come forward to relay their experiences working at the company and none of it is pleasant. Sadly, all of this happened via Instagram Stories (the professional dancers chosen flavour of social media) so they have already evaporated into the ether. History will only tell part of this story. The dancer’s path forward is uncertain, how much support the wider dance world will offer is, predictably, just as uncertain.

There is no good outcome here, there is no winner.

5 replies on “The Curious Incident of the Choreographer in the Night”

“why they are admitting to bypassing the rules of ACE’s own funding application process to financially support an, as yet unknown venture”

Short memory, dude – Emma Rice? Dance UK?

Some of the Instagram stories are saved as highlights so they stay on the user’s page and are still available for viewing until the user decides to remove the highlight.

Gen X Luddite and someone who remembers Rosie Kay from school here.

Could you link to the stories if possible or give some other type of clue as to how to find them?

We don’t think that is possible. Linking to Instagram posts is, but the application does not make it very easy to link to things outside of Instagram and finding archived stories is even harder.

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