The Open Letter

Should you choose to remember 2010 for anything, as far as the arts are concerned, then it should probably be for the brutal hatchet job meted out by the coalition government on all things artistic and creative. Not only did Arts Council England (ACE) take a beating but cuts to local authorities are already starting to bite with some hugely short sighted officials in the regions cutting arts provision completely.

The first round of cuts for those in receipt of regular funding was 6.9% across the board, no exceptions. ACE has hinted that as many as 100 of these organisations could cease to be funded after 2011.

For this editorial we won’t be focusing on the cuts though. Instead, let’s take a look at the dance professions response to those cuts, or rather the complete and utter lack of response.

If perusing the Twitter feeds, the Facebook pages, press releases, newsletters and the websites of dance organisations across the country was your only source of information about the profession then you would have absolutely no idea what had taken place just a few short months ago.

The relentless chirpiness of the media output, such as it is, belies the struggle going on beneath the surface. Much like the proverbial duck, the dance world is furiously paddling away while presenting the cliched “stiff upper lip” to the world at large.

Many organisations are, of course, being pragmatic and this is absolutely necessary. There is nothing to be gained from kneeling down in the mud, throwing your arms in the air and screaming “why!” at the gods of arts funding.

Let us not forget however that contemporary dance is an artistic profession, a contemporary artistic profession and artists are supposed to comment on the world around them.

Yet the combined forces of the dance world have barely mustered a single word in public to either condemn the governments behavior or rally the troops to fight the cause much beyond adding “twibbons” to social networking avatars.

It’s not just the funding cuts either.

A reader recently pointed out that our piece “An Inconvenient Truth” about dance companies and their attitudes towards dancers with disabilities caused a near riot. “The Surplus”, on the other hand, that demonstrated ACE’s utter incompetence in handing over more than £700,000 in additional money to the already well funded Sadler’s Wells Theatre barely causes a raised eyebrow.

ACE wants to give £7Million to Rambert Dance Company for a new studio during a time of massive funding cuts? No problem.

Huge salaries and bonuses for guys like Alistair Spalding (AD of Sadler’s Wells) while dancers, in his own words, are paid a “pittance”. Whatever.

ACE wants to cut your funding by 6.9% based not on sound financial analysis but expedience? Silence.

The list of things this profession won’t talk about is as long as it is infuriating.

On many levels the relationships between the funders and the large scale and the small to mid-scale resembles that of an abusive personal relationship. They promise a lot, deliver a little and every so often you get kicked in the head but you know they love you, probably.

Those new to the professional dance world may well be looking around them and asking; “Where are our leaders? Where is the leadership?”

Thus far this profession has gone gently into the night with naught but a whimper.

Don’t forget that what’s happening now is not just about you or your company. How the dance profession deals with these issues could affect the art form and those that work in it for a generation if not longer.

Speak, Write, Type

Arts Council England, NDA’s and many other organisations have told to us that they welcome criticism. They welcome an open an honest discussion, so they say. There will be no repercussions, so they say. There will be no problem, so they say.

So here it is, your chance to speak up and tell them, us and anybody else that cares to pay attention what you think about what is happening to the arts and to this profession.
Say it here, say it on your own website, say it on Twitter if you must but say something that has nothing to do with how “super excited” you are about a new workshop!

Speaking out behind closed doors or in endless meetings wasn’t acceptable before and it’s completely unforgivable now. These issues will not go away because we don’t write about them or because you don’t talk about them.

Note: We cannot migrate the comments from the page where this editorial was originally published. To read those comments click on the link below.

[ The Open Letter ]