The Evil Imp

The Wrong Stuff

Do you remember, back on the 11th of October when there was a “Private Members’ debate on the Education System and Dance” at the House of Commons? No? Well don’t worry about it, you’re not alone.

From our point of view, here in TheLab™, it was curious to note the attendance of Lauren Cuthbertson and Ed Watson, both principals with the Royal Ballet at this event. The press coverage, such as it was, and DanceUK, long champions of this type of gathering, we’re all keen to emphasise their attendance.

Mr Watson was even quoted as saying;

“I’m attending the debate today because I believe that all young people should get the opportunity to take part in dance at school. I benefitted from the best training and I’m so grateful. I want all those children who have a talent for dance to get the chance to receive high quality dance training, no matter what their financial background. I’m here to support the future generations of great British dancers.”

The problem is that neither Mr Watson nor Ms Cuthbertson are involved in any kind of teaching, in schools or otherwise. The nearest they come to street urchins in dire need of some cultural education is in the annual run of The Nutcracker.

Article19 asked the Royal Ballet to provide us with details of their teaching activities over the last 12 months. They told us;

“At the moment, neither Lauren or Ed have been involved in teaching with Education, but they have done several Insights this season so far. Lauren was in Dance Futures and spent time talking informally to the children at rehearsals etc. Ed did an Insight event in Thurrock in 09/10 which involved interacting with young people from the audience, and is always happy to talk to participants.”

A quick straw poll of some professional dancers working in the wacky world of contemporary dance revealed that, on average, they would, individually, teach 250-300 times per year, not including professional classes or workshops.

One dancer worked out their yearly teaching involved a staggering 775 classes. So why were none of these dancers dragged along to the Houses of Parliament to have their mug shot taken with a few MPs?

One reason might be that this gathering has the same force and effect as a line of people in a post office. It’s all a bit of a drag and all that’s waiting at the end of the line is a brief interaction with a public service employee.

We would also speculate that it’s because nobody either knows or cares who they are. They’re just the ones doing all the hard work, getting paid very little for their efforts and they have to put up with the, sometimes, badly managed education projects.

In fact those dancers might have been able to bring some valuable insight to this “debate”. Not only could they have spoken at length of the importance of teaching in schools but highlighted some of the drawbacks, some of the failings, some of the problems.

But they’re not principals with the Royal Ballet, so no photo-op for them.

DanceUK, the chief architects of these theatrics, said this via Caroline Miller their Director; “The whole dance industry is seriously worried that dance is being overlooked in the Department for Education’s curriculum review.”

We don’t think the “whole” dance industry is worried about that at all. We think dancers are more worried about jobs and pay and the fact that when the chips are down, they are the ones that get overlooked even by their own advocacy organisation.

DanceUK declined to comment when asked why Mr Watson and Ms Cuthbertson were in attendance and whether or not the entire debate was a publicity exercise for DanceUK.

That organisation is facing an uncertain future when their Arts Council funding is withdrawn from April 2012.