Where Are The Dancers?

During a second round World Cup match this summer between Italy and Australia in Germany an Italian player, Fabio Grosso, collapsed in a heap on top of Australian player Lucas Neill. The Italians were awarded a penalty, scored it, end of game, end of tournament for Australia.

The only problem is that several high definition, high speed cameras show quite clearly that the Italian player fell over for no reason whatsoever, apart from the small problem of another Australian player closing in on him, falling to the ground was the only way to go.

The referee and anybody who was not Australian took the bait.

Whatever way you look at it the player cheated, the child like fist thumping of football fans not withstanding. The evidence is crystal clear and running at 60 frames per second. Of course, the Italians not only won that game but the whole World Cup adding further insult to the fake injuries of so many football players.

At least, we told ourselves here in TheLabâ„¢, the assembled, highly paid professional pundits will launch themselves into this mire of corruption and demand some restitution of credibility to the sport!

Of course, not a single word was said.

Football, like most professional sports these days, is hampered by a reality distortion field that affects almost all those who care to watch it or participate in some way. Even when presented with overwhelming evidence that their beloved ‘game’ has about as much credibility as Somalia’s space programme, football supporters, players, television companies and governing bodies bow their heads and pretend all is well like so many sheep in a herd.

The protagonists in that over-hyped theatre remain silent, a thin veil of pretense hangs over all of them.

Does this remind you of anything?

Deafening Silence

I’m not referring to the cheating of course, dancers can’t exactly cheat (maybe a little on their taxes or the sit-ups). I’m referring to the silence, the all consuming, deafening silence of not a single solitary word being said, of not one single voice being raised in anger on a public platform about this most humble of professions and the problems facing its protagonists.

Article19 records, in great detail, tens of thousands of visitors to this very website every single month. We know a lot of those visitors are professional dancers and many of them, if not all of them, have a lot to say about this profession and the way things are from their personal point of view.

From the perspective of the outside world however you (the dancers) would appear to be OK with the poor pay, working conditions, health care, lack of job security, etc, etc because to all intents and purposes you remain completely silent, in the public space, about all of these issues.

Dancers have an awfull lot to say about pay, working conditions, NDA’s, health, training, politics, funding, ACE, favouritism, nepotism, professional support, choreographers, working conditions, auditions, education work, kids, touring, performances, performing, you name it they have an opinion about it.

Dancers opinions on these matters are often well thought out and well informed, backed by years of experience in the business and, all too often, from being on the wrong end of a dodgy decision making process or blatant disregard for their professional well being.

Which makes it all the more puzzling that none of this is on the record.

I’m not just talking about the negative aspects of the profession either. Even the good things, the successful things, have the vast majority of the profession stuck for words. They are either unwilling or unable to communicate their thoughts either to Article19 or of their own volition on personal/company web spaces. Article19 will put good money on the ‘unwilling’ option.

Unpopular View

Now of course it is not just a matter of speaking up and be damned. Here in TheLabâ„¢ we know all about the consequences of expressing unpopular views and weathering the fall out from taking drastic measures to try and correct dreadful mis-steps on the part of dance organisations.

There are always repercussions for taking on the entrenched dance bureaucracy, making yourself unemployable being one of them, but there has to come a time when enough is enough, when you stand up with one unified, very loud voice and say STOP!

The key to being heard and being protected is speaking with that unified voice but sadly the chances of this profession becoming proactive and organised on any single issue are so remote Somalia has a better chance of getting that space programme off the ground.

It is especially ironic that a profession filled with artists who wouldn’t be able to achieve a single thing without being self-motivated and proactive cannot muster the energy or the time (all 15 minutes of it at most) to advocate for one of the very things they hold most dear. It is simply not possible to be a part of this profession without having a great deal of passion about it, it’s not like you’re doing it for the money or recognition.

If you’re expecting DanceUK or ACE to speak up for you then I’ll have to say please, stop it, making someone laugh that hard could cause them serious physical harm. Have a quick glance through the Dancer’s Manifesto (produced by DanceUK). The document is so vague, mealy mouthed and weak a four month old child could beat it into submission.

Equity play a role to some degree but they are the ones who recommend you get paid £375 per week (the lucky ones that is), it may be realistic but being realistic isn’t getting you anywhere.

For an individual the risks are great, for all of you together the risk is greatly reduced. This profession simply will not function without you. Article19 is not advocating a strike or any other punitive nonsense we are simply suggesting that you stand up and say what you think, it is your right to do so, it is imperative that you do so because if you don’t from where do you get your credibility?

No Excuses

Speak to defend your work, speak to damn us (Article19) to hell, speak to put forward your own ideas about new ways of running this profession, but for the love of chocolate milk, open your damn mouth and say something. It is inexcusable for you not to!

Article19 is by no means the only dance publication you could communicate your thoughts to. There are print magazines and some other websites, whether they will publish your submission is another matter entirely but you can at least try.

Just three weeks ago we published a full length feature on just how easy it is to start your own website, images and all, using free tools that can get you up and running in minutes. You don’t have to do it on your own. All blogs have group user features so you can publish collectively, safety in numbers dear readers, safety in numbers.

The debate cannot happen in just the online space however. Debate and discussion needs to take place face to face, in NDA’s, dance companies and throughout the arts. If you need to shout and scream to be heard then I suggest that is exactly what you do. Whatever you do however make sure you tell someone about it, write it down, record it, because mumbling in a corner doesn’t get it done.

Creating a culture of change is hard, very hard, but it will never happen if you stay mute and it will never happen if one person at a time takes a bullet for the team.

It’s time to rise from your slumber and start kicking the profession where it hurts. Don’t say it’s not your problem, because it really is – your problem.