A depleting number of recognised female choreographers has led to members of the industry asking: ‘Where are the female choreographers?’.
Leaders such as Fleur Darkin, choreographer and artistic director of Scottish Dance Theatre, famously said: “Institutions are biased against female achievement systematically, not because individuals are misogynist. It is the culture, not one thing”.
This topic has been a subject of debate for the past few years. On December 8 2014, the Arts Council England chair, Sir Peter Bazalgette, gave a speech during an event at Sadler’s Wells.
He signalled there will be a ‘fundamental shift’ in the Arts Council’s approach to diversity. “For years, we have tried to promote diversity, without grasping how complex it is.
“The plain fact is that despite many valuable, well-intentioned policies over the past decade, when it comes to diversity, we have not achieved what we intended.”
The Arts Council fund 32 dance-related NPOs (National Portfolio organisations). Of the 32, 53% are directed by men, while 40% are directed by women.
Holly Noble is the co-founder of the Female Choreographer’s Collective (FCC), and they aim to promote, support and build the profile of female choreographers in the UK. The company’s mission outlines their intentions in battling this issue.
“We are committed to investigating the reasons behind this shift, and we plan to call on all female choreographers that are interested in highlighting this issue to share with us their experiences being a female choreographer in the modern dance industry today.
“This issue has been discussed sporadically over the last few years, with Dance Umbrella hosting a forum on the topic in 2009.
“We currently have only theories and no clear answers on why this shift has happened, but we are passionate about investigating it further with the support of female choreographers around the UK.”
Dr. Angela Pickard, the artistic director of Canterbury Dance Company, thinks that the industry has yet to see an innovative and groundbreaking female choreographer. Because of this, the view of female choreographers on a national stage remains imbalanced.
“We haven’t seen anything different from female choreographers yet and I think we need somebody who would show us different ways of working. Whether that’s using new technologies or new techniques in the way that they would fuse movement together.”
Dr. Pickard, also the Director of Teaching, Learning and Student Experience for Dance at Canterbury Christ Church University, stressed how important it was for dance schools, colleges and universities in the UK to train female choreographers of the future.
Katrina Murton is an aspiring choreographer and a member of Canterbury Dance Company. She thinks news coverage is to blame for people not hearing or knowing enough about female choreographers.
“You hear more about male choreographers, and maybe that’s to do with the news but it doesn’t have anything to do with the gender.”
The contemporary dancer from Sittingbourne, Kent, thinks the success of male and female choreographers alike solely depends on their talent.
“You’ve got the likes of Matthew Bourne that does a mixture of Ballet [with Contemporary], Akram Khan does more heavy stuff, but then there’s Jasmin Vardimon who does physical theatre as well.
“It just depends on the choreographer and how good they are I think, it doesn’t have anything to do with the gender.”
With only theories to work with, it seems organisations like the Female Choreographer’s Collective face a hard task.
Such efforts however open a necessary dialogue about the issue, all in order to come to a conclusion as to why there a few female choreographers on the national stage.
English National Ballet Director and Dancer, Tamara Rojo speaks about diversity and the lack of female choreographers in the industry form her perspective.