Male choreographers in the UK dominate the contemporary dance art. Due to this, female choreographers have been left in the shadows of the likes of Matthew Bourne and Akram Khan.
In retaliation, organisations such as the Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform have emerged to fight sexism within dance and provide a place for the under-represented to be seen and heard.
What makes Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform so unique? This company offers emerging female choreographers the means to showcase their work, and receive feedback but more so, this company is willingly fighting on the frontlines for feminism in dance.
“Feminism has won a lot of battles over the last century or two. There are issues that still need work; equal pay comes to mind. Additionally there is the issue of under-representation or false representation of women within media, film, popular culture and in the arts.
“Of course we see a lot of women, but we have a lack of women’s voices that show the way life looks from a woman’s perspective.”
These are the words of Lucia Schweigert, the co-founder of the less than a year old company. Lucia and I corresponded and she told me opportunities hardly came by for emerging artists like her, so she took matters into her own hands.
“In August 2014 I was invited to participate in the CrisisArt Festival in Arezzo, Italy. It brings together artists and political activists who share performances, workshops and presentations… I found the feedback I received from the audience of my dance film incredibly helpful and empowering.
“Why did I not just participate in one of the many scratch nights available in London? Because at the time, I knew I wasn’t going to get many opportunities. I had no footage, no track record, etc. So I decided to put a night on myself, which would incorporate some of the amazing artistic experiences I gained at CrisisArt.”
Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform is female exclusive. It gives an opportunity and a voice for emerging female choreographers who may otherwise be overlooked for reasons such as popularity and ‘making a name’ on the mainstream stage. Konstantina Skalionta, also a co-founder, told me it was a natural course for the platform to be exclusive to female artists.
“Being myself a female dance artist, I address through my work themes that relate to the female nature. Thus, it felt natural to set up a platform that concentrates on empowering women dance artists. Moreover, it is easier for us to identify with the needs of female emerging choreographers as well as the need to create and strengthen bonds amongst us.”
However, she was sure to elaborate that the platform was not an ‘all-female club’.
“Although Kaleidoscopic Arts is a platform that aims to create opportunities for emerging female choreographers, our targeted audience is not female exclusive. We would like to connect with both men and women.”
Similarly, Lucia echoes her colleague in pointing out their platform aims to be open and diverse.
“It’s not necessarily about raising women’s issues; it’s a simple matter of hearing and seeing more women’s perspectives. The more we see diverse perspectives, the more we can understand each other, which I think is a prerequisite to equality. That’s why it is important to see dance created by men and by women.”
Both women practice as contemporary artists and choreographers, and their love of the art remains at the core of their movement. They were inspired to be different by opening a more intimate conversation with audiences about what contemporary is and does in society, and empower women by doing so.
“The traditional theatre/performance setting doesn’t really allow this conversation between audience and performers,” Konstantina told me, “so we were looking for an unconventional space which would allow intimacy, as well as interaction between observers and performers.”
The two artists hosted their first dance platform, and it was there that Konstantina realised the platform could be and do much more.
“Through Kaleidoscopic Arts we would like to address issues that young or emerging artists and choreographers are facing, to identify our need for collectiveness, as well as for further artistic development.”
With platform in its infancy however, being under a year old, Lucia and Konstantina have struggled with keeping the movement alive due to the Achilles’ heel of dance – funding.
The first dance platform was paid for by the founders’ own earnings. The ticket revenue of shows and events is shared between Konstantina and Lucia, the artists showcasing pieces, photographers, and filmmakers.
“This is not sustainable for Konstantina and I”, Lucia said. A task made more difficult by the lack of sustainable funding.
Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform have been fortunate to be supported by IdeasTap, an arts charity which offers £500 awards through its Innovators Fund. Unfortunately, this funding will last till the end of 2015 as IdeasTap has recently announced its permanent closing.
“Since we are currently unable to pay the choreographers expenses or a fee, they have to find a way to pay for the creation of their work,” Lucia told me, “we are actively looking into ways to offset their costs. For example we are negotiating with venues for in-kind rehearsal space and of course we are working towards eventually receiving Arts Council funding.”
The contemporary artists remain optimistic and passionate in their platform and movement. With the aim to encourage discussion and debate around contemporary, the platform has so far seen success in hosting events with eager audiences and even more eager choreographers. Their next platform will be hosted on May 6th in Battersea as part of the Wandsworth festival.
“We would like to challenge the audiences’ role, to give them the opportunity to know more about the artist’s process of making,” Konstantina said, “in addition to that, we would like to encourage audience and artists to participate in discussions in order to reflect on the themes expressed, express feeling and ideas.”
Lucia hopes Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform will continue to identify and challenge the hurdles female choreographers face while developing as artists.
“We are redefining where we will go regularly as we realise more and more what challenges exist for female choreographers.
“We believe that you have to aim high to get anywhere, so I would say the following: the crux is in the phase in which choreographers move from emerging to being commissioned and then being commissioned regularly and being able to present their work to a large and diverse public.
“That’s where the numbers of female choreographers dwindle. Our ambition will be to figure out why that is and then how we can help to solve the issue.”
There is a need of a strong contemporary community that tackles issues of not just sexism but all other inequalities. Kaleidoscopic Arts Platform appeared sure and sound in their ambitions and beliefs when we spoke. Their female exclusive approach for emerging artists is one way of tackling sexism and the imbalanced number of male to female choreographers on the mainstream stage.
“I do sometimes worry about that [labelled sexist]” Lucia said, “But I think I shouldn’t. We are not here to exclude people. We are here to give excluded people the exposure they deserve.”