What’s been in the news in January? Quite a lot of things (finally!). The gender equality debate has gained even more grounds, bringing in a lot of voices that would usually spectate, or quietly get on with the fight in their own ways.
Grabbing headlines was Akram Khan’s suggestion in an interview with The Stage that the industry should not have “more female choreographers for the sake of it”. Akram was trying to say that there was an imbalance because reasons. Well, because the pioneers of the contemporary and ballet disciplines were largely female, and the imbalance “fluctuates at different times”.
People weren’t happy. Oh no.
— Subtle Kraft Co (@SubtleKraftCo) January 12, 2016
Luke Jennings, the people’s hero, responded very boldly – “You’re wrong. Akram. We do need more female choreographers”. He went on to argue that women were often indeed artistic pioneers, but the discipline turns to a boy’s club. “It’s time for dance to shed its institutionalised sexism”, and many agreed with Luke. (Or roared with him I suppose. He made a very poetic comparison between female choreographers and lions).
Over 400 members of the dance community responded to Akram’s comments in an open letter.
— DFDcollective (@DFDcollective) January 22, 2016
To which he responded: “I’m sorry”. That’s basically it. Akram tries (and fails) to fix the issue he himself created. Although he raises good points – “We don’t need more female choreographers simply because they are female, we need them because they are brilliant at what they do.” – it is unhealthy for this debate to have headlines claiming female choreographers are essentially a quantitative commodity.
They are artists whom deserve merit, equal opportunities, and collaborative debates. Not an “c’est la vie” attitude because imbalance “fluctuates”. Akram even catches the sarcastic wrath of Article19!
Elsewhere, The Spectator’s dance critic chimed in appearing very “bemused”. Ismene Brown wracked her brains to find out why many think there is an “anti-woman conspiracy in dance”. (You know a debate’s heating up when conspiracies are thrown about!)
She did however agree with Luke’s claim that sexism was institutionalised (phew!). It’s a very thought-provoking read.
Here’s what we should focus on. Cloud Dance Festival hosted a very important debate – “Let’s Get On And Do Something About The Gender Debate: an open space event for the independent dance sector on gender and equality”. Lengthy, yes, important, YES!
The debate is a very beneficial one to have, but we need to walk the walk as well. Host Chantal Guevara, along with 30 attendants (I missed it, shame on me) came up with action points to spark the movement going forward. The priority, identified by the group, was to keep the discussions going.
This small column appeared in The Independent newspaper, and am I glad. I’ve been an advocate for the need of the press to be more involved in the debate and its coverage. Let’s see where it takes us.
News in brief
The first ever The Bench event was announced this month. Spearheaded by Tamsin Fitszgerald, the event hopes to look at its success in generating debate, and conversations surrounding the issue of gender disparity for female choreographers working in the contemporary dance sector. Click here for more information.
Sharon Watson, the Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre (Leeds), celebrated the company’s 35th year anniversary with a lighthearted interview with HonestMum. She appeared on the Wonderful Women series on the blog which heralds successful women.