April Recap: English National Ballet’s She Said shook up the status quo

And we’re back! I peruse the worldwide web and newspapers for interesting news (you might have missed) that may push the debate forward, and I guess you read! What’s gone on in April?

English National Ballet’s She Said sent a vital signal to the industry by being an industry first – female choreographers commissioned by ENB for the Spring bill.

As Luke Jennings puts it in his review, “In commissioning She Said, ENB director Tamara Rojo is addressing more than the deplorable inequality of creative opportunity afforded to women in ballet. The programme also confronts assumptions that are barely questioned in new ballet choreography, dominated as it is by a tiny, all-male contingent.

“We don’t see, for example, the kind of objectifying choreography in which female dancers are endlessly and fetishistically manipulated to display their hyper-flexibility.”

ENB She Said LJ

But, many critics pondered this question after She Said‘s widespread media coverage: “Does Tamara Rojo really think female choreographers are being stifled by sexism?”

Ismene Brown, writer for the Spectator, questioned Rojo’s misguided assumptions about female choreographers in the industry.

“First, that female choreographers are being stifled by institutionalised sexism in the ballet establishment.

“Second, that female choreographers, if allowed to see the light of day, would offer a differently thought, differently imagined argument from the general tenor of those pesky male choreographers who dominate the stage.”

Spectator ENB She Said

The writer also raised a good point. Do such female choreographers believe that “all that men want to do with women on stage is abuse them, bend them and splay them”?

Enter Wayne McGregor, an example she pointed at for the work he has done.

The choreographer’s recent work includes a partnered campaign titled everyBODY with Selfridges, to celebrate the beauty and strength of the body.

W MG Selfridges

McGregor is the choreographer of the campaign, but besides this, he has commissioned five female choreographers to create new dance pieces for the campaign – Maxine Doyle, Eleesha Drennan, Charlotte Edmonds, Rhimes Lecointe and Alessandra Seutin.

They will be performed in the Body Studio on 3, the Shoe Galleries on 2 and the Click and Collect on LG, Saturday 7 and Saturday 21 May from 1 – 6pm.

Elsewhere, The HuffingtonPost have joined the sexismin dance debate, chiming in with their own but familiar headline “Where Are All The Female Choreographers?”

Their story speaks about a report from the Department for Media, Culture and Sport which found that 43.3% of girls between the ages of five and 10 participate in dance-based activities, compared to just 12.2% of boys.

Writer Rachel Moss spoke to Phoenix Dance Theatre‘s Sharon Watson who claimed “I think I’m probably one of only two black women in the country that’s running a company of this scale. You just think, wow, that’s not right.”

5 soldiers

Award-winning Rosie Kay Dance Company’s 5 SOLDIERS: The Body is the Frontline has been a hit so far on its tour in Scotland.

5 SOLDIERS has already received high praise from its performances with five-star reviews and a string of accolades, including being awarded ‘Best Independent Dance Company’ and nominated for ‘Best Choreography’ (modern) at the 2015 Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards; Best Dance and Top 10 Dance (2015) in The Guardian and The Observer; Best Dance and Top 5 Dance (2015) in The Independent; Best Dance Production (2015) from North East Theatre Guide; and awarded an Arts and Health Special Commendation by the Royal Society for Public Health for the company’s excellent contribution to arts and health practice. (And BREATHE!)

News in Brief

Mentorship scheme launched for women in the arts – University Women in the Arts is a new scheme to mentor the next generation of female leaders. Launched recently at Drama Centre London at Central Saint Martins, the scheme will offer 10 female university students in the UK, at foundation, undergraduate or postgraduate level, the opportunity to meet and be mentored by some of the leading women in the UK arts scene.

A survey reveals that nearly half of British people dislike the idea of Hamlet being played by a woman, with a fifth resistant to the role being played by black actors.

Is the gender of an artist significant in the creative process? Does being a female artist influence how a work is created and perceived? As part of International Women’s Day 2016, The Royal Academy of Arts discussed what it means to create work from a female perspective in today’s contemporary art world.

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