Time for a bit more digging! Quite a lot has occurred in May, and the words on everyone’s lips has been ‘The Bench’.
The three year programme has been developed as a response to the ongoing concerns about the lack of equality currently faced by female choreographers within the contemporary dance sector.
May 17th saw the event come to fruition, with over a hundred industry heads, mentors and speakers discuss the troubles faced by many in the sector.
A great deal of people took to the web to add their thoughts.
— Mr Abbott (@TheGeometrician) May 17, 2016
@2faceddance and programmers have a responsibility to put diverse and ‘good’ work in their venues, even if people don’t bite at first
— seeta patel (@seetadances) May 17, 2016
Louise talks about celebrating female dancers and not just boys – empowering both genders through education – growing young minds #TheBENCH
— 2Faced Dance Company (@2faceddance) May 17, 2016
Hannah Buckley, a freelance artist, spoke of the mutual frustration felt by equally fed up, underpaid male choreographers; making the debate a hard one to approach. She says “firstly, how can we address and talk about the issue of gender inequality in a climate where the majority of men are also overworked, underpaid and their lives also feel like a struggle?
“Secondly, how do we bring awareness to the fact that although we have a more liberal environment in the arts the structures of support will undoubtedly reflect the patriarchal society we live in?”
Hapreet Kaur, a creative producer and Huffigntonpost writer, presented a wider perspective – the cultural and socio-political climate has a big part to play in the debate. She says “when discussing women’s art, we cannot separate this from women’s economic and social exclusion in a globalised world…
“Gender and culture are interdependent so there needs to be a change in both for gender equality”.
There are many more resources to sift through that are a direct response to, or can be used to aid, the debate – Vincent Dance Theatre’s campaign on Gender Equality for practitioners, Tonic Theatre’s pledge on tackling gender equality, and even The Art Newspaper‘s look into the state of UK (and US) gender imbalance for female artists and curators in museums.
“People start gathering in rooms: let’s have a meeting, let’s have a conference, let’s have another meeting …. Actually, you just have to start doing things.”- Dawn Walton
To kindly borrow Dawn Walton’s words, it’s time to do something. And The BENCH Manifesto is a grand step forward, soaked with intent and action.
To fix sexism in dance, then some folks have to get fired?
— Article19 (@Article19) May 18, 2016
Article 19, where have you been?! We’re all still waiting for your next sarcastic take on the debate!
In the meantime, Huffingtonpost seem to be carrying the torch. “Ballet Has A Sexism Problem, And Even Its Brightest Stars Don’t Know How To Solve It” was published this morning, and you don’t get any more straight to the point than that headline.
Writer Chloe Angyal looked at the works of famed choreographer Christopher Wheeldon and used him as a staple to explore thoughts “about an uneven playing field”.
In similar fashion, The Guardian’s Judith Mackrell spoke to lauded choreographer Crystal Pite about “dancing with William Forysthe, motherhood and why there are so few women at the top of her profession”.
Pite makes a rather daring point about the relationship between Ballet and Contemporary; one which I haven’t come across before.
“When you’re a young boy wanting to study ballet you’re already a kind of rebel, someone who is thinking outside the box, so you’re more likely to end up making work or running a company.
“Girls are less likely to be prized for being a maverick, they’re more likely to be encouraged to look and dance like everyone else – which means that a lot of the creative women will end up in contemporary dance.”
A very interesting remark. It’s imperative to not take this out of context, yet the idea of being driven away from ballet to contemporary dance due to the encouragement of synchronicity and the undermining of individuality is quite a bold one. Thoughts?
News in Brief
Visual arts curator and researcher Lauren A Wright will join Southwark based Siobhan Davies Dance as the Programme Director this month. Siobhan Davies said: “The thought of having Lauren’s dynamic, rigorous intelligence as part of the Siobhan Davies Dance team is irresistible.”
Alexandra Georgieva, director of Berlin based company – Friedrichstadt-Palast – has chimed into the debate. Speaking as one of the rare female ballet directors in Germany (fewer than one in seven is a woman), she tells the Exberliner “from the outset we doubt ourselves, we’re too cautious and too controlled. Men just say yes to opportunity. No matter how poorly prepared they are or if they fall straight into a hole, it doesn’t matter. Men just try. It’s brazen! But it’s not just cheek, it’s that they just believe in themselves. Maybe it’s nature…” Check out the rest of the interview.
In slightly old but relevant news, a show titled ‘Men & Girls Dance‘ – by Fevered Sleep – has used dance to challenge notions of child abuse. The artistic director, Sam Butler, had adult male contemporary performers team up with young girls to “question what society seems to tell us about this relationship”.