Big Dance

July recap: Should journalists and critics take matters into their own hands?

Quite the long winded title, but the focus of this news round-up in July is that of a particular dance critic doing something odd yet very forward-thinking.

Dance critic Donald Hutera presented “The Women GOLive” festival in Oxford over four days (July 13 – July 16) – a dance festival to showcase women of the dance industry.

The festival featured artists of all ages, backgrounds, nationalities, and experiences, including Oxford’s Cecilia Macfarlane, Ana Barbour, Anja Meinhardt and Susie Crow, as well as international names such as Ffin Dance, Maria Vivas and Arunima Kumar.

The Oxford Times quotes it as being “an enormous undertaking”, with reviewer Emily May praising the venture. She said: “Even after only viewing one evening of Women GOLive festival, one can only conclude that it is a platform that defies categorisation. Hutera’s selection of contrasting works, incorporating different disciplines makes for an intriguing showcase of talent that has been neglected by the mainstream arts scene.” – Read the full review here.

There is an obvious lack of coverage in mainstream publications surrounding the gender equality debate in the arts. From conversations with dance critic Luke Jennings, we identified that there is an imbalance in mainstream media in regards to female choreographers’ coverage.

He said at the time: “What that reflects is not any bias on behalf of the press, it simply reflects the fact that more male choreography is happening at a National press coverage level. You can’t just ignore the best work and the most important work in favour of obscure work in order to correct a gender imbalance. Because that’s not doing your job as a critic or a journalist.”

That point still remains sadly true. Even recent big hitter events The Bench and Big Dance QT failed to be covered and reported by large scale mainstream media publications – with The Stage arguably being the exception.

So should journalists and critics take matters into their own hands? As Donald Hutera’s Women GOlive attempts? Perhaps it’s simpler than curating festivals and shows. Looking beyond the headliners of main buildings showcasing work is a start. Looking outside the box, towards independent artists as well as companies. It’s worth a ponder. A movement only gains (and keeps) momentum if enough people know about it outside the concentrated bubble of activists and artists.

RAD image

“Where are the female choreographers?” The age old question resurfaces, this time on the lips of the Royal Academy of Dance.

Taking responsibility as a leading building in the industry, RAD began a choreography project aimed at “the next generation of leading female choreographers”, aged between 13-22 years.

At this time, it appears to have been a one off event, but signs suggest the project could become a frequent endeavour. Here’s to hoping more buildings take on the task!

Update from last month’s Big Dance Question Time post:

Six action points from the event were identified:

Implement strategic equality quotas with Boards, funders, Associate Artists and artistic programmes

Diversify programming teams to ensure programming of strong diverse work. 

Lobby trade organisations and industry stakeholders, raising the issue of gender inequality wherever possible

Provide continued support for women artists through increasing profile, mentoring and networks

Individuals in a position of influence to ‘cheerlead’ the cause for equality via selection panels, Boards, advisory bodies and networks they may be part of

The mantra that emerged for women in dance was ‘Do it yourself, but don’t do it alone’

Plans to execute these action points include a meeting with the Mayor’s Office and One Dance UK over the coming month, stay up to date with the developments via Dance Umbrella’s mailing list here.