By Neil Nisbet
A few weeks ago I interviewed Hannah Rotchell (pictured above) a dancer with JV2, the post graduate company set up by Jasmin Vardimon Company to provide additional training and work experience for dancers. Ms Rotchell, a graduate of LCDS in London, is perhaps everything you would want in a professional dancer; Prodigiously talented, intelligent, articulate and driven by the same desire that shapes the thinking of so many dancers working in the profession in this country and around the world, a desire to do so much more with her life than simply work for a wage.
When speaking with dancers in training or at the very beginning of their careers you see the clearest evidence of people being driven forward by something “muggles” (for want of a better word) find difficult to understand.
Friday’s election result has left many, including this writer, shaken and dismayed by the hubristic behaviour of the voting public. This country’s leader is, as before, a cowardly, small measure of a man lacking in anything approaching an interesting idea on how to progressively tackle the issues facing this dysfunctional little island of ours. Creatively stunted people should, under no circumstances, be placed in charge of anything but our political system evidently encourages anything but creative thinking.
Of course the thoughts of many working in the wide world of dance will turn to the not so distant future and they will wonder aloud if there will be any future at all. Social media has, as social media does, predicted doom, the end of Arts Council England and general blood letting in theatres, galleries and libraries across the land. They might be right, only time will tell of course.
The last five years have seen unnecessary cuts to arts funding at both a national and local level, although Scotland, somewhat ironically, has managed to avoid hysterically beating culture with a shovel for no other reason than, just because. If the new Tory only government continues on the same path then there is going to be trouble and a lot of it.
My response to that is simple. When has there not been trouble?
Even before the Con/Lib coalition took their wrecking ball to all things culture the wide world of contemporary dance wasn’t exactly rolling in cash. Some in the arts have it easy, that much is certain, but the folks in contemporary dance have never had it easy. I’m not even sure I know what “easy” would look like for this particular slice of the cultural pie. Speak to anybody working in the profession and the word “easy” or variants thereof will never come up.
Contemporary dance is nothing if not resilient however. This particular art form has been around for more than a hundred years and it will still be around a hundred years from now long after David Cameron and his mendacious ilk morph into little more than Wikipedia entries. The good thing about having not very much of anything all is that you don’t miss that nothing when it’s gone. Most contemporary dance makers put on a show with little more than the dancers they have assembled and the shirts on their backs. We all want things to be better, we all want things to be a little bit easier but at the moment that’s probably not going to happen.
During these times of nonsense it is important for the entire dance industry to stick together. It’s during these times of nonsense that it is vitally important to remember that the entire dance industry belongs to everybody working in it. The dance companies, the dance buildings, the National Dance Network and the dance schools and everything else are nobody’s personal property and however big or small they might be it’s time to dig deep and provide tangible support to anybody that needs it.
Support can take many forms and I don’t need to run out a list here, everybody working in the business understands what needs to be done and they know how they can support the people in dance they know and, more importantly, the people in dance they don’t know. For the next five years at least there needs to an open door policy on everything from classes to workshops to rehearsal spaces. If it can be done for free then all the better but certain institutions demanding thousands of pounds from independents for rehearsal space need to get a grip because if they continue with policies like that everybody is just going to hate them.
Yes, I’m talking about you Rambert Dance Company.
It is at times like these that everybody working in dance needs to remember why they got into this madness to begin with. You got into it because, to be blunt, you’re not like most other people. You really did walk down the road less travelled. You didn’t want to be told what to do, you didn’t want to come to work at 9am and go home at 5pm, you don’t care how much it hurts or how tired you are because being in control of your own destiny is far more important than job security, pension plans and regular hot meals!
If you can’t remember why you got into this business to begin with then I urge you to look to the dance students and the recent graduates because they can still remember and they are undaunted by feckless politicians and too many indifferent members of the public who exhort them to get a “real job” for no other reason than the very thought of taking real chances in life fills them with paralysing fear.
This is one of those times. Politicians and their policies come and go but the wide world of dance must persist.
top photo – Dancer Hannah Rotchell, dancers from JV2, the post graduate company of Jasmin Vardimon Company, undergo rehearsals, for up and coming performances, at the company’s studio space in Ashford, Kent. Photo