That you should be free…

‘That you should be free to argue, explain, clarify, debate, offend, insult, rage, mock, sing, dramatise and deny’

These words are not mine. They belong to Neil Gaiman’s credo (full—very much worth a read—version here:

It happens very often that other people seem to have the words for what we want to say. Artists, for example. That is why it is so vital to see, facilitate, make art. It allows our humanity to flourish. Our shared humanity, that is. Because other people, through books, plays, paintings, music, dance… are able to help us express, or feel, or think, or question, or… so many other things.

That is why it is vital that no censorship ever comes near art (or anywhere else, for that matter). And that is why I felt sick during most of the performance I witnessed tonight at the London Coliseum. It started with a visibly emotional Daniel Proietto explaining why he was not to perform the first half of his solo. Audience members booed and shouted for him to get off the stage during his performance the night before. It was, it transpires, openly political. And so a decision was made with the management to not perform it tonight. A decision said “management” seemed to stand by even when the present audience members noisily complained.


Then I thought I understood what the particular audience of these performances was after. They seemed to scream “entertain us” at every clap (clapping at a dancer doing a split? really?). So yes, entertain us, do not make it political. Actually, even better, do not even have an opinion. Don’t make us think.

It felt hopeless. I felt like quitting dance tonight. What is the point? You don’t get many dance artists openly making a statement and when they do this is what they get. By the way, I told him already, but I want to say the biggest thank you to Daniel: for making the work, for his candor when explaining the situation, for his dancing later on… it always feels from the heart.

And so I think, looking up to him, that maybe it is not time to quit, but to fight, with gentleness, and candor, and with art…

But somehow, in the back of my mind, Mukhamedov’s “humorous” ending seems poignantly appropriate, and all we seem to do is let the stage curtain come down on our necks…

On not becoming a fury (or…?)

Today I went to an event, an “in conversation with…” organised by the University Women in the Arts (read more here). The event was with Sue Parrish, artistic director of Sphinx Theatre, and I came out of it inspired and empowered… So I thought I’d share some ideas with you (whoever you are)!).

We first heard a lot, from a truly humble attitude, about Sue Parrish’s life, fascinating, honest, funny, “fortunate”, although she encouraged us all to stop saying that, there’s too strong a tendency amongst female artists to say that, she argued.

She talked about working in the 60s, when you were supposed to “look like a doll who doesn’t speak”, and how a lot of them became furies: continuously outraged. She explained also that this is not a very good attitude towards employment, which I immediately recognised as both true and heartbreaking: why should fighting for something make you unemployable? Unless of course it is because of the state of your working area.

She, or I should say they (as she recognised having met more furies along the way), did a lot of amazing work, and still felt like an outsider in a world dominated by men. They were always, as she put it “punching above their weight”.

She also said it is important to listen to young women. I’m not sure if I still count as to be listened to, or to listen, but I am kind of ready to do both if anyone is interested and wants to speak!

When I told her I was in dance, she said “oh wow, it’s even worse for choreographers”. And those few words gave me strength, especially after going to another event where someone within the dance world said that there was no such problem in contemporary dance (that there were as many female choreographers as male, or more, no contextualisation given…) and that all there was to do was wait 100 years. This aligns with the fact that sadly I have been feeling more and more that I get inspired from theatre way more than I do from dance right now, with a very few illustrious exceptions, but that needs a whole post on its own.

Thank you Sue Parrish and University Women of the Arts. I think I might already be a fury, but I don’t mind belong to that group if you all are there with us.

I’ll finish with some of her advice, which I think is so perfect and so applicable to pretty much everyone that I need to share it:

Study, train, read, see what’s going on around you, you cannot break the rules if you don’t know the rules, have mentors, have confidence, be empowered by knowledge and information.