‘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: https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2015/05/neil-gaiman-credo).
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…