Thursday 21 July 2022

Dance school says ballet is racially problematic and too gender binary

"A leading dance school has said that ballet is racially problematic and too gender binary. a headline from the The Times

"The Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD) said it had reviewed the “elitist” and “potentially contentious” art form as part of a diversity drive. Proficiency in ballet was dropped as an entry requirement because it is rooted in “white European ideas” and splits dancers along gender lines."

I find the phrase 'rooted in “white European ideas”' provocative as we are in Europe so doing European dances is expected. The idea of restricting ourselves to only doing dances from outside Europe is ridiculous.

OK I've spend 27 years teaching salsa so lets just say all dance, regardless of origin is good and non-dancing is bad. If white Europe of the last fifty years could claim anything, it's a world class mastery of non-dancing! For those sitting on the fence on this point, or not quite sure if the Macarena craze of the 1980's makes us a dancing nation. But what about Strictly? I understand that many people can remember reaching out from the sofa to grab a snack as you watched the Christmas Strictly final, but that's not a dance move! Besides an art counsel survey reports only 5% of the British dance, and they're the ones giving all the money to ballet! Breath....

Clearly it's a hot potato of an issue!  A judgment upon ballet from within the ranks of a dance school fed by hundreds of traditional ballet classes. 

Elitist? I don't know about that. Many of the people I've met over the years who've learnt ballet as a child haven't come from privileged backgrounds. I think the elitism is at the performance end of the system where government sponsors ballet and opera for no good reason other than some inter-country status symbol, and fair dos, it's far cheaper to maintain a ballet company than an aircraft carrier! 

Ballet has it's roots in the French royal courts but so were the string instruments such as the violin and cello. Are they elitist too? 

Ballet is predominantly white. Ballet black and Carlos Acosta don't even begin to balance the scales on that one! I'm not comfortable with this on any level, the racial barriers play out in every aspect of our society and they need challenging in every aspect of our society. If we can't fix dance, then how can we expect to fix policing?

So that's me on my soap box achieving nothing!

The issues are deep and complex and I respect the NSCD for taking action to try to tackle these issues, and wish them luck. My response is simple. It's hard to change something that's established but it's far easier to to establish something new. 

Mambalsa is a partner dance form that has respect as part of its' ethos and when you unpack respect it's impossible to argue for disrespecting any one or any part of society.

Mambalsa is also relational, where empathy requires an interest and inquiry of your partner. Any pigeonholing of your partner creates an assumptive barrier restricting empathy and therefore collective Flow.h

We therefore arrive at a place of inclusion not exclusion. That doesn't make everyone a right-on politically correct zealot of woke-ism. Just a bunch of ordinary, curious people who accept the world isn't perfect and want to dance within a movement that's heading in the right direction. 

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