Dance gender debate: sustain support or equality could ‘slip off our radars’

by Georgia Snow (The Stage)  

Female choreographers have called for longer-term support for women in the profession to ensure that gender equality remains a priority.

It was one of a number of action plans formulated at a debate held on gender inequality among choreographers in the UK.

Sadler’s Wells’ artistic director Alistair Spalding chaired the discussion, called Man Up: The Gender of Choreography, which was hosted at London’s City Hall by Dance Umbrella on July 6.

Panellists included Tonic Theatre’s Lucy Kerbel, who argued that progress towards gender parity risked falling off the agenda if efforts were not sustained over a long period of time.

“This is something that needs to remain high on our thinking, and while I remain ever so optimistic of the capacity of human beings to make progress in any area, there is a real risk with this work on gender equality that we will make progress and then it will slightly slip off our radars,” she said.

The debate, held as part of the Mayor of London’s Big Dance initiative, also concluded that “strategic quotas” at certain levels could be helpful in prompting a trickle down effect in other areas.

Choreographer Vicki Igbokwe, who is creative director of Uchenna Dance and who also sat on the panel, said the dance industry could be lonely and isolating for female artists.

She also claimed that all-female programmes could be helpful in the first instance to empower women working in the industry, but must be built upon if they are to promote lasting change.

“The idea that, ‘We’ve done an all-female platform so we’ve done our bit for the year, or we’ve programmed you in black history month so we’ve done our bit for the year’. That is when it becomes problematic… The next bit after that is how do we make it inclusive for the female or the black male or whoever to then go into the industry as a whole and present their work,” she said.


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