Monday Musings with AD

A Helping Hand


This week’s musings with Lucy focuses on the female dancer.

Stopgap has always been vocal about the lack of opportunity for disabled dance artists outside of the companies who prioritise an inclusive culture. But within the company we have always made sure we try to give everyone opportunity if they want it.
When I first joined the company I was surprised to hear the founding Artistic Director Vicki Balaam telling the commissioned choreographer that his priority was to challenge the non – disabled dancers. The last thing she wanted was half the company wafting around in the background, not reaching their full potential and then leaving.

Stopgap recently received a fantastic uplift from Arts Council England, part of which is for the wonderful plans we have been cooking up for training disabled dancers. The artistic team is of course excited but, it’s funny that now in the studio the conversation has turned to another quandary – the many young non-disabled female dancers that come through our doors.

Stopgap’s doors are always open to those who want to join class, observe and shadow. Therefore we meet many graduate female dancers who are: skilled, strong, fit, witty, mindful, likable, hard working, driven, patient, open hearted, generous, creative, humble and . . . . . looking for a chance!

I have at least 10 numbers on my mobile of exquisite female dancers that I’d love to work with and they are the experienced dancers – ones who have been working for years. So what about all those talented female graduates? It seems nearly everyone is auditioning for both men and women and there is also the fact that many of us choreographers don’t even like auditioning and would rather work with people we know.

So what about that studio conversation…

Well most of the leaders in Stopgap have been and are female, we’ve all taken different routes and ended up somewhere we didn’t quite expect – so how did we get here?

  1. Hard work, drive and a thick skin – TICK
  2. Alternative avenues, starting small and growing with a company, honing our expertise – TICK
  3. Friends, family support and living off of very little – TICK
  4. Somebody in the industry giving us a helping hand – Bit tricky but TICK!

Number four is the hard one, so maybe that is where us experienced working female dancer artists can help out, be that helping hand.

Amy, Siobhan and myself have all talked about how easy it would be to take on one female graduate for a period. Go to class with them, encourage them over a cup of tea and most usefully just let them follow us around. Those of us who have been in the industry over ten years take for granted all the wonderful people we call our peers. We are less afraid of those who are seen as successful, happy to chat to them, ask them for a favour or feedback. Our peers could be that young female dancer’s next collaboration, experience or job.

So, yes we are thinking on this and how we can develop such a scheme. Naturally we will need more than Stopgap people to make any kind of impact. If you are an experienced dancer whose managed to make a go of a career and want to support the next ‘you’, get in contact and we’ll see what we can get started.

Read more AD musings with Lucy