Category Archives: people

‘The Geopolitics of the Arab Dancing Body’, Talk at Summerhall, Edinburgh 19th August.

This was one of the ‘Talks and Pitch Sessions’ organised as part of the Arab Arts Focus at the Edinburgh Fringe. On the panel were the Palestinian artist Farah Saleh who is currently based in Edinburgh, Younes Atbane from Morocco and Shaymaa Shoukry from Egypt. It was chaired by Natasja van’t Westende a programmer from the Netherlands who directs Dancing on the Edge which facilitates artistic exchange with the Middle East and North Africa.

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It was held at Summerhall where a lot of the Arab Arts Focus events have been taking place. To set the context, it is useful to describe the ending of the programme New Contemporary Arab Dance Performance at DanceBase earlier that afternoon.

Farah Saleh, Salma Ataya, Samir Mkirech and Yassin Mrabtifi – who we’d just seen performing their individual pieces – returned to the stage and handed all the audience a ‘Landing Card for UK/non UK subjects’. Questions asked included ‘hour and second of birth; color of your first bed sheet; hair length now; full name of your first, fourth, ninth and last love; Are you wearing a boxer/underpants Yes No. They were very officious with us and then they asked those of us with hair less than 15 cm to hand in our ID cards/passports, together with other quite demeaning tasks. I never carry any official ID, never felt I needed to. Uncomfortable to have the tables turned on and treated in as arbitrary and officious a way as some of the artists in events at the Fringe that are part of the Arab Arts Focus.

According to the Guardian, one of the performers who was booked to appear in Edinburgh, was told that the Home Office was “not satisfied on the balance of probabilities, that you will leave the UK at the end of your visit … I am not convinced you are genuinely seeking entry to the UK for a purpose that is permitted by the visitor rules and that you will not undertake any prohibited activity.”

There are obviously some dangerous people who the security forces need to be on the look out for, but there are also people like artists who we should immediately recognise, without having to think about it, should be free to come and perform in the UK. We have so much to gain from by allowing them to participate in an event like the Edinburgh Fringe, and international experience is useful for everyone, but particularly for artists, not least when it affords opportunities for events like this talk.

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[Shaymaa Shoukry]

Here are some of the issues that were raised. On visa restrictions, Shaymaa Shoukry from Cairo said so many of her dancers had been refused entry that she had had to devise and adapt her work, abandoning the piece that had been programmed. She said she felt that what had happened in the UK mirrored the current oppression of dancers in Egypt. There, in the last few years, Independent dancers had to apply to the police for a permit to perform. If I understood her correctly this was actually a permit to dance in a nightclub. If you didn’t apply for a permit the police might ignore it but might not and you could be taken to court. And now the British Home Office was being equally oppressive.

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[Farah Saleh]

All the dancers talked about the problem of being seen as Arab artists as a category invented by European institutions. Farah Saleh said she didn’t want to get gigs so some programmer could tick a box but because of interest in what she was doing as an artist. Younes Atbane said that the fact that identitarian questions were coming up now on stage was at least a step towards dealing with them. These issues are more difficult for dancers from the Arab world than visual artists because they concern the body.

Shaymaa Shoukry said her work was not concerned with these identitarian or political issues. It was abstract and explored the expressive sensibilities. She is also interested in dance and new media, and VR. She talked about the differences between working with European-trained and Egyptian-trained dancers. The former might have a stronger technique but Egyptian dancers had a particular sensibility to time which (I think) she implied was something she was interested in.

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[Younes Atbane]

Gender issues of course came up. Saleh said her parents were revolutionary communists and had no problem with her becoming a performer. Shoukry recalled that while she was young, her family thought her dancing was cute, but some of them subsequently had difficulties accepting that she wanted to perform in public. Younes Atbane commented that, as a man in the Arab world, it had been more difficult for him to start dancing than for his female friends. But later he faced no particular problem when he started to perform in public, whereas that was in comparison extremely difficult for his female peers.

I got the impression that part of what what was important about this event was that it was an opportunity for these dance artists to define the issues that were important to them – including how to deal with support from European countries – and do so in their own terms rather than having to deal with the priorities of European institutions.

Reflections on “material / rearranged / to / be” – part 1.

I spent an afternoon last week at material / rearranged / to / be (henceforth m/r/t/b) – Siobhan Davies Dance’s new performative exhibition in the Curve Gallery at the Barbican in London. Among its highlights, for me, were a new duet by Siobhan Davies and Helka Kaski, and solos by Andrea Buckley, Charlie Morrissey, and Matthias Sperling. There were also video- and computer-generated installations, and sculptural pieces, together with some explanatory ‘info’ boards. In trying to write about these, I find I first need to explain my take on the project’s overall concept and themes.

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I didn’t buy the catalogue (I had no room for it in my rucksack) so forgive me if I’m repeating things in it. I did sit in on a couple of rehearsals in December and early January. As I understand it m/r/t/b has two main starting points: recent research in neuroscience, neurophysiology and cognitive psychology; and the work of the pioneer Art Historian Aby Warburg, in particular the Mnemosyne Atlas he worked on between 1926 and his death in 1929.

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I googled some of the scientists involved in the project and found lectures posted on YouTube by two of them: Being a beast machine by Anil Seth https://youtu.be/1syDjtlMGbo and Why a brain needs a body by Guy Claxton https://youtu.be/oqrz4cMQM5c . Both talk about the bodily self in non-dualistic terms, and discuss perception as a constructive generative process. Their ideas resonate with the way dance artists working with image-based approaches to movement research and improvisation talk about their work.

My guess is that this interest among independent dancers in neuroscience may come from Siobhan Davies and Gill Clarke. Clarke had a conversation with Guy Claxton for a Crossing Borders event. http://www.independentdance.co.uk/programme/view_entry.php?id=908

Clearly this kind of scientific research validates the kinds of dance knowledge currently informing much independent dance practice. What would be interesting to know is the ways in which the dance artists’ discussions with scientists have opened up new creative potentials in their dancing.

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[board from Warburg’s Atlas]

As well as meeting scientists, the team of artists involved in the project also visited the library of the Warburg Institute at the University of London (see https://youtu.be/rmAhxNzU41g ). There they were particularly interested in Aby Warburg’s Mnemosyne Atlas of emphatic gestures. I’ve found that to get to grips with what the artists are doing in m/r/t/b it is necessary to go into Warburg’s ideas in some detail.

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[Aby Warburg – from Wikipedia]

Any Warburg (1866-1929) pioneered a new approach to Art History around the beginning of the C20th, by focusing on iconography and gesture rather than arguing about whether particular paintings or drawings were by great masters like Leonardo or Rembrandt or by their pupils or studio assistants, as other art historians were doing at the time. Warburg was interested in what he called ‘pathos formulas’ – particular corporeal forms and gestures that carry an affective and energetic charge.

In the Mnemosyne Atlas, as Dance Historian Gabrielle Brandstetter explains, ‘Warburg attempted to compile a large-scale visual inventory of pathos formulas and their transformation over the course of cultural and art history since antiquity’ (Poetics of Dance p. 87). For this Atlas, Warburg assembled and juxtaposed, in particular thematic groups, a very wide variety of different visual images, pinning them side-by-side on large, hessian-covered boards.

Through the juxtapositions he created, Warburg sought to identify ‘visual inscriptions of cult ritual – as the origin of symbolic representation – [that] are constantly transformed anew in the receptive traditions of art’ (p. 15). Looking at all the individual contributions in m/r/t/b, it is clear that the artists all share a concern with the idea of gesture; and they also seem to be making unexpected connections and juxtapositions that recall the kinds of associations generated in Warburg’s Atlas.

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[on the left: Matthias Sperling ‘Loop Atlas II’, in the background on the right, Efrosini Protopapa’s computer-generated ‘Disputatio III’]

One of Efrosini Protopapa contributions to the exhibition is a projection of images of people’s gestures from old prints and drawings. These are selected by a computer algorithm and shown side by side in continually changing pairs in different positions on the display screens – a machine for generating new associations. Davies and Kaski’s duet looks to me like an exchange of precisely observed and sensitively articulated gestures whose affective charge has as much to do with their juxtapositions as it does with the cultural memories they evoke.

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[Helka Kaski and Siobhan Davies ‘Figuring’]

Warburg’s view of history was one of progress and evolution. A key experience for him was a visit in 1895 to a Hopi Pueblo in Arizona where he witnessed a ritual dance. Such ‘primitive’ forms, he believed, provided a way of coping with experience by creating a distance from oneself and the world, by binding it to an image. As such images passed through antiquity to the Renaissance and the modern period, Warburg argued, they became less magical and came to operate in a more abstract, intellectual way.

Suspended from the ceiling is a mobile by visual artist Jeremy Millar.

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[Jeremy Millar’s Melancholy Mobiles]

From this hang three geometric objects based on ‘Durer’s solid’ – the mysterious polyhedron next to the introspective-looking angel in Durer’s famous engraving Melancholia I.

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[Durer’s Melancholia 1 – from Wikipedia]

Warburg was fascinated by this and wrote:

The truly creative act – that which gives Durer’s Melancholia I its consoling, humanistic message of liberation from the fear of Saturn – can be understood only if we recognize that the artist has taken a magical and mythical logic and made it spiritual and intellectual. (The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity p. 644)

In other words, Durer captures a moment when what was magical is becoming an object of scientific investigation.

An ‘info’ board in the middle of the exhibition is titled ‘magic and science’. It is the field of ideas and affects that occupy the continuum between magic and science that, for me, the dancing performed in the exhibition animates. This is enough for one blog. I’ll save writing about some of the dancing for the next one.

[notes on images: these are mostly from Twitter posts – please contact me on any issues about them]

Dance, Brexit and post-truth hate merchants

Another bad news story to end the year with, but this is a really nasty one: an exclusive in The Sun by its ‘Senior Reporter’, Stephen Moyes, which was taken up the next day by The Daily Mail (using almost exactly the same words in a slightly different order). And what is so appalling is the nauseating way it targets a dance project.

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DO NOT GOOGLE THIS STORY. THEY WANT YOU TO CLICK ON SENSATIONAL ARTICLES LIKE THESE BECAUSE EACH CLICK EARNS THEM MONEY. POST-TRUTH JOURNALISM EXISTS BECAUSE IT IS PROFITABLE.

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(I’m pasting the two stories and the comments they received at the bottom of this blog.)

I don’t read these two tabloids, not even when a copy’s been left on a train and I’m bored. I know they exist but generally manage to ignore them. This time I couldn’t, because the target they have used as click bait is a friend, Rita Marcalo.

I first got to know Rita in 2003 when she was a dancer researcher on a project run by Valerie Briginshaw and Emilyn Claid (which Val writes about in our book Writing Dancing Together). Rita and I have stayed in touch over the years. Flatteringly, she once even asked me if I’d ever thought of performing and would like her to choreograph a solo for me. Her professional dance classes and workshops are popular and highly respected. She is a key member of the independent dance scene in Leeds that is now one of the most vibrant outside London. Rita’s contribution to the fabulous Juncture Festival at Yorkshire Dance (that I blogged about at the end of October) was a participatory piece One Hundred Buckets which reflected on the demolition of ‘The Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais that was happening at that moment (see below). This piece was a spin off from her project Dancing with Strangers: From Calais to England which took as its premise the beautiful idea that Rita could use dance as a way of facilitating an exchange between someone in the UK and a refugee in Calais, by dancing first with one and then, across the Channel, with the other.

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[photo by Julia Bauer for Tempting Failure 2016]

She got an Arts Council grant to do this, and this is what Stephen Moyes has been monstering and heaping shit all over.

My daughter suggests that being targeted by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp should be a badge of honour. But tabloid abuse is tabloid abuse. The articles about Dancing with Strangers are hate speech. The Tory Government is still doing everything it can to avoid implementing the recommendations of the Leveson Inquiry. We are in a situation that Judith Butler identifies in her book Excitable Speech where we are subjected to ‘the violence of the Law’s failure to protect its citizens’ (1997 p. 61).

So, who is Stephen Moyes? He was one of the journalists close to Rebekah Brooks at the News of The World who was arrested as part of Operation Elveden. Moyes was charged for ‘allegedly’ making corrupt payments to Robert Norman, a prison officer at the High Security Belmarsh Prison. Norman was jailed for selling stories about high profile prisoners. Moyes’ case was dropped and he was subsequently reinstated by Murdoch’s News Corp. He was News Reporter of the Year in 2015. Among his many scoops have been an exposé of Kate Moss’s use of cocaine, and an exclusive about the Tory peer ‘Lord Coke’ (Lord Sewel) caught in a ‘drug binges with £200 prostitutes’.

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Moyes’ article about Dancing with Strangers is very cleverly written. It twists and emphasises details to maximise their potential to generate outrage, using triggers to insinuate, avoiding libel. Why was it necessary to tell Sun readers that Rita is in a civil partnership? or that, a few years ago, she explored performing epilepsy with another Arts Council grant?

And look at the sub-title of Moyes’ article: ‘Artist handed small fortune of taxpayers cash to dance in the Calais Jungle… and she’s not even British!’ The ‘not even British’ bit is intriguing. Rita posted on Facebook just before Christmas ‘When a press agency reporter knocks on your door… “How did you find out where I live?” I ask. “Electoral register”, she answers’. So The Sun (presumably) knew she was on the electoral register and a British taxpayer but chose to call her ‘not even British!’ because it would make the story seem more sensational.

Then there’s the ‘small fortune’ – a £9,931 Arts Council grant. Here’s some speculation about this. Some of it must have been used for equipment used during the project. Apparently all the travel to Calais and accommodation there was funded from other sources. The Arts Council funded travel and, in some cases, accommodation for presentations of the project in towns and cities around Britain. Deduct that from the grant and see what’s left. Then let’s make a rough estimate of how many hours were spent planning, executing, and promoting the project (and maybe one should also include the process of consulting with stakeholders and writing the grant proposal?). Divide the amount left from the grant after costs by the number of hours worked and you’ll probably find that Rita was not actually earning very much an hour. Certainly less than the press agency reporter who knocked on her door, let alone The Sun’s News Reporter of the Year 2015. A small fortune? An outrageous misuse of taxpayers’ money? Let’s not forget all the taxpayers’ money that had to be spent on the failed prosecution of Steven Moyes for his ‘alleged’ corruption of a prison officer. And of course Rita, as someone who has been a British taxpayer for over twenty years, contributed towards this.

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[photo by Tamsin Drury for Hazard]

I don’t suppose Moyes could understand Dancing with Strangers (if, that is, he wanted to). Nor do I think he’d be able to understand research in, for example, particle physics or the use of ‘big data’ in medical or pharmaceutical research, areas that actually do receive small fortunes in government funding. I’m sure a clever journalist could create stories about shocking waste and ‘misuse of taxpayers’ money’ in scientific research and find academics involved in it in the UK who are ‘not even British’. But then their research has nothing to do with Brexit, whereas Rita’s real sin in Moyes’ eyes is that she is one of that inconveniently intelligent half of the population who didn’t vote ‘leave’ in the EU Referendum.

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[photo by Matt Cawrey for Journeys Festival International]

The premise of Dancing with Strangers is that refugees are real people with feelings and abilities that are similar to those of British people, and that we have a basic, ethical responsibility to care for strangers in need. This is, however, a dangerous poison from which ‘hardworking families’ in Britain have to be protected. And, thank god, The Sun and The Daily Mail are there to save Britain from this peril. So refugees who are human beings must be dehumanised and become a flood threatening to swamp ‘us’. A particularly unpleasant part of the article selectively misrepresents the words of the refugee dancers who took part in Rita’s project. The truth is that, if they had been brought to the UK under the Dubs Amendment, they could have made a more useful contribution to society than xenophobic, crypto-homophobe hate merchants like Moyes. How can they live with themselves? how can they sleep at night after spending days doing things like this?

I am also part of that half of the population who voted ‘remain’ and am continually appalled by the evidence that there is still such polarisation between ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ all these months after the referendum. We need some healing of the divisions in society and that is precisely what projects like Dancing with Strangers have been trying to do. No one I know voted ‘leave’ but I have subsequently met a few people who did. Although they don’t say so, I get the impression that they don’t appear to see any need to heal the divisions. Instead it seems they want those who voted ‘remain’ to shut up and put up. Why? In part because news corporations like the Murdochs’ and the Barclays’ keep stoking the fires, keep feeding the fears and prejudices that the Brexit politicians let loose. I’m angry and hurt that my friend Rita, whose work I so admire, has become their latest target. I’ve never written this before on this blog, but, if you feel the same way as me, click the ‘like’ button to show your solidarity with Rita.

……….

 

One Hundred Buckets

http://www.juncturedance.com/event/politics/

http://www.instantdissidence.co.uk/post/152850178626/one-hundred-buckets-an-art-intervention-towards

One Hundred Buckets is an art intervention towards creating a 100 strong legion of peace enablers.

  • There are some buckets by audience members.
  • When Wendy Houston presses play, my recorded voice comes on:

These buckets. These buckets are. These buckets are here. These buckets are here and now. These buckets are here and now as props for an aesthetic experience that I am inviting you to perform.

But when these buckets came into being in my world, they were not originally intended to become aesthetic props. These buckets are part of a wider group of 100 other buckets which were a donation to Instant Dissidence for our humanitarian work in ‘The Jungle’ refugee camp of Calais.

In October 2016, the French authorities decided to demolish the camp. Today the camp is finished, with its residents either being homed somewhere else in France, or fleeing to other camps. No more long term cooking, weeing, shitting, clothes washing in the camp. No more need for buckets. As unwanted functional objects, these buckets instead become aesthetic props.

  • I continue speaking and inviting audiences to perform some actions with the buckets.

…………

TAPPED FOR £10K

Artist handed small fortune of taxpayers cash to dance in the Calais Jungle… and she’s not even British!

Rita Marcalo received the grant from the Arts Council of England

Exclusive

By Stephen Moyes

The Sun. 30th December 2016, 9:44 pm

A WOMAN was handed £9,931 by the government so she could dance with migrants in the Calais Jungle as part of a bizarre art project.

Rita Marcalo received the grant from the taxpayer-funded Arts Council England last year.

The controversial Portuguese artist was given almost £14,000 in 2008 by the same department to have an epileptic fit on stage.

Miss Marcalo, 44, who calls herself Instant Dissidence, used the latest pay-out to travel to Calais and film herself dancing with migrants.

The second part of her bizarre project, titled ‘Dancing with Strangers: From Calais to England’, saw her don a t-shirt that read ‘Dance with Me’ before trying to jig with people across Britain.

Defending the wacky project Miss Marcalo, who is in a civil partnership and lives in Ilkely, West Yorks, said: “Because the project was Arts Council England funded, it had to focus on how it could benefit people in England.

“It raised awareness for the people in England about the stories behind what would make people flee their own country – the country they love and were born in.”

Eight years ago the department handed Miss Marcalo £13,889 to put on stage show ‘Involuntary Dances’ in which she attempted to induce an epileptic seizure.

She has suffered from epilepsy since the age of 17 and suffers about two seizures per year when taking medication.

John O’Connell, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said last night: “What an utterly bizarre way to waste taxpayers’ money.

“How can spending nearly £10,000 on these projects be possibly justified?

“Who are the projects meant to help and in what way?

“To families who are struggling with forever rising tax bills this will come as a cruel joke.”

The Arts Council defended the decision to give Miss Marcalo funding.

A spokeswoman said: ‘Dance with Strangers saw Rita Marcalo dance with refugees in Calais, with elderly residents of a Leeds care home and people on the streets of Hull, Leicester and Croydon – to pick out a few locations.

“The project was about seeing the world from another person’s point of view, all via a free chance to dance.”

Calais’ ‘Jungle Camp’, where migrants gathered in hoping to penetrate the border from France to Britain, became a politically toxic subject before it was dismantled earlier this year.

The base, containing 10,000 migrants, was used as a springboard for those hoping to make their way to Britain.

In Miss Marcalo’s interviews with migrants one teenager from Afghanistan admitted to trying to infiltrate the UK’s borders ‘every night’ by climbing into lorries.

He said: “I’ve been here for six months and I don’t like The Jungle. The Jungle is a big problem.

“After six months I am getting really tired here, because every night I try, try, try to get onto a lorry.

“And the police tell me: ‘don’t, don’t’. So every night, you know, every night I try, try by lorry.”

Another migrant called Addisu claimed to be from Ethiopia and said he wanted to come to the UK for residency.

He told the artist said: “OK me I’m going to England because in Africa we learn English in school.

“In England they will give me the documents within four months or six months, whereas in France or Germany it would take two years.”

………………….

Portuguese artist is handed £10,000 by the government for a ‘bizarre project’ which saw her dance with migrants in the Calais Jungle

Rita Marcalo was given £9,931 for a project which involved dancing with migrants in Calais

The Portugese migrant set up a dancing workshop in the Calais Jungle camp

One of the people she interviewed admitted trying to climb onto lorries to infiltrate the UK’s borders ‘every night’

By Tammy Hughes For The Daily Mail

Published: 02:04, 31 December 2016 | Updated: 08:10, 31 December 2016

An artist was given £9,931 by the Government for a ‘bizarre’ project which involved dancing with migrants in the Calais Jungle camp.

The generous grant was given to Rita Marcalo, a Portuguese migrant who has lived in England for 20 years, by the taxpayer-funded Arts Council England.

Miss Marcalo, who calls herself Instant Dissidence, used the cash to travel to Calais in May, where she set up a dancing workshop and filmed herself dancing with migrants.

The second part of her project, entitled Dancing With Strangers: From Calais to England, involves Miss Marcalo, 44, wearing a T-shirt that reads ‘Dance with Me’ and trying to dance with British people in cities. If they agreed, they were made to listen to an interview with a Jungle migrant and dance with Miss Marcalo for up to ten minutes.

One of the migrants she interviewed admitted to trying to infiltrate the UK’s borders ‘every night’ by climbing into lorries.

The teenager from Afghanistan said: ‘I’ve been here for six months and I don’t like the Jungle. The Jungle is a big problem.

‘After six months I am getting really tired here, because every night I try, try, try to get on to a lorry. And the police tell me: “Don’t, don’t.” So every night, you know, every night I try, try by lorry.’

Another migrant, who Miss Marcalo called Addisu and claims to be from Ethiopia, said he wanted to come to the UK because Britain would give him residency quickly.

He said: ‘I’m going to England because in Africa we learn English in school. In England they will give me the documents within four months or six months, whereas in France or Germany, it would take two years.’

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘What an utterly bizarre way to waste taxpayers’ money. How can spending nearly £10,000 on these projects be possibly justified? Who are the projects meant to help and in what way? To families who are struggling with forever rising tax bills, this will come as a cruel joke.’
Defending the project, Miss Marcalo, who is in a civil partnership and lives in Ilkely, West Yorkshire, said the project was aimed at ‘raising awareness’ of the plight of migrants. She said: ‘Because the project was Arts Council England funded, it had to focus on how it could benefit people in England.

‘It raised awareness for the people in England about the stories behind what would make people flee their own country – the country they love and were born in.’

It is not the first time Miss Marcalo has received controversial funding from Arts Council England.

In 2008, the department handed her £13,889 to put on a stage show entitled Involuntary Dances in which she attempted to induce an epileptic seizure.

An Arts Council spokesman defended the decision to give Miss Marcalo the funding, saying: ‘The project was about seeing the world from another person’s point of view, all via a free chance to dance.’

The comments below have not been moderated.

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next PM, Chepstow, United Kingdom, 8 hours ago

Shocking people starving in the UK and we p!$$ money against the wall

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Cooper, Cambridge, 8 hours ago

Frantically looking around for ANYONE who can be handed “aid money” otherwise they will be forced to admit that Batmanjelly-type wastage is actually happening time and time again!!!

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M Maestro, Alingsaas, Sweden, 8 hours ago

Europes finest is boosting UK IQ. She looks like she wanted some. Wonder if she got it.

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RobbRaw, Hammersmith London, United Kingdom, 8 hours ago

Can understand daily why people don’t and won’t pay their dues in taxes, when you read stories like this.

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Andrewman, Nottingham, United Kingdom, 8 hours ago

Can I have £10,000 to learn to dance with migrants please.

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Mike P, manchester, United Kingdom, 8 hours ago

This country has gone completely mad.

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TerenceJay, Krembletonn, United Kingdom, 9 hours ago

All you need to read is ‘Arts Council’.

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Viva la France, Coventry, France, 9 hours ago

Ah. But that’s the problem. It isn’t their money their giving.

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ericrw, leicester, United Kingdom, 9 hours ago

Make the Art` Council pay back the £10.000 plus interest.

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Viva la France, Coventry, France, 9 hours ago

Well it wasn’t my money You Brits want your bumps felt for putting up with this rubbish That money could have been much better spent Whoever gave it out,and it wasn’t there’s to give,and,that’s a lot of The problem.wants the sack You must be daft

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flamvent, london, United Kingdom, 9 hours ago

Little wonder were heading to Brexit, what benefit is she to us

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Moe Syszlak, Cardiff, United Kingdom, 9 hours ago

Once these guys cross the channel all our dancers will be unemployed.

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Devondad, Tavistock, United Kingdom, 9 hours ago

People write to your MP highlighting this blatant waist of tax payers money! Let’s put our MPs to work for US!

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Roy IoW, Ryde, 9 hours ago

“The (24 year old) teenager from Afghanistan said: ¿I¿ve been here for six months and I don¿t like the Jungle. The Jungle is a big problem.”……………..I fixed the typo in the quote…

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PersonOfInterest, Brisbane, Australia, 9 hours ago

Sorry Britain but you’re a joke country now, leave while you can

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Thegolfer, Fillongley, United Kingdom, 9 hours ago

OH WONDERFUL CAN I HAVE £10000 TO DANCE WITH SOMEONE PLEASE

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Scot Free, England, Canada, 10 hours ago

An Oxford University study revealed that 3 in 4 EU ‘Citizens’ would NOT qualify for a UK work visa, they would not be allowed in if it wasn’t for the EU Dictatorships ‘Open Borders’ and ‘freedom of movement’ for all without security checks LUNACY.

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Scot Free, England, Canada, 10 hours ago

With homeless Brits on the streets. Obscene.

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Foxes, Leicester, United Kingdom, 10 hours ago

Money well spent then, on the other hand cuts all over the country, carry on the great work

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Viktor_ Meldrew, The Sunny South, United Kingdom, 10 hours ago

Whoever sanctions such payouts to help illegal immigrants should be sacked! Bloody ridiculous!

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Mr Printaker, london, United Kingdom, 10 hours ago

And they are wanting to increase our Council Tax

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Insane housewife, Somewhere far far away, United Kingdom, 9 hours ago

Going to not want to.

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Ggkent, Gillingham, United Kingdom, 10 hours ago

Get a propper job and stop leeching to fund your vanity projects

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i love ewe, soon to be ex eu happy days, United Kingdom, 10 hours ago

Yes we know why they want to leave the safety of many countries to get to UK as once here they are safe to scree uk tax payers and never go bk. What about our homeless that are pushed down the queue. What about that elderly person choosing hear or food

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Helen, Castletown, United Kingdom, 10 hours ago

FFS.

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Mr Printaker, london, United Kingdom, 10 hours ago

I worked a menial temp job in The Arts Council over a decade ago.I have also been a struggling artist the past 20 years.The Arts council throw money at non profit making art Wheezes that will go nowhere …As long as there is some kind of Audience.A relative of mine got 5 grand to put on a puppet show,that made £0.00.The idiot decision makers have to spend the money or they don’t get it the following year and then they can’t justify their jobs( oh and they all think they are ‘arty’). Don’t give artists money!,if there is money that has to go to the Arts,give them exhibition space , particularly during the crucial 6 months of leaving college.Most exhibition space prices in London are so expensive and gallery commission’s are generally 50%….Give them a chance and if they don’t sell,they give up or get better.

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Dieven, Wales, 10 hours ago

I actually agree with you! why not give a small grant to help an artist set up with paints, brushes, other materials and maybe like 2 weeks of exhibition space at a gallery within xxx miles of where they live? Not only are you helping them set up… but they will likely go on to open their own businesses and pay back into the system!

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Gillian Byrne, London, United Kingdom, 10 hours ago

Fruit & Nut Case Council funded by TAX PAYERS! If Afghanistan and/or Ethiopia are at war – same wars that have been going on for many years.

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Give UKIP a chance, Weston-super-Mare, United Kingdom, 10 hours ago

Easy to be generous with our money!

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Voice of MK, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

This is beyond a joke – that arts body wants disbanding

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badoosh, Manchester, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

Kerching,kerching all aboard for the gravy train…….

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Fourstep, Glasgow, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

What a state. If it was a dog you’d put it down.

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Beth1111, Wales, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

Insane!!!!! However, nothing surprises me any more. We are a complete joke!

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KNG, Hope Valley, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

You get what you vote for. Radical change is needed.

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qprdude, Inverurie, 10 hours ago

You think Liberal or Labour policies would stop this nonsense? THEY started it!

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torg200, carlisle, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

The dancing leech.

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Sylvia dgb, Havant t, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

Will we never learn. The money would have been better spent if she had entertained people in a care home. What a stupid country we are.

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Davidg1109, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

You couldn’t make it up.

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ivorfeeling, wearegoosed, 11 hours ago

I assume the Portuguese wouldn’t be daft enough to give her the money but the good old UK can always be relied upon to support meaningless, trivial and dubious projects. Pathetic doesn’t even come close.

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Grabthar, Poole, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

tw=@ts for giving him money, and he’s a rw-@t too. with bells on.

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Miketheknight, grantham, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

It doesn’t supprise me,What this government and past governments are good at is throwing our money at useless projects.

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Peter99, London, 11 hours ago

The Arts Council about as left wing as Corbyn! A load of ‘do-gooders’ who follow an interest paid for by the tax payer!

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Lou Sbottom, Sitting Down, Vietnam, 11 hours ago

May’s Tories

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qprdude, Inverurie, 10 hours ago

How sad that you think this is a new idea thought up by the current government. I suppose it’s easier for you to blame the Tories for everything rather than accept the truth.

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patricia 60, somewhere, United Kingdom, 5 hours ago

Suggest you read the history of the Arts council around long before May

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itsnotmyfault, suffolk, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

Another ten grand that we won’t see again…..plus the other fourteen grand that this woman wasted in 2008. Isn’t it strange – and really, really annoying – that money can always be found for complete and utter nonsense such as this, but we can never find so much as a spare penny piece to ensure that our elderly can live with dignity and in comfort? Isn’t it a relief all round to know that we have our priorities right?!! When will somebody in government be brave enough to stand up and say “Enough. Let’s stop wasting money right, left and centre on absolute nonsense, and start to spend it on things that really matter”? We can but live in hope that one day one of them will find a backbone….but let’s not hold our collective breath waiting!!

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Bemused, West Sussex, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

hen will somebody in government be brave enough to stand up and say “Enough. Let’s stop wasting money right, left and centre on absolute nonsense, and start to spend it on things that really matter”? >>> When? When you, and everyone else, vote for change. Vote for change, or get more of the same.

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Gillian Byrne, London, United Kingdom, 10 hours ago

Not one of them cos it is not their money. It is ours.

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Gagged, Smallville, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

I can see it now every British value being transmitted to the locusts. 1; civil partnerships, 2; a remoaner, 3; non heterosexual, 4; scrounging from the tax payer, 5; anti British, 6; political activist, 7; me me me.

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Gilda Smith, East Yorkshire, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

Easy come easy go!!

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Steve UK taxpayer, hope not EU much longer, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

Is it not time that The Arts Council was either shut down, or put under the control of adults. They throw OUR money away on stuff that most people wouldn’t cross the road to look at.

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LAUGHING GRAVY, ON THE BEACH, Fiji, 12 hours ago

the u.k tax payer is a laughing stock,these mugs really have no dignity..

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Bemused, West Sussex, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

‘No dignity’? They are positively humiliating.

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guiniveres daughter, lyonesse, United Kingdom, 12 hours ago

The Art’s Council is just another elite run lefties excuse to use the tax player’s money to fund so called art that all of us plebs are “too stupid” to understand. Most of the C**p that passes as art today is just for extremely rich people to pay lots of money for so that they can boast about a dirty unmade bed or an animal in formaldehyde.

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Steve UK taxpayer, hope not EU much longer, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

No chance of any ordinary people getting on their management board – only the posh elite.

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qprdude, Inverurie, 12 hours ago

Good God, I’d give her 10 grand NOT to dance with me!

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Steve UK taxpayer, hope not EU much longer, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

I don’t suppose her native Portugal gave her anything towards this fiasco – just the good old British taxpayer.

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Sigovia Carpet, Over the rainbow, United Kingdom, 12 hours ago

No time frame for when this complete waste took place. After this idiot was prating about in a tent in Calais with illegal immigrants. What exactly did that make us, the British public, aware of ? The only awareness that I have gleaned from this stupidity, is that there should be greater controls on where the tax payers money is spent, and that some people should not be let out on their own.

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StraightTalker, Tunbridge Wells, 12 hours ago

Abolish the Arts Council England!

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qprdude, Inverurie, 10 hours ago

Keep the Arts council, abolish public funding of them.

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The Myth Of The News, Devon, United Kingdom, 12 hours ago

Depressing that taxpayer money should be wasted

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2 of 3 repliesSee all replies

Lou Sbottom, Sitting Down, Vietnam, 11 hours ago

Tories

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qprdude, Inverurie, 11 hours ago

The great giva away is a Blair\ liberal institution. You would be one of the “blame everything on the Tories” mob. Well I suppose it’s easier than taking responsibility or facing the truth.

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Micky MOJO, London, United Kingdom, 12 hours ago

Who signs this off?

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Steve UK taxpayer, hope not EU much longer, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

Somebody who should be locked up?

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LeeW, Amused To Death, United Kingdom, 12 hours ago

Similar initiatives have over the past few years have turned my local art gallery from a place that displayed amateur, local or semi professional exhibitions into a thinly disguised leftist propaganda centre where the focus of exhibitions are often looping videos claiming to be art. The non-fiction books in the local library show a similar bias, for example 90% of the books on the religion shelf focus on one single religion which certainly does not represent the local population (any guesses which one). Ten years ago the gallery used to attract a trickle of people and school parties, now it is mostly empty.

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Steve UK taxpayer, hope not EU much longer, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

That’s because it has long been the goal of fabianers to sneak their odious eliefs into our lives by stealth and dishonesty.

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Imperial Trooper, Plymouth, 12 hours ago

Picture number one sums up nearly everything about why I voted OUT. The odour of sanctimonious liberal entitlement just oozes out of the picture.

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joe public, exeter, United Kingdom, 12 hours ago

Her t-shirt should have read I’M INSANE.

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LAUGHING GRAVY, ON THE BEACH, Fiji, 12 hours ago

or ‘im a pathetic immigrant r a p i s t loving do gooder leftie’.

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Imperial Trooper, Plymouth, 12 hours ago

Do you come from a war zone? Do you need food and medicine? Then let me explain how to sneak aboard a Lordy and claim benefits through the medium of dance! All credit for finding the only women and children in the camp for this man to dance with.

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UK 1979, Plymouth, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

That’s not a dude. Is it?

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pike y mick, Trowbridge, United Kingdom, 12 hours ago

Oh dear oh dear. What an attractive looking person. I would have thought that the people living in the jungle would have been rather offended by this strange effort turning up and “dancing” I know for sure that she wouldn’t be stepping onto my garden path let alone getting into my home. She looks like she needs to be in a psychiatric unit.

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The English man, manchester, United Kingdom, 12 hours ago

Said this a thousand times before, name names! Let’s put a name to these idiots that so freely give OUR money away to other idiots. Let’s see who these faceless nameless unacountable bureaucrats are!

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Dontknowenough, Essex, United Kingdom, 12 hours ago

Money that could be spent on British people, eg: old ones in hospital who need home care to get back on their feet again.

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waguitarman, Nottingham, 12 hours ago

When the article says the Arts Council is responsible for this colossal waste of tax payer money, it tells us very little. People want to know who the individuals are that are responsible for allocating funds to projects like this.

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mr zen, cheshunt england, 12 hours ago

WE ARE LED BY FOOLS.

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Popeyed, Edinburgh, 12 hours ago

WE VOTED FOR THEM!

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SadButMadLad, Burnley, United Kingdom, 12 hours ago

@Popeyed, no we didn’t vote for them, they are civil servants who are spending OUR money. The politicians are weak for not stopping them wasting our money. Agree that we should vote for politicians who have a back bone.

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Lemog, London, United Kingdom, 12 hours ago

Quite honestly, we may as well just burn the money, at least we wouldn’t have to read about idiots like this to find out how our taxes are being wasted.

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john l lumb, halifax, United Kingdom, 12 hours ago

Britain’s great.its just the minority in charge that’s the problem. Vote UKIP

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Barrington, Hull, 13 hours ago

Some days I switch on my computer and can’t believe what I’m reading. This is one of those days, but why the hell are we taxpayers funding the ‘Arts Council’, whatever that is?

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Bertie Rawlorts, Sheffield, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago

How bizarre we would give money to someone associated with people breaking the law.

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Hadenoughofhim56, Poole Dorset, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago

‘Forced to watch a 10 minute video’ – I would have walked off, never mind dancing with that idiot.

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Wowwhatsnext, Cheltenham, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago

They say “It’s about seeing the world from another persons point of view” Well if that’s the case, give me £13K and I’ll show them how I live on the taxpayers money they give me.

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Bemused, West Sussex, United Kingdom, 12 hours ago

I wish she’d go and ‘see the world from another person’s point of view’ by getting lost … elsewhere.

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mike151, OutsidetheEU, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago

FFS

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andy j, Nottingham, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago

What is going on this is tax payers money!!!,it’s like they’ve got to get rid of it or they face the sack,pathetic.

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Blue-Nation, London, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago

She’s got screws loose mate, and the government have honestly lost the plot now. It gets more ridiculous by the day!

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DWW, Abergele, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago

Just think of the ‘tosh’ she put in the funding application form…. lol

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England., Has escaped the EU, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago

Civil Partnership, Says it all really.

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nanuk of the north, Morpeth England, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago

If you vote Lib Dum, Gimmi Grant Party or Pretend Con you are voting for more of the same and are part of the problem.

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oompah, valencia, Spain, 13 hours ago

For that much funding the grimy hyenia could at least get her jugs out.

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LeeW, Amused To Death, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

I just sicked up in the back of my throat.

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Andy1, Norfolk, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago

And still we deny cancer drugs to sick people because they cost a few thousand pounds. It’s fantastic being in the Eu!

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Supernatural13, West Midlands, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago

Words fail me. Our pensioners have to sell their homes to get care and we are wasting money on c r a p like this? She and that council should be utterly ashamed.

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fave, Sussex, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago

It’s time to stop giving tax payers money to Arts Council England if they are going to waste it like this!

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JamesBucks, Buckingam, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago

Seriously! Just checking it’s not 1st April. You could not make it up.

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billyotool, douglas, Isle Of Man, 13 hours ago

Jesus wept.

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oldambler, Halifax, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago

And the BBC can’t find any funny scripts you couldn’t write this.

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Mik Karcrashian, Los Angeles, United States, 13 hours ago

dear oh dear

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AK, Dorset, 13 hours ago

Cut the Arts Council funding, preferably by 100%. A useless quango.

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andrea-suffolk, leicester, United Kingdom, 13 hours ago

Thats the cost of a nurse for six months wasted

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Sick of the waste, Leeds, United Kingdom, 11 hours ago

Ahh but it is easy for them to throw away the money as it is not theirs and they probably have not even contributed to it in the first place by having a job and paying taxes.

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marceli, slough, United Kingdom, 14 hours ago

I thought the camp did not exist anymore

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John blott, Newcastle, United Kingdom, 14 hours ago

Obviously the arts council has too much money.

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2 of 3 repliesSee all replies

three curls, huddersfield, United Kingdom, 9 hours ago

the Arts council should be privately funded, not from our taxes, then they can waste it however they wish.

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patricia 60, somewhere, United Kingdom, 5 hours ago

Time to make it private funding then if the likes of Gina Millar and the Guardian want to give then so be it

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alice, London, 14 hours ago

I’m a very opinionated person … on this words fail me!

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micky, tamworth, United Kingdom, 14 hours ago

Are politicians will fund the likes of this but turn a blind eye at it own people.

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MentorMan, Warwickshire, United Kingdom, 14 hours ago

Lucky to find somewhere safe to dance – if she tried it down our road she would end up in hospital with a broken ankle from the myriad of potholes which make it so difficult to walk home from town. Never mind, I am sure there is more money where that came from …….

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MarkIsAngry, Warwickshire, United Kingdom, 14 hours ago

If that doesn’t scare away the migrants, nothing will.

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willowbrae, edinburgh, 14 hours ago

Is it April Fool’s Day.

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Tara, Christchurch, New Zealand, 14 hours ago

That just a pi$$ take surely?

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Time to stop whingeing and do something?

Here’s a list of some of the things that seem to me to restrict independent dance artists in the UK at the moment

  • lack of sufficient, appropriate financial support
  • institutional systems that prioritise reach, engagement, and impact so that artists end up trying to meet agendas set by funding bodies and producers rather than their own artistic priorities and needs.
  • a dearth of physical space in which to make work, and then a dearth of opportunities for showing it and, in particular, a lack appropriate and supportive ones for untested new ideas.
  • a discursive vacuum, a lack of outlets for artistic discussions around innovative dance practices (choreography, performance, training etc.) thus inhibiting the development of a context for its reception and dissemination.
  • internalised restrictions, things that one perhaps doesn’t even recognise one refrains from thinking, let alone doing, for fear of making waves or going out on a limb. How easy is it for example to challenge ideologically contaminated assumptions about artistic freedom and individualism?

These thoughts came to me after two events I attended on the same evening in the final week of Dance Umbrells 2016. These were the talk Body Politic 2016: freedom of movement. How does a climate of censorship affect art? and a performance of Gala by Jérôme Bel.

Can one call the restrictions I’ve outlined here censorship? I associate censorship with the Law, something about which I don’t claim to have much understanding. The idea of censorship brings to mind legislation around the distribution of violent or pornographic material. One recent prominent example of this kind of body politics (though not one mentioned in the Body Politic event) was the case where Pandora Blake made a successful legal challenge against the Audio Visual Media Services regulations. She has pointed out that these, in effect, favour porn made for heterosexual male customers while banning video of practices relating to female pleasure and to those of sexual minorities (see https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/jun/06/feminist-pornographer-wins-right-reinstate-sadomasochism-website-pandora-blake and http://pandorablake.com/blog).

Natalia Kalinda of Belarus Free Theatre (http://www.belarusfreetheatre.com/) who was one of the speakers at the Body Politic event, talked about making live performance work in Belarus and how to tackle the abusive censorship in that country. She went on to point out, however, that in her opinion arts funding systems in the UK are comparable to censorship in countries like Belarus because financial pressures can be as restrictive as political censorship.

Jamila Johnson-Small, also on the panel, spoke about what she perceived to be a problematic when she performed or, as she put it, made an exhibition of herself. She read from a blog in which she asks herself ‘how do I not climb into a cage of my own making’. (https://jamilajohnsonsmall.wordpress.com/2015/06/04/on-silence-and-invisibility/) She talked about the constant physical negotiation of institutional systems, and of how to work within them without being taken over by them.

What kind of freedoms do such negotiations offer? That was the thought I took with me to Jérôme Bel’s Gala which I went on to see after the talk.

Gala reminded me of Bel’s Disabled Theatre which I saw during Dance Umbrella 2015. In the former the cast are made up of people who are autistic or have downs syndrome, while the cast of Gala includes a range of people ranging from pre-teens to someone who I thought was 70 or over, BME people, people with disabilities, and gender queer folk. A few were professional dancers or performers while most were untrained amateurs.

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[Gala, Dance Umbrella 2016, Photograph: Foteini Christofilopoulou 2016 from The Guardian]

In both pieces the participants seem to have been given tasks to perform which they then execute on stage on their own one after the other, with some group material at the end. I remember Bel saying last year that, in Disabled Theatre, the performers were free to do whatever they wanted, and that he couldn’t have made them do what he wanted if he tried. In Gala I assume there was a similar intention to give the performers freedom to do whatever they want without interference. The programme notes that they each chose their own costumes.

Whereas Disabled Theatre received quite a mixed reception, Gala seems to have been well received (see Judith Mackrell’s review for example). I’ve met people who loved it. The people I found myself sitting next to at Sadlers Wells had seen it at the Bernie Grant Centre and liked it so much that they’d come back to see it again. Interestingly they weren’t even regular dance goers. There was a standing ovation the night I saw it. But (did you sense there was a ‘but’ coming?) I felt uneasy about Gala.

I felt that the idea that the performers were free to do whatever they wanted was illusory. Its attraction as an idea comes from the idea of freedom that underpins the individualism encouraged by the consumer culture of C21st capitalism. I thought the performers in Gala were completely controlled by the rational system that Bel had devised. They were obedient, always performing their tasks faithfully without embellishment, event in the ‘Michael Jackson’ themed section when the audience’s laughs and cheers must have tempted some of them to add a little extra embellishment while they were still on stage.

The structure of Gala could be compared with that of a tv show like Britain’s Got Talent albeit with a more avant-garde aesthetic. In Johnson-Small’s terms, the work allowed the performers to climb into cages of their own making. Giving Gala a standing ovation seemed to me to be giving a stamp of approval to a system as totalising and controlling as that of most of our increasingly precarious working lives under neoliberal austerity.

And it is that system that people like Natalia Kalinda point out we need to resist.

pooh4

I like a good whinge or rant but realistically that is not enough (Eeyore has always been one of my favourite characters). Somehow we need to do something. But what? well, I don’t have a real answer to this but just some suggestions, ones that comes from a workshop by Paul Mason that I attended at the Momentum fringe conference The World Transformed during the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool last month.

What Mason said there seems to be based on a recent blog he wrote Find each other and act! Twelve principles for a neo-Bevanite left (https://medium.com/mosquito-ridge/find-each-other-and-act-dd566b812732#.lyabzjtae) Here are extracts from some of these principles that we might think about translating into tactics suitable to the needs of independent dance artists.

  1. Understand what’s really happening.
  2. Exercise free speech.
  3. Form affinity groups.
  4. Emulate social movements.
  • Resist in a way that forces those in power into a “decision dilemma”
  • Think of every action in three parts: prepare, act, reflect
  • Design actions either to communicate or to achieve concrete goals
  • Act in a way that reframes the story; re-set the narrative
  • Be peaceful, funny and human
  1. Link to the wider progressive movement.
  2. Learn new ideas. Or teach people.
  3. It’s their media but it’s our voice.
  • Populate the media. The letters pages, radio phone-in programmes, audience Q&As, vox popsthey are all spaces [in which a] radical voice needs to be heard. (…)
  • Create waves through social media. The newspapers and TV are important because they maintain a monopoly of distribution. The internet breaks that monopoly. Social media, no matter how heavily policed and distorted by algorithms, is an important tool in our fight for social justice. It can bring to the palm of everybody (i) truth (ii) undistorted arguments (iii) periodic calls to do something.
  • We need our own media. (…) The point is not to make propaganda. It is to report the news fairly, in a way the mainstream media will not do. In the short term we need a way of aggregating the content produced by small alternative media; professionalising what they do … (selected extracts from Paul Mason’s blog)

Is there a way of adapting Mason’s programme that might offer potentials for dealing with the restrictions I outlined at the start of this blog post?

London’s most influential people in dance in 2016?

According to the Evening Standard, these are London’s most influential people in dance in 2016.

Wayne McGregor Artistic director, Company Wayne McGregor

Tamara Rojo Lead principal dancer and artistic director, English National Ballet

Siobhan Davies Artistic director, Siobhan Davies Dance

Christopher Wheeldon Choreographer

Kevin O’Hare Director, Royal Ballet

Carlos Acosta Dancer and choreographer

Sir Matthew Bourne Artistic director, New Adventures

Alistair Spalding Artistic director and chief executive, Sadler’s Wells

Natalia Osipova Principal dancer, Royal Ballet

Akram Khan Dancer, choreographer and artistic director, Akram Khan Company

Mark Baldwin Artistic director, Rambert

Steven McRae Principal dancer, Royal Ballet

Aaron Sillis Choreographer

Javier De Frutos Choreographer

Of these fourteen people, four are members of the Royal Ballet, while two others are closely associated with it. McGregor has been resident choreographer there for some time, and de Frutos is apparently about to make a piece for them. Three others are associated with ballet, four if you count Akram Khan who is currently working with English National Ballet on a version of Giselle. That leaves Siobhan Davies, Alistair Spalding, and Aaron Sillis (who – confession – I hadn’t heard of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aaron_Sillis)

My first reaction, reading the piece in the Evening Standard on-line, was that it is really unbalanced. There are eleven men but only three women, and only one BME member.

Filling in the ‘gaps’ would not solve the problem here. The underlying assumptions for drawing it up require examination. It is not just that the list doesn’t represent the dance world I know. It is based on tacit assumptions that marginalise and exclude so many people who, in my opinion, are doing things that are magical, or important, or both.

Who might an alternative list include? Younger dance artists, ones associated with more radical experimental approaches to choreography and performance, British-based dancers who are Black, people involved with community dance, and so on.

The list’s title presupposes that dance artists are ‘influential’, but can dance’s impact really be thought of in terms of influence? It seems more important to recognise the rich diversity of what’s going on. There is a whole world of dance beyond the edge of the thick pile carpet of the Crush Room at Covent Gardens.

most-influential

Remembering Rosemary Butcher.

Rosemary Butcher’s death was announced yesterday (14th July 2016). Here’s some memories of her.

Butcher in Summers Group 1970

[Rosemary Butcher (wearing sandals) in New York in 1970 in a piece by Elaine Summers in Union Square. photo from Rosemary Butcher: Choreography, Collisions and Collaborations]

The first class I took with Rosemary  was at Dartington Hall in 1980 during the Easter Dance at Dartington Festival which was my introduction to British new dance. It was there also that I first saw her work. The piece was 5 Sided Figure and I remember that one of the dancers was Janet Smith. In this performers moved along the sides (and axes?) of an irregular, five sided geometrical shape that had been taped out on the studio floor. I remember them pausing at its points for little choreographic events that I think were also sometimes triggers to which other dances responded. It made a really strong impression on me – its clear, simple conceptual structure and the quiet, thoughtful, responsive quality of the performers.

That was 36 years ago. I took one more class with Rosemary, in 1986 when I was on the editorial collective of New Dance magazine and we were doing a special issue to accompany a retrospective of her work. I came down to London and attended her regular Friday evening class at Riverside Studios. Others attending, I seem to remember, included dancers who she regularly worked with at the time like Merry Dufton and Caroline Pegg (with whom I worked on New Dance) as well as people who were involved with the Alexander technique, and also I think some young architects.

Not living in London, I’ve not always been able to follow everything she did, and of course a lot of it was been abroad, particularly in Germany and Austria. But every few years I’ve made trips to London or elsewhere to see a new piece. I remember the slow, thoughtfulness of pieces like Shell: Force Field and Spaces (1981) and then the dynamic running in Flying Lines (1985) developed from the idea of running with kites. Then in the 1990s there was an extraordinary series of works with dancers like Gill Clarke, Jonathan Burrows, Finn Walker and others which had an extraordinary depth and resonance.

[Flying Lines. photo from http://rosemarybutcher.com/]

In the last few years I started talking with Rosemary about her work and sat in on a few rehearsals. Most recently she let me follow through several stages of her project After Kaprow with Ana Mira, first as an idea, then as a two screen video project in a studio, then an installation with live performance at the Bloomberg Gallery, then the films shot in Italy and the duet at The Place Theatre in London where I chaired a post-show discussion with her and everyone involved in the project. It was an amazing example of how research can animate a community of creative people to discover and bring into being something new and previously inconceivable. Looking back now, it was so obviously and so clearly an extension of her work.

[Ana Mira in After Kaprow at the Bloomberg Gallery, photo from http://rosemarybutcher.com/]

My background before I started writing about dance was painting and fine art. So, for example, I actually knew Heinz Dieter Pietsch’s work before I became interested in dance. Only later did I discover that Rosemary was collaborating with him on a several pieces.

[Touch The Earth 1987 with set by Heinz Dieter Pietsch, photo from http://rosemarybutcher.com/]

And there have been so many similar collaborations. People in architecture, film, and the visual arts have always seemed to understand her work in ways in which some of the more conventionally oriented members of the British dance world have been able to do. Yet for me it has always been the movement material that dancers develop through working with her and the quality of attention with which they execute it in performance that hooked me, and that I always rediscovered each time I had an opportunity to catch up with what she had been doing. It was almost as if, as I watched the dancers, I could hear the underlying traces of her calm clear voice talking to them, feeding back to them about what they are doing, not exactly directing but nevertheless leading them through an evolving dialogue. I knew that I was watching something where there was a kind of ethics in the making process which resulted in an ethico-aesthetics in performance. And that’s what has always moved me and given me hope whenever I was fortunate enough to encounter her work.

humming edelweiss: Lea Anderson’s ‘Hand In Glove’ at the V&A

Do you know what it’s like to get a tune in your head without realising it and then being surprised when you keep finding yourself humming it? I’ve had Edelweiss (from The Sound of Music) in my head all weekend, because the first thing I saw when I went to Lea Anderson’s fantastic show Hand In Glove at the V&A on Friday evening was the version of Edelweiss from DoubleTake where the women dancers, in ambiguously masculine suits and brown brogues, whistle the tune while doing a deceptively simple hand-jive-gone-rogue and, one by one, are stealthily strangled and suffocated.

Hand In Glove was quite extraordinary. It had the ambiance of a club night with live and pre-recorded music (that became louder and louder as the evening wore on) with decor by Raphael (his huge unused cartoons for tapestries) and a gilded, international Gothic altar-piece in an apse at the end.

[photographer: Lea Anderson]

And the crowd. Dance world folk, women whose haircuts and discretely stylish clothes and handbags made me think they from the fashion world, some distinguished looking people who I thought might be some sort of sponsors (or trustees of something?), lots of students, and people from a subculture I recognise but can’t name, slightly goth with lots of metal dangling from their septum. Amazing to bring this diverse assortment of people together in the presence of Raphael, Lea Anderson, and student dancers from The Place.

Lea is a master of detail – the small details of hand gestures carefully rehearsed and performed in immaculate unison; the thought that has gone into the transitions. By the time I had to leave on Friday night there was a huge crowd in the gallery who were being firmly but imaginatively corralled and herded by dancers. Dressed in the Mao costumes from Flag each held a large red board which they firmly but politely used to reorganise the performing spaces between one piece and another.

I could only stay for the first half of the evening, and left after the students danced Elvis Legs brilliantly.

[photo: The Place]

It was for me an incredibly nostalgic evening. Every year for a couple of decades I used to look forward to what The Cholmondeleys and Featherstonehaughs’ next show would be. The students did parts of Yippee!!! particularly well. But that brought back memories for me of the piece’s critical reception.

[photo: The Place]

I generally have little or no respect for the ballet critics (that’s all they ever seem to be happy writing about) of the English national press. I’m biased perhaps. I wrote about Lea’s work in my PhD, in my first, third, and fourth books, and have chapters on it in edited collections. Yippee!!! was a brilliantly surreal mash-up of Weimar girl-kultur and in particular the collages of Hanna Hoch, with a queer adaptation of Busby Berkeley, and references to Herman Hesse, Laurel and Hardy, and much more. It was a really sophisticated piece, which showed up the ballet critics’ severe lack of understanding: there were headlines like ‘Yippee!!! It’s a flop’ in the Guardian of all places.

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2006/nov/07/post3

Rant over.

Seeing all those extracts from choreographies at the V&A – a kind of retrospective – showed yet again how richly creative they were. The costumes, music, and dance material all worked together so well, appeared to express one single idea, that the word ‘collaboration’ seems inadequate.

They are brilliant costumes. It is unfair to single out one, but think of the painted suits and painted silk leotards for The Featherstonehaughs Draw on the Sketchbooks of Egon Schiele by Sandy Powell. They are beautifully and expertly made and look uncannily like Schiele had painted directly onto the dancers.

[photo: The Place]

Well done Lea Anderson for getting such a mammoth show on with such consummate mastery. And well done V&A for letting her use the literally priceless Raphael cartoons as her latest and most extravagant stage set.

for more about Hand In Glove see:

http://www.leaanderson.com/works/hand-in-glove-3

http://www.theplace.org.uk/LeaAnderson

photos by Pau Ros http://www.pauphoto.co.uk/project/hand-glove-va/