How have social media platforms influenced the arts during lockdown?

“Why are we letting these huge companies – that are making money from our data, barely paying any tax if any – why are we letting them create these public places where we are in such danger and not calling them to account? [Advocates] are calling for a legislated duty of care because at the moment, there is not impetus to keep us safe.”

Ginger Gormon, ABC Radio National Big Ideas “How trolling causes real-life harm”

Artists must continue to advocate for political action on accountability of social media platforms on their duty of care responsibilities towards users of their platforms. Especially in the present time, when so much of our usual activities are being funneled onto online platforms to connect us with work, family, healthcare and governance, we must have a safe and balanced online environment which inspires us to perform at our best.

Join the discussion on the DeToxic Forum.

If you would like to contribute a comment or share your experience of how social media has influenced your artistic practice or content consumption during lockdown, please get in touch at detoxic@hackballet.com. Your personal information will not be shared and you can share your story confidentially. Please let us know if you would like to remain anonymous or use a pseudonym.

Are you taking care of yourself?

2020 has been a rollercoaster year of change for us all, and a particularly uncertain time for performers and theatre practitioners facing an unclear future for the creative culture we are so passionate about.

This year has given us a chance to reflect on our true authentic values, to take time out to prepare for a better future, and to prioritise our health and the health of our wider community and society as a whole.

Our Health and Safety Policy and the Safe Spaces Campaign

Equity UK completed an Agenda for Change Report in connection with their the Safe Spaces Campaign to help performers escape toxic ingrained cultures in the industry around sexual harassment and find the courage to speak out. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the report and have a think about some of the recommendations. Do you think they are the right ones? What kind of situations have you been in when these might have helped you? What more needs to be done?

We’ve been putting together some policies that will help us stay clear about what’s important and what matters to us most in our work in the future. Culture change is hard to achieve, but if we work together, we can make a difference. If something has happened to you or someone you care about in the context of dance or your participation in a HackBallet event or activity, please let us know! We want to hear your story and consider carefully the best way to respond, to help you have as safe and as joyful an experience of your dancing life as we possibly can.

Email your story to safety@hackballet.com and a member of our Welfare Policy Group will be in touch.

DeToxic2020

As part of HackBallet’s DeToxic2020 project we planned to use our time in the studio this year to investigate how we could respond with consent, joy and connectedness to this contested cultural territory: a swarming sea of intersections between gender, individuality, and relationships. We approached this concept with curiosity about how people of all genders could have been affected by manifestations of “toxic masculinity”.

We were saddened when the Covid-19 pandemic forced the postponement of our planned residencies at Bristol Island and Studio Wayne McGregor FreeSpace, but we’ve been using the time to develop our skills and reflect on how we can move comfortably into a more technologically immersive world. We hope to disperse some of the negativity and rancor that has been flying back and forth in the culture wars around dance, technology and cybersecurity.

The ongoing worldwide responses to Covid-19 and Black Lives Matter, as well as the work that has already been done on creating Safe Spaces where everyone is protected from harassment and bullying, have given us even more reasons to reflect on our practice and re-imagine how we want to take our creative work forward into 2021. The #IAmFatima campaign has been another goading force to inspire our creative action to integrate our multiskilled, multitalented professional idenitiies professional identities and overcome tired stereotypes about what it means to be a dancer.

Live YouTube Forum at 19.00 on 18th December 2020

On December 18th 2020, HackBallet will present DeToxic2020:Detoxing Dance and Digital Culture Forum. Please join us for the live stream on YouTube. You can support the project by Donation via Eventbrite. We are thankful that you have made it through this difficult year with us. No matter what your situation, you can show your support for our work and the arts community in multiple ways. Tell a friend, start a meaningful conversation about these ideas, and share your skills and ideas.

Where to get help if you need it

Equity UK offers a range of support for performing artists who have been affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic and National Lockdown measures.

Everyone is feeling the effects of this long period of fear and distance from each other. It’s ok to not be ok. A new dedicated mental health and wellbeing helpline is now available for Equity members: call 0800 917 6470 (have your Equity number to hand) and talk to someone with experience of working in the theatre and performing arts sector who can listen to how you are feeling and help you find other sources of support. For more information go to https://www.equity.org.uk/support

Take care of yourselves, and each other, as we navigate another national lockdown.

Genesis – 17th April 2020 – Spring Scratch Platform Callout

Our next Scratch Platform will be on Friday April 17th at Margaret Shepherd Studio Theatre at 7.30pm.

Book tickets now on Eventbrite

Are you a dancer or choreographer with an idea for new work or choreography in development?

Call Out For Dance Artists

Our Scratch Platform connects our community of artists, students, and supporters to create a programme that gives a taste of work in progress and short pieces under development. 

Artists working in dance, contemporary ballet, music and related performance forms are invited to submit their work for participation. Pieces can be any length up to 10 minutes. Solos, duets and group pieces are all welcome. The theme for this event is “Genesis”: new life, new beginnings… to reflect the Spring season and positive energy that the start of the new decade might inspire in us.

Bring a fragment of work to a performance environment, connect with audiences, fellow artists and get feedback. The event will be recorded and you will have the opportunity to film or take photographs, provided you/your photographer does not disturb the appreciation of the live performance by the audience.

The venue has a basic lighting rig, black harlequin dance flooring over wooden boards, black backdrop and side curtains (no wings). There are two entrances to the performance area from upstage left and right. The lit stage area measures roughly 8m wide x 10m deep.

There will also be an opportunity for dancers to join a LIVE JAM / IMPROVISATION IN PERFORMANCE with live music alongside fellow performers. Score to be discussed closer to the date. Please mention your interest when applying.

Location: Margaret Shepherd Studio Theatre

Dates: Some shared rehearsal time is available in the two weeks prior to the performance. Get in on the day of the show is at 4pm. Technical rehearsal will be at 5.30pm. Doors open at 7.15pm. Get out by 9.30pm. There will be a post show drinks and discussion at a venue in Hoxton Street for participants and audience members to connect and share reflections and feedback.

Deadline: Friday 20th March 2020

Fees: This is a ticketed event with a guarantee to cover venue hire and ticketing fees, so participants should be prepared to cover their own expenses. Any Box Office takings over the guarantee will be split between the participants. Concessions, group discounts and company comps are available to participating artists. Please notify us with names of any invited guests/agents/programmers/reviewers who will be added to your guest list.

To express interest in participating and for more information please email events@hackballet.com with the subject “Genesis”  . Choreographers include a video link/images/description of the piece you would like to include in the programme. Dancers include a CV and headshot with your expression of interest.

Doing what you love

Director’s Update from Briar Adams

Estimated Read Time: 8 Minutes

Take up space. Stretch. Move your body. “God gives you one gift: You get to be born,” the choreographer Twyla Tharp said. “Thereafter, you’ve got to take care of it yourself.”

Twyla Tharp interviewed by Gia Kourlas for the New York Times

Have you heard anyone say something like this to you? “You’ll have to stop being so physical now you’re older.” … or this? “It’s too gruelling and full on, older dancers don’t want to put their bodies through that any more.”

What is the purpose of dance training? Is it to mould young people into cogs to fit into an existing industrial machine that produces entertainment products that were invented decades ago? Or is it to equip people with skills to be healthy, fit, have fun, be part of a community, and to contribute to the creative conversation about the experiences they have throughout their lives… to reflect and share how these interplay with our wider society and culture, as it is, and as we wish it to be?

Twyla Tharp’s recent book release and interviews strongly promotes staying as active as possible for as long as possible

Many people think that having a dance job means you are “doing what you love”. Like any job, there are many aspects of dance work that are boring, painful, frustrating, threatening or challenging to one’s own values and beliefs. As with any job where you have to fit in with the norms and existing structures created by others, you learn that not everyone has the same experiences and background that you have to be able to understand your experiences.

When I tell people I’m a dancer, they project their ideals of what a “dancer” is supposed to be onto me. I often have conversations where people say, “It must be so amazing to do what you love as a job. That must make it worth the hardship and sacrifice.” People who are not dancers look at me and tell me “you’re so fit, you must have such a healthy diet/lifestyle”. I feel bad for telling them, no, I’m just like you: I eat junk, don’t sleep well, and struggle to make time for everything I need to get done. My relationships suffer because of my work and how important it is to me.

Those people who see me as a “dancer” are seeing something in me that reflects how they want to be themselves, or how they want the world to be. They look to me to tell them how to eat, exercise, take care of themselves, even use me as an example of where and how to live or how to introduce more creativity into their lives. Those people are inspired by my work and tell me they appreciate my leadership. However, in the mainstream dance industry, I often do not fit the “ideal” dancer casting: because of my age, body type and size, whether I am affected by physical or mental disabilities, or when an existing role has been designed or created for someone else’s characteristics that I do not match. I often struggle with the concept that because I am a certain age or don’t fit a particular physical ideal, that it means I cannot be a “good” dancer… especially when some people tell me they love watching me perform and feel inspired by my work.

Our society struggles with negative stereotypes and beliefs about bodies, ageing, status and success. I believe dancers have a role as leaders in the cultural conversation about what it means to be healthy and to “do what you love”. In the past, dance education was influenced by preparing young dancers to enter the profession and to be able to reproduce the great works of the classical repertoire, which were created under social conditions very different to those of the present day. I believe dance education needs to always be updating and improving on the new discoveries afforded by science and social research, and ensure that we are practicing dance in a way that best represents our highest values.

Is the value of elitist competition in conflict with the values of positivity and inclusivity? Can we still be “good” dancers after 35? Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal, and dancers like Mara Galeazzi and Alessandra Ferri are role models, but we need more of them. Our stories need to be told throughout our lives, and the ageism and sexism behind the pressure towards invisibility of older women on stage and screen – and in the director’s chair – needs to end.

More dancers, and those involved in the dance industry, should consider, and exercise positive leadership on, the issue of ageism: what would have been different about our training, the choices we’ve made in our careers, or the roles we’ve felt pressured to perform, if we were not worried about how getting older meant it would be “too late”? What if older and younger dancers were not in competition with each other, because our entertainment culture contained roles appropriate for performers of any age? How would the availability of positive older role models on stage and screen influence what people in our wider society believe about whether age is a barrier to success or status, or a limitation to what is possible in their own lives?

Recently I was discussing with my students the influence of great women like Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham and Pina Bausch on my work. Women who worked in a contemporary style created their own artistic and ideological ecosystem in which to nurture alternative feminist values and break free from the restraint they felt was being imposed upon them by the conservative world of classical ballet. Today, the worlds of contemporary dance and ballet are converging again. Contemporary dance exhibits some of the same body elitism that ballet has always done, but ballet is also absorbing ideas from contemporary dance and other styles, and ballet companies now produce work that is very contemporary in style.

Can attitudes to body conformity and the ideal body for dance change as well? We have movements across advertising and media to see more representation of population diversity in terms of gender, race and disability. How do these social debates affect people who want to dance? Do we still compare and contrast ourselves to the ideal and find ourselves falling short (a negative thinking style we may have learned from the teaching attitudes of the past) or do we explore and celebrate what makes us different, or what makes us capable of achieving exciting or rapturously entertaining results that are uniquely ours and which connect with people like us?

In my teaching practice I often encounter dilemmas where there seems to be a conflict between striving to be “good”, and encouraging students to tackle difficult material and to take on challenges. Students want to know how to do it “right” and sometimes striving to get it “right” adds extra tension and anxiety into the body. To the outsider observer, a dance student may not look experienced enough to be “good” or may not fit that observer’s preconceived ideal of what kind of body is a “good” dancing body. This is one of the challenges that inspires me creatively, to investigate how people learn and absorb information physically, and to draw on all the styles and techniques in dance that I have experienced through my varied career, to try to communicate with students and help them explore and create from a positive place within themselves.

One of the conflicts I notice is that between “pushing yourself” to do your best and constantly strive for maximum physical effort, and “knowing your limits” and gauging what is the healthiest type and amount of training to do, or whether physically challenging choreographic material is safe to perform and engaging for the audience. Sometimes it is easy to change uncomfortable choreography slightly to make it safer, without losing the communicative effect from the audience’s point of view. Do audiences need to see physically gruelling dance choreography in order to enjoy the performance? Does knowing that the dancer is in pain or physically stressed increase their appreciation of the art? Do dancers enjoy putting themselves to the test with physically challenging work? How healthy are the dancer’s inner ideals and the expectations placed upon them about the mental and physical grit and determination required to do what they do?

Is there a level of training and physical exertion and expression that is optimal for making both dancers and audiences “love” what they are doing: creating and appreciating dance and the stories told by the body?

The process of developing HackBallet’s new work DeToxic will explore some of the issues related to how we do what we love whilst also doing what others want to see – or don’t want to see – and thinking creatively about how we might resolve these conflicts.

As part of the research and development of DeToxic we are interested to hear your stories and ideas about these themes. Please comment below or get in touch to share your experiences and find out more about the DeToxic project.

HackBallet XMÆSS | Scratch Platform Open Call

Open Call for dancers and musicians for Professional Development Opportunity

Deadline: 9th December 2019

HackBallet’s XMÆSS scratch platform for new and experimental work is coming up on 20th December 2019 at the Margaret Shepherd Studio Theatre in Hoxton on the campus of New City College.

As part of HackBallet’s 2020 DeToxic project, the company would like to offer a professional development and performance opportunity for experienced dancers, dance students, and musicians, of all genders, who have an interest in improvisation.

Dancers

Advanced ballet and contemporary dancers and dance students with an interest in improvisation are invited to participate in the following as part of the XMÆSS lineup:

  • Mirror in the Sahara – A Cunningham/Cage/Reich influenced contemporary ballet work to music composed and performed by Daniel Hewson
  • Mixed Movement inspired Improv Jam to an improvised score from the musicians.

Musicians

Musicians and composers (artists who identify as female are especially encouraged to apply) are invited to participate in the following:

  • Mixed Movement inspired Improv Jam
  • Submit new or existing short compositions (up to 5minutes in length) that would be suitable for creation of a contemporary ballet solo or duet which will be presented as a work in progress

In the Mixed Movement inspired Improv Jam, dancers will improvise short (1-2 minute) solos exploring their personal performance style to an improvised score from the musicians. Following this the dancers may participate in a group jam which may include duet or contact material which gives dancers the opportunity to explore the connections between themselves and other movers in the space, in the style of a durational performance.

Participation for dancers and musicians is FREE.

There will be a Rehearsal/Jam on Wednesday 18th December at Studio Wayne Mcgregor from 6pm – 10pm accompanied live by Daniel Hewson (please still apply if you are unable to make this date but would like to take part in the event)

How to apply:

Dancers should email an expression of interest to events@hackballet.com

Deadline: 9th December 2019

About 2020 DeToxic

DeToxic explores ways that dance and music can encourage individual expression, self selection and positive wellbeing by giving dancers opportunities for choice, learning, ownership and freedom within a structured performance framework. HackBallet welcomes greater adoption of contemporary dance principles – including anatomically sound movement practice, fusion training techniques and freedom from restrictive gender norms – by people who identify as ballet dancers.

Also coming up: Contemporary Ballet workshop

HackBallet director Briar Adams will be leading a workshop at The Place on Sunday 8th December for interested dancers, Click here to find out more and book your place via eventbrite

HackBallet is supported by Studio Wayne Mcgregor’s #freespace programme

DeToxic

Hack Ballet’s 2020 research theme muses on creating the world we as we wish it… and detoxing the harmful values and attitudes that have limited our potential in the past.

Could you host a DeToxic workshop at your school or organisation?

Topics we’ll cover include:

  • Body positivity and how you can apply it to your personal and organisational wellbeing
  • “Toxic masculinity” and how people of all genders experience “toxicity” in judgements of themselves and others in relation to gender presentation
  • Creative dance techniques to improve your performance skills and charisma on stage and in leadership
  • Contemporary ballet partnering, contact improvisation and consent: how to build rapport and communication about safety and comfort when in close physical contact with others
  • Discussion and forum on how to create and pass on confidence and self expression to others, at every level of ability

Get in touch at education@hackballet.com

for more information and bookings.

Mirage: The Philosophy of Apples … workshops for young people

Physical theatre practitioner Steven Zilinskas, and choreographer Briar Adams, are teaming up to present Mirage: The Philosophy of Apples, a workshop series for young people.

Does an apple a day keep the doctor away? Would Isaac Newton still have discovered gravity, if he had been wearing a hat? What if he had sat under that apple tree in May, instead of September… and had been hit in the head by a spring blossom, and not a falling autumn apple!

Are you a good apple… or a bad one?!

We are looking for groups of young people (aged 10+) who would like to come bobbing for apples with Steven and Briar, to help us find the the funniest and most absurd aspects of trying to fit all the apples into the fruit salad of life.

These workshops engage young people in the use of creative techniques from physical theatre, script writing and comedy, to investigate themes like: individual identity and group cohesion; responsibility and predetermination; inspiration and being self-motivated… to help them figure out when to fit in, and when stand up for yourself, all inspired by Newton’s apple tree and the physics of fate.
If you are interested in finding out more, or to request an education pack, contact Steven on s.zilinskas@hackballet.com

https://www.stevenzilinskas.com/workshops

Free performance event tomorrow

Dancers in London: Would you like to join us for a free invite-only dance and performance event tomorrow at the @waynemcgregor studios in Stratford’s @hereeast?
4pm Improv Jam lead by @briar.adams
7.30pm Immersive performance created and curated by students from @unioftheartslondon @csm_news
You **must** be on the guestlist to attend. PM or email events@hackballet.com by midnight tonight if interested. Places are strictly limited so make sure you receive a reply before travelling.

Dancers in London: Would you like to join us for a free invite-only dance and performance event tomorrow at the @waynemcgregor studios in Stratford’s @hereeast?
4pm Improv Jam lead by @briar.adams
7.30pm Immersive performance created and curated by students from @unioftheartslondon @csm_news
You **must** be on the guestlist to attend. PM or email events@hackballet.com by midnight tonight if interested. Places are strictly limited so make sure you receive a reply before travelling.

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Thankyou HackBallet tribe!

Thankyou for being part of the @hackballet @spacehoxton #tribe 😍

We love having fun getting #creative and #exploring #contemporaryballet #choreography
and #improvisation 🌈

Join us at SPACe for new #beginnersballet courses starting this week 😃💃💪💞 Follow featured dance artists @briar.adams @bleuphoenix88 @joshua_royal @attila_andrasi_works_ @kindylynne @mari.edmond @ashleighwilsondances @zuzatehanu for more upcoming #ballet #dance #fitness and #performance experiences in #london and #international 🗺🌐🌅🌇🌌

Thankyou for being part of the @hackballet @spacehoxton #tribe 😍

We love having fun getting #creative and #exploring #contemporaryballet #choreography
and #improvisation 🌈

Join us at SPACe for new #beginnersballet courses starting this week 😃💃💪💞 Follow featured dance artists @briar.adams @bleuphoenix88 @joshua_royal @attila_andrasi_works_ @kindylynne @mari.edmond @ashleighwilsondances @zuzatehanu for more upcoming #ballet #dance #fitness and #performance experiences in #london and #international 🗺🌐🌅🌇🌌

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