ADA 3.0 Fellow Kate Newall feels that balletLORENT is way ahead of the game when it comes to Cultural Democracy. So, what’s the next step?
At balletLORENT we like to think of ourselves as doing things a bit differently. We’re kind of a gang of dance misfits who believe dance is for everyone. We try to reflect this in the artistic work we create, the ways in which we talk about it, who we engage with and the people who perform with our company.
A bit of background…
Liv Lorent founded balletLORENT in 1993. She couldn’t afford to pay professional dancers so as part of a local government scheme she employed members of the public who were claiming jobseekers’ allowance, paying them a daily fee. She made PassAge to Passion in 1996, a piece involving 80 people from Central Newcastle aged between 14-80 and was called “disgusting” for not working with trained dancers, fast forward 25 years and working with the community is now an Arts Council objective!
During the current tour of our family production Rumpelstiltskin we have 9 school children aged 4-9 and 4 older people aged 70+ appearing on stage with our professional cast. These community members are from schools and knitting groups in particularly socio-economically deprived areas local to each venue. We arrange for the families and friends of the community cast to have discounted or free tickets to watch them.
What do we gain?
We have a stage full of people that reflect those people in the audience and in life.
When speaking to my brilliant mentor Sarah Boiling, we discussed the barriers we break already, but we need to do more. Amongst my jumble of thoughts were:
– We’re called balletLORENT but we don’t make classical ballet, we’re really more dance theatre. Does the word ballet put people off? Is it intimidating?
– What can we do about the parents of children who don’t want them to take part in a dance workshop? Sadly, this is mainly the parents of little boys.
– We try to write about our work in a non “dance speak” way – but how can we be sure this is translating? We’re from a dance and arts background ourselves.
– Are we reaching a diverse audience other than those we have direct contact with?
– Will attending the theatre, specifically a dance production, ever be seen as anything other than a posh middle-class luxury? How can we change this other than the things we already do?
I could go on and on, but deep breaths, one step at a time…
Sarah and I chatted about the issue with the word “ballet” and the queries I had regarding the language we’re using. The results are that I will hold my first ever focus group (thank you Audience Diversity Academy for giving me the push that I needed!), at CAST in Doncaster. I’ll speak to 10 members of the audience, specifically those that have never seen balletLORENT before or attended a performance at CAST.
Watch this space!