Hotfoot editor Jeannette Brooks meets State of Emergency’s
Deborah Baddoo is ADAD royalty. She was as critical to this organisation’s development as anything or anyone during the 1990’s. But if she is no longer teaming up with us, what has she been up to?
Jeannette Brooks caught up with a very busy and active dance manager and producer (between meetings, on a flying visit to London, about to get on a train)…
Jeannette Brooks (JB)
Tell us a little about your background and training. How did you get started in your dance career?
Deborah Baddoo (DB)
I trained to be a dance teacher at Roehampton Institute and moved onto the intensives at The Place. By 1986 never the less I had started my own company …quot; State of Emergency…
Moving on, Deborah swiftly runs through an amazing list of roles and positions in the development of her skills.
…I learnt project co-ordination whilst setting up and managing a dance studio within Pyramid Arts Centre in Hackney. I did the whole range of things from cleaning the floor and loos of the dance studio to co-ordinating the dance programme. Then I moved on to lecturing in dance and set up the Dance Foundation Course at Hackney College during the early stages of my career, and progressed to become a Senior Lecturer in Dance.
Then for personal reasons (growing family) I moved to Somerset. I wanted to get out of London and I was familiar with the West Country with friends in Devon and so we ended up near Taunton and I began the stepping stones to establishing a career in the region. The profile afforded Black dance forms there was almost non-existent and the dance scene in general was minimal compared to London and so I found that my skills, experience and expertise began to have an impact.
To get a foothold in the area, I took up a lecturing post at a local FE College. After a while I wasn’t happy and so went to part time and started to work with ADAD succeeding June Gamble as Co-ordinator.
What was your most significant professional training undertaken?
My MA in Performing Arts from Middlesex University in the early 1990’s and then an Arts Management course from University of London. Then there is the Kaizen Creative Life Coaching Course.
With all of that study is there anything next for personal development?
Maybe an MBA - I need challenges, although there is no time at present. I’ve got lots on my plate but I need to set goals. I think there is some kind of methodology there! I am currently studying Tai Kwon Do and working my way up through the grades, which I find very challenging and fulfilling.
Is there anything missing in the UK’s dance infrastructure for developing dance of the Africa Diaspora?
The fact that we are discussing this subject highlights the truth that little has altered within national training from vocational colleges in twenty years. Student’s individuality is still squashed and they are not offered enough diversity in their curriculum. There is still little real choice.
State of Emergency recently invited representatives from Laban, The London Contemporary Dance School, Northern School of Contemporary Dance and Middlesex University to feedback and discuss the content of their syllabi as part of The Big Mission festival in Birmingham. No surprise, nothing had changed, these pillars of training still only provide a tokenistic import of diverse dance forms, often under a ‘community’ or ‘social’ dance heading. No accredited course for diverse dance forms exists and they still persist in squashing students into a mould of Western contemporary dance, be it Ballet, Cunningham, Release or Graham based.
Nothing is offered to learn fusion dance forms which more realistically reflect today’s dance practice. Plus how do we manage consistency? More apprenticeships, more mentoring and more attachments to major companies.
Is there any good model of dance work from the African Diaspora in terms of training?
Hummm... I’m trying to find a suggestion…
I know Irie! used to run the only accredited African and Caribbean dance course, but it’s not running at present. There are short courses, such as summer schools in African dance and more recently in Hip Hop but nothing substantial. Universities and dance schools do not seem to accommodate this level of intensive training.
When and where were you happiest professionally?
Now. I’m happiest right now. I feel like the last 20 years of sweating are finally being recognised. State of Emergency was recently awarded revenue support from Arts Council England, but it isn’t the be all and end all. At this stage of my experiences you get other pressures with the funding. In fact it is dangerous to rely solely on an ACE income. Still my voice is being heard which is more important …quot; my plans are starting to work.
My advice would be to watch out for short lived successes and don’t run before you can walk to avoid a crash. Still, I am not complacent and my family and home life give me support.
Are you doing what you thought you would be at this stage of your career?
I never had this vision - that of me as a Producer/Director with a funded organisation.
I could have had a more academically based career or have developed in community arts education and development, or perhaps become an Arts Officer, but I’ve been guided by what excites me most.
How would you describe dance of the African Diaspora? Is there a definition for the UK?
After a long pause and emerging from deep consideration…
The work needs to evoke something of the Black experience - not African movements necessarily. It could be a pure contemporary piece but demonstrate the essence of the choreographer or their culture.
Last thoughts. Do you have anything else that you would like to share with the Hotfoot readership?
I hope this is not a cliché, but I feel privileged to be a part of this dance ecology.
We need to be wise and never set ourselves against one another …quot; fighting over the same piece of the cake. All the styles and genres are relevant and deserve their space. We should make sure there is no hierarchy …quot; just lots of work and let’s have opportunities to see more of it.
I was very sad at the Adzido demise but happy that new shoots are growing again.