In each Hotfoot newsletter, ADAD interviews an experienced dance professional with connections to the APD / Black dance sector and ask them 10 direct questions.
This edition, we meet
1. On a day to day basis what makes up the content of your working life right now?
There is no day to day for me. I have to juggle several elements of a professional career and hope I do justice to each part. It’s like I wake up and ask myself ‘which Jeannette am I today?’. Freelancer with the variety that brings, venue programmer, education officer, writer.
2. The UK dance scene. In what ways to you interact professionally at your point in your dance career with British based dancers, companies, theatres, or organisations?
I feel fortunate that I can move easily around the major components of the dance infrastructure in the UK. Even though since starting a family I no longer dance or teach, I still come into contact with the creative dance artists - the dancers and choreographers, artistic directors etc. I get to see the guts of the industry too with my various hats on. The theatre managers, funding officers, promoters. Professionally it’s really interesting.
3. If you had complete artistic and financial freedom what kind of event or project would you devise to promote dance of the African Diaspora and all its styles to UK audiences and venues?
Humm… nice simple question! I hold to the belief that currently and on the whole, the genres under APD are still misunderstood, misinterpreted, incorrectly programmed and promoted. There are some exceptions and I am being very general about that statement. So I would like to devise some kind of event that honestly breaks down the stereotyping, the pigeonholing and the ghettoisation of this area of dance work.
Allowing the art makers to express and explain their work to bookers, theatre directors and sponsors even. To be frank - I would think there are events already out that I think, think they are doing some of that I’ve just said. To me however if that is the case then those events are not working hard enough.
4. Have you ever sensed a kind of glass ceiling in your career?
Yes - several times. And not even glass or transparent - obvious and a bit discoloured the glass was.
5. Are you at the point in your professional development you hoped to be right now?
No. Dreams have come true in parts and not in others. Never the less I am very proud of the footprint of my career and the things I have done. I have no regrets and I am happy with the challenges I face in my career every week.
6. Do you feel there are any steps missing in the career path for UK dance artists?
Oh man. The life of a British based dancer changes so frequently. You think you wanna dance but in fact you end up as an artistic social worker, a teacher, reformer of youth offenders, child minder. Before this community involvement focus came along it was all about minorities involvement and audience development. Next we will be using the arts and dance to solve health issues. I don’t know how the education and training establishments are supposed to keep abreast of what a professional dancer needs in the tool kit as they graduate. That is the reality.
As for the art, I’m not 100% convinced that the vocation education available is meeting the demands of the industry. Training needs to reflect the eclectic, culturally and stylistically diverse movement requirements of the choreographers at work.
7. What is your present interpretation of African Peoples Dance (APD)/Black Dance?
I think it has the potential to become a truly universal dance vocabulary - however today I think the definitions that are being allowed the oxygen of support, funding, and exposure are not wide or inclusive enough to the genre.
8. Is the APD / Black dance sector relevant to the overall British dance scene and why?
APD is a mirror of the social acceptance of some neat and tidy parts of cultural diversity. The form(s) are absolutely fundamental to the overall changing vocabulary of movement in the UK dance world and match the changing social integration of what it is to be British. The sector and the artists in it are ambassadors for progress and force debate. Yes, the APD sector is relevant.
9. What keeps you focused and motivated?
That’s easy. It’s that potent cocktail of frustration and realising potential. I have high expectations and low patience levels and I know so much more can be done in the UK for dance.
10. What advice or ‘words of wisdom’ could you offer to those people working in the APD / Black dance arena?
Stretch everyday - body and mind. Stay happy and cherish your achievements.
Jeanette has 18 years of dance experience as a choreographer, artistic director, performer and teacher, project manager and director. As a versatile performer she has worked with Irie! Dance Theatre, Bullies Ballerinas, and Phoenix Dance. Jeannette has also worked in physical theatre with the Charnock Company and musical theatre with Paul Henry and Stewart Arnold.
Jeannette is the former director of Hampshire Dance and Bracknell Forest Dance was also education manager at Adzido and is currently the education officer of Robert Hylton Urban Classicism and the former artistic director of The Dance Movement. Currently Jeannette edits Hotfoot Online and from September 2006 started work with Hextable Dance as Artistic Programme Manager.