For women, equality through dance

For women, equality through dance

In an interview with Sunday Herald, multi-award winning choreographer Tamsin Fitzgerald from the UK spoke passionately about why women matter in dance, why artistes ought to have a political voice, and why she does not mind being called a feminist, among other things. Excerpts:

The themes that ‘Run’ tackles seem to be resonating greatly with the current political climate in the world. Do you feel a bit clairvoyant?

‘Run’ was the result of us trying to sort out inequality...the three pieces are different in thought and yet interlinked by their texture. The connecting link is about the darker side of humanity and how easily we slip to that side. The pieces were created just after Brexit and the arrival of Trump. There is a real sense of anxiety in our world today...and as artistes, we cannot be performing only to entertain; we have a duty to inform. It is imperative that artistes have a political voice. And this is exactly what ‘Run’ reflects upon.

Why do you think there is a dearth of women choreographers?

One day, over a chat with my company’s dancers, we listed nearly 40 male choreographers, but could name only six or seven female choreographers. This is brutal! Historically too, women have been inhibited by cultures, patriarchy and a wariness about leadership. This is a glass ceiling that will take some breaking. Women choreographers don’t get the same level of opportunity as men and struggle to go up to the next level.

Tell us about Bench, your initiative for women choreographers.

The Bench was started because when I see a problem, I can’t sit still till I do something about it. Many were talking about the lack of women choreographers but not much was being done about it. With Bench, we realised that it was not as if enough women were not creating work, but they were not being catapulted into the big league. Bench gives them that opportunity. The name ‘Bench’ was to indicate that women ought to ‘get off the bench’ and get working. And what was started as a small project, now offers mentorship and training on an international platform. It is a really exciting time for us — to see it bringing in real, tangible change.

Today, words like feminism and gender equality are treated like labels to be worn (and removed). Being such a vociferous artistic voice, where do you stand on these issues?

Feminism and gender equality are not labels — they are living, breathing issues. I believe in an equal society and by that I mean a society where men and women both get equal access and equal opportunity. If this makes me a feminist, so be it. Women have a lot to say and they should be given every chance to say what they want, feel and need.

Why did you choose to choreograph and not dance yourself? What are your biggest influences?

After my training, I accidentally got into choreography. I was not sure what to do after graduating and so I ran some dance classes and then one thing led to another. I then started teaching breakdancing at schools. That was when I began working with an all-male group. Most of these boys played basketball and it took some convincing for them to take dance seriously. They were really talented and I then set up a group. That was how the 2Faced Dance Company started. My biggest influence has been the work of the Australian dance theatre. 

What has been the response in India to ‘Run’?

Incredible. We were a little nervous initially as we were under the impression that the audience would be more tuned into commercial rather than contemporary dancing, but the performances were sold out and a whole range of people appreciated it. It is all a bit overwhelming, but in a good way.

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