As has become a trend within the ever expanding arts market, the LESS time you have spent practicing as an industry professional, the MORE likely it is that you won’t be allowed a look in. The contemporary dance sector provides no exception, and MORE or LESS, makes no apologies. MORE often is it becoming a common scene, where dance events are not only attended, but also choreographed, performed and curated by a spread of patrons which is significantly bias to an older demographic. Bar a pitiful handful of overly ambitious students (who awkwardly attempt to look as though they are not out of place), the generation of young up and coming dance artists have a LESS than overwhelming presence.
The elephant tramples the room enquiring over the MORE or LESS non-existent last five to ten years of dance graduates. Is it that LESS opportunity to pierce the professional sector exists for these young artists? Perhaps, but then look for example, at the recent partnership between Dancehouse and Deakin University, not to mention the ongoing relations with the VCA. Perhaps then, it is the LESS than receptive welcome received by the radical and challenging ideas of the next generation. Yes, it is important to acknowledge the history and culture on which this industry has been grounded, but now, MORE than ever, it is critical to welcome change and expansion with anticipation, rather than angst. And, let’s be blunt; Post-Modern dance has been dwelling on LESS for MORE than long enough.
Understandably, the established practitioners who dominate the sector and whose work we celebrate (look at the ‘Dancehouse 20th Anniversary’ celebrations for example), should be LESS than enthused to embrace these intruders with open arms. Just look at the figures from recent studies, such as the Australia Council’s ‘Don’t Give Up Your Day Job’ enquiry, which found that even artists who are considered ‘professional’, earn on average LESS than $7300 per annum from their creative practices, with two-thirds of artists holding multiple jobs to support themselves. This is enough for any current practitioner to want to hold off change for as long as possible.
However, the limited scope for the developing artist to get that foot in the door is perhaps not only hindering the nourishment of new ideas in dance, but also preventing the ability for dance to reach broader audiences. This notion is beginning to be explored by recently developed initiatives such as the 1835 Creative’s ‘Homemade Festival’ for debuting artists and the controversial ‘Future Future’ publication, both of which are seeing graduating artists and dance-makers forcing their ideas into the public eye of the dance sector.
In order for a MORE even spread of artist diversity within the practicing realm, LESS time needs to be spent attributing dances and dance-makers past, and MORE energy focused on redefining and creating new practices. Steve Paxton’s ‘Satisfyin’ Lover’ was 45 years ago, the same year of the Australian Referendum. Indigenous politics have seen radical advancements since, surely the time has come for the dance industry to follow suit? This is where the up-and-coming generation of artists is vital; in recruiting MORE bums on seats, the industry itself needs to promote MORE diversity of presenter. It is the fresh faces of the industry who push the boundaries of practices past, and by not only providing them opportunity, but rather encouraging and supporting their ideas, that the current industry could become far MORE all-encompassing.
Perhaps for change and development to occur, LESS time can be spent defending the past, and MORE energy focused on embracing change. Surely this could lead to MORE breadth and richness of practitioner and audience alike, for if LESS truly was MORE, dance would be but a soloist in an empty room.