Dance experts warn that ignoring regions can hit work and funding

Nuala Calvi

Leading figures in the dance sector are warning that performers and companies are missing an increasing number of opportunities for work and funding because too many ignore the regions in favour of London.

Their concerns are being aired at Country Dancing?, the first conference organised to tackle the subject of rural dance. Held at Dillington House, Somerset, from May 25-27, it will attempt to address what regional dance agencies claim is a lack of recognition of the importance of their work by their city-based contemporaries and by critics.

Kate Castle, director of Dance South West, one of the conference’s organisers, said: “We’re seeing a huge shift, with more and more people wanting to return to the regions to work. We’ve had people steadily producing excellent work for a number of years now, but things which happen in inner cities are still thought of as more important. We’d like recognition from the sector that different ways of working are equally valuable.”

Alastair Spalding, chair of Dance UK, said the shift to distribution of funding through regional Arts Council England offices over the last two years meant there was now more opportunity for dancers to build their careers outside the capital. ACE is also encouraging dance companies based in London to consider whether it is the most appropriate place for them to be.

“Money has been distributed more equally around the country – it’s no longer the case that the majority of funding is going to London – and that’s really kicking in now,” said Spalding, who is also chief executive and artistic director at Sadler’s Wells. “There is the feeling that, if you’re willing to leave London, it’s better [in terms of getting funding]. You can either be one of the 80% of contemporary dance artists applying in London, or one of two people applying in a rural area.”

Chris Fogg, dance director of Take Art Dance in Somerset, who is chairing a panel discussion at the event, said agencies needed to do more to make people interested in a career in dance aware of the support networks now available to them in rural areas.

“We want to bring to their attention the large number of initiatives which different county agencies have set in place to offer the kind of support dancers need to build careers in the regions. This is part of a wider debate about how the arts as a whole are being made in rural communities across the country. Forty per cent of people now live in the countryside, far more than ten years ago, but dance has not been exploring this issue of rurality and its impact outside the cities in the way other art forms have.”

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