As the clock passes midnight, and the ‘creative night burst’ begins, I sit here and ponder the future of the company I wish to begin. I ask myself ‘what should the company be?’, ‘how can I show who really I am and what I represent?’ and “should I be more like this, or like that?’. Working over the years, I have gained some knowledge of the scene and come across many different companies, and I see many similarities within them that would make me think twice if I were to replicate them. Yet still, they are successful, funded and popular companies.
I see a lot of companies...A LOT, of companies who are producing incredibly sub-standard work yet are continually touring and well-funded throughout the year. And choreographers, who make European circuits creating similar looking work in each establishment. Alongside this, applying for funding seems to be a genuine art form in itself, with a seemingly endless line of ‘flaming hoops’ that one must jump through in order to even be put into consideration of receiving any support, but that is a separate problem in itself. However, what is clear to see, is that the word ‘commercial’ has most definitely seeped into the contemporary world.
I don’t mean ‘commercial dance’, the term used for more television-based media, of which I am also a fan of. I mean ‘commercial contemporary dance’. This trend of branding yourself and your work with an esoteric name, then charging unbelievable amounts of money for (sometimes) unoriginal workshops or performances. Facebook has without a doubt been a catalyst for the rise in this commercial wave. Have artist pages, Instagram videos of rehearsals, and companies participating in the newest viral trend (think Mannequin Challenge) all in some way contributed to a ‘cheapening’ of the work? It’s hard to say. But we’re working in the contemporary dance field. Working (hopefully) with the concept that what we are producing is original and new, and is ideally pushing the boundaries of where art can go. We should be reflecting on the world around us because we are the voice of this generation and no one else ever will be. It’s just us. And settling for being ‘a part of the machine’ should be called out for the injustice to this generation that it is.
Perhaps here, I should state, that of course, this is all a subjective opinion. There are those that would say I couldn’t be further from the truth. However, I think it is important to voice this opinion. I should be honest with myself. Even within the ethos of ‘helping the dance community grow together’, I still feel we should call bullshit on companies that concentrate more on their ‘social media presence’ rather than creating actual new and creative work! I’m tired of seeing artists and companies pretend to be things that they are not. Companies who work on such introspective subject matter, ironically in an effort to keep up with the conceptual fashion around them, seem to be on a constant cycle of invagination....(oish, did I seriously just write ‘constant cycle of invagination’) It may sound like bitterness or negativity, however harsh truth can sometimes sound similar.
I have often questioned my opinions on these matters, but even more so as I start to create my own work. I too can humbly say that I have been baited-in by the system and, in maybe a hypocritical manner, admit that I begin to search for my own branding. Creating this facebook page for the company was intended to be a hub for my ideas and communication, but I now realise that I limit myself and depend too much on it. I have fallen foul to some of the vices of creating an internet presence. I look back and cringe at my older posts where I would use the word ‘we’ in place of ‘I’ in order to give the illusion that I was actually a well structured team, rather than just a lone individual. Around the same time I created this page, I signed up, cancelled, signed up again and cancelled again a Twitter page that would have been dedicated to this company. I can’t deny that the allure of grand scale publicity is a difficult enticement to negate. And of course saying this, a great idea sitting silently on the internet will never help anyone. I don’t reject the importance of visibility, I just still wish to strive to find a more subtle balance of ‘marketing’ and authenticity.
In saying all of this, I can’t deny that there have been some positive attributes to the more ‘business minded’ style of working. Greater exposure is of course always leading to more people becoming interested in new artists. And for struggling artists, sometimes there is another type of ‘weighing up’ that needs to be done, which balances the idea of staying true to yourself, against the notion of getting paid and finding work or not. Obviously, not every piece is a masterpiece, and the idea of being paid for creating ‘easy work’ can be attractive. However, this should be seen as a ‘perk’ of the art, and not the bloody main goal! But there is still no denying, the correlation between facebook page interactions (likes, shares etc) and the interest in the company.
In essence, I don’t think there are correct answers to these questions (as well as there being a part of my brain telling me to ‘wait till the morning to post this...’cos you talking out yo’ ass!) It’s my opinion, which is worth as much as people are willing to give, that we shouldn’t worry too much on being a ‘well rounded, successful, business-minded, completely professional and inoffensive entity’, and worry more on simply being ourselves and creating work from that part deep within us that is still untouched from the saturated, over-stimulated exterior world that we live in.
Make ‘art from the soul’, not ‘art to be sold’.