Needless to say, the effects of March’s funding cuts have been felt by all. Like many, I was shocked to see the long list of organisations which would bear the brunt of the slash in funds. However, very few statistics have really made me realise the difficulties dance companies are facing as much as the jaw-dropping news that Northern Ballet could be forced to make a quarter of its dancers redundant unless some serious funds are raised. For those of you who are not aware,‘serious funds’ equates to the grand sum of £800,000.
Of course, the word ‘redundant’ is by no means an accurate description, as First Soloist Hannah Bateman states; all forty of these dancers are crucial to this company’s development and success. ‘Northern Ballet needs a full compliment of dancers so that we can continue to produce the highest standard of work that will inspire our audiences across the country’ (source).To put this into greater perspective, not only could Northern Ballet lose a quarter of their company, but as Mark Skipper, the company’s chief executive explains, the north could also lose a quarter of their classical dancers (source). Now, I’m well aware that everybody is feeling the pinch in this difficult economic climate, but would this be allowed in any other industry?
Another reason this could be seen as a great big smack in the face to Northern Ballet is the level of success they have reached. Their newly-created work, Cleopatra, made £1.2 million in box offices earlier this year. Surely this is the best response to those who would suggest that the arts are fair game in times of cutbacks. It’s clearly evident from this figure that a good proportion of the population would miss seeing professional performances of this standard. And it’s indisputable that being forced to cut a quarter of dancers would drastically alter the pieces a company could put on. Would a hospital, or office, or bank run as smoothly without a quarter of the workforce? Like with arts organisations nationwide, this logic doesn’t just refer to performances, but the educational projects that countless people benefit from in the brand new purpose-built building Northern Ballet now reside in.
Not only is this a sickening blow to the dancers, but to what the company represents overall. Northern Ballet was the first English ballet company to have a permanent base outside of London. To me, this represents the start of something wonderful: acknowledging that our arts landscape needs to be more far-reaching than the West End, and the recognition that dance is needed, and more importantly wanted, across the UK. If this company fails to find support, what does this say?
However, hopefully all is not lost. And actually, as dire a situation as this may seem, I think I can see the silver lining of this great big rain cloud. Northern Ballet have launched a ‘Sponsor a Dancer’ campaign. You can decide which dancer you would like to support and how much you would like to contribute, just by paying their website a visit. So, dig deep, and let’s see if Joe Public can show a certain Culture Secretary that we really value dance and don’t wish to compromise the future of our dance companies.
For further details, please visit northernballet.com/?q=sponsor-a-dancer/campaign