Political Prancing Gets A C&D

Highlights of an article by Shirley Dent, is the Communications Director for the Institute of Ideas., the organization behind the Battle of Ideas happening in London this weekend.

As Brucie and co hit our screens again this autumn with family favourite Strictly Come Dancing, just watch your tippy-toes don’t get trampled on by the stampede of policy pundits rushing to grab a piece of the sequin-flashing action.

…Many of the [Dance] manifesto’s aims are laudable and many, quite frankly, suck – suck of political opportunism, dumbing down and, worst, a patronising ‘good enough’ attitude to art. What I wanted – what dance as art needs, what art needs full stop – is a no holds barred defence of excellence, endeavour and risk. And the thing about those three pillars of great art is that they aren’t easy-come, easy-go, accessible-to-everyone, all-things-to-all-men platitudes…

…The Manifesto goes from the sublime to the ridiculous when it claims dance ‘is truly multicultural, can unify communities, and is open to all ages and abilities’ as well as, allegedly, being able to build healthy communities and bring together people of different ethnic backgrounds, ages, religions and mental and physical abilities. Oh and don’t forget facilitating intercultural dialogue, regeneration and social integration. Let’s not mince words – this is codswallop.

Skipping the light fandango is no more going to alleviate poverty in Tower Hamlets than me shutting my eyes tight, spinning on the spot and saying ‘I really, really wish the world was a better place’.

The bitter irony for both the arts and politics is that great art left alone to be great art has society at its heart; it offers something to society that nothing else can…the Dance Manifesto seems to lack the guts to defend the excellence of these artists in and of themselves. The elephant in the amphitheatre is ‘elitism’ and the fear of being accused of such: if it’s not accessible and do-able by everyone then it’s a non-starter. We seem to have totally lost our bearings as to what art is and why it matters.

Just because you can bop a bit doesn’t make you a ballerina. You need to have talent and you need to absolutely strive for it: there is a reason why the technique of classical dance has lasted so long, is so demanding and is still seen as a pinnacle that dancers will break and strain their bodies for. Such dedication and belief crashes through cultural pigeonholes.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe that great art and a great society is built by each according to his ability – have we become so shallow and self-obsessed that we can’t appreciate the best art unless we are at the centre of it?

The full text is here and well worth a read.

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