Third Estate Music and Dance

Feature in Issue 4-4 | Winter 1992

‘What is the Third Estate? Everything. What has it been until now? Nothing. What does it demand? To be something.’ So said the clergyman Emmanuel Sayres during the French Revolution in 1789. His pamphlet is the source for the name of this company. Founded and based in Manchester by Ruth Jones in March 1990, Third Estate has extensively toured the North West region, as well as reaching out to other areas of Britain.

Formed by drawing together what appeared to be the only three professional dancers hanging about Manchester and a sprinkling of musicians, Third Estate productions (Burning Issue, The Final Plug, and Deep Six – currently touring) combine music, dance, set and slides and film. Performances have been made at The Royal Festival Hall and, as part of the ‘Spring Loaded’ season, The Place in London. The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester has seen a production, so have public bars: the Dry 201 performance actually getting a review in Uptown. In fact, one of the policies of Third Estate is to actively pursue all venues – even those popular with the public which would not ordinarily promote live music and dance.

Sometimes this policy to take dance ‘to the people’ using alternative spaces has nearly got the better of the performers. The Manchester Craft Centre is a good example. The designated area within which to dance was no bigger than the average living room rug!

This determination and spirit has led to media coverage including appearances on Granada and Scottish Television, plus various mentions in national newspapers.

Third Estate is a registered limited co-op and originally only received funding from the North West Arts Board. These funds just allowed the company to survive – but they could not have done so without business sponsorship. Usually, due to shortage of cash, imaginative planning to create costumes and props had led successful approaches to companies such as Dr. Martens, Reebok, Akai, Buxton Mineral Water, and Miss Selfridge. Special affection, though, goes to Salford Arts and Leisure who have supported the company with free rehearsal space in the Phoenix Theatre in Salford for the last two years.

Today, thanks mainly to a major grant from The Arts Council's National Dance Agency funds, the North West Arts Board, and the Cheshire Dance Workshop, the next production is being planned – and the dancers finally getting paid respectable wages. They have been commissioned to create their new work Wall to Wall and premiere it in Winsford, home of the Cheshire Dance Workshop. This will happen in February 1993.

With a reputation for strong publicity on a shoestring, achieved ingeniously by having underwater photographs taken in a local swimming pool for the posters for Deep Six, exhilarating performances, and the constant striving for business support for projects, Third Estate can only keep going from strength to strength. Long may they do so and may they soon achieve what they demand – to be something.

Referenced Artists

This article in the magazine

Issue 4-4
p. 13