Challenged and Acting

Feature in Issue 5-1 | Spring 1993

In a region which has the strongest infrastructure outside of London for dance and drama, it may be easy to overlook the challenging work being undertaken by the mime, physical theatre and new circus practitioners in Yorkshire and Humberside.

Slowly but surely these people are beginning to make an impact on budgets within Yorkshire and Humberside Arts (not only dance and mime, but also drama, performing arts and combined arts), and on dance organisations who receive annual or franchise funding.

A small but significant breakthrough came in April 1992 when Mimika Theatre became one of the five dance and mime franchise clients.

Although the numerous dance worker/animateur posts no longer include mime (Rowan Tolley's post as mime animateur came to an end prematurely due to massive over spends in one of the key partner local authorities), such work has been promoted through their posts and project budgets, and is actively encouraged by Yorkshire and Humberside Arts. Many of the dance animateurs are also involved in advising on programming of venues and it is interesting to note that all the key dance venues programme some (perhaps not enough) mime, physical theatre and new circus work. The new Yorkshire and Humberside Arts touring strategy will facilitate and encourage the broadening of a venues programme and enable co-commissioning of new work.

Various dance and mime schemes exist to encourage and promote new work. The new work commission enables franchise clients to bring in an outside director/choreographer, and this year for the first time project companies can also apply for this award to create their own work rather than having to bring in an outsider. A scheme runs for young people who want to bring in any kind of professional artist to enhance their work – mime, musician, video crew, etc. The regional dance and mime magazine – Dancescene – and the regions arts magazine – Artscene – always feature some mime/physical theatre. The project funding in 1992 was spent predominately (75%) on originating artists (all mime/physical theatre based), creating and premiering work in the Yorkshire and Humberside region, the rest on education and community projects (25%). This shows a significant shift in the last four years, when only 33% was spent on originating artists. In 1993/94 a new scheme will come into existence – New Beginnings – which provides a chance for new devisers/choreographers to apply for an award aimed at nurturing, in a safe environment, new talent.

Project funding will always be in great demand (about six times greater than the amount available on average) which means that many people are going to be disappointed. A clear development plan helps to make some of the decisions, but it is never easy. At a time when local authority funding is being reduced, and when overall increases to the regional arts board are only 2%, clearly a strategy has to be devised which protects the infrastructure. One could say that the Yorkshire and Humberside region is a victim of its own success – excellent work is created, and clients move from project to annual or franchise status, taking the funding with them and leaving less for new artists.

With regards to professional training, although it is a small sum, from April 1993 there will once again be a training budget to allow dance and mime workers and artists to undertake personal development. The Yorkshire Dance Centre has been specifically grant-aided to coordinate training for dance animateurs and freelance workers in the Yorkshire and Humberside region. To-date, sessions have been organised with a number of artists. Further classes (including professional level classes) on a regular basis in a wide range of styles happen through Jabadao, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Yorkshire Dance Centre, Humberside Dance Agency, Theatre In The Mill, The Leadmill, and others. Still on the theme of professional development, a new system introduced to encourage more show reports is beginning to work. These are not only sent to the company but report writers are being encouraged to meet up with companies to discuss the written assessment and to be ‘attached to a particular company to follow through and discuss developments’.

Yorkshire and Humberside Arts coordinates regular but infrequent forums for practitioners in mime, physical theatre and new circus to share ideas and discuss policy. The next meeting is set for Tuesday 20 April at 3pm at Yorkshire and Humberside Arts. For further details or information on any of the above schemes outlined, please contact: Mileva Drljaca, Dance and Mime Officer, Yorkshire and Humberside Arts.

Referenced Artists

This article in the magazine

Issue 5-1
p. 13