50:50 Dance Programming – is it time for quotas in dance?

I have been thinking of instances where experiences have been rendered invisible. Not by those who embody and experience them – they are to them, very visible…life-alteringly daily, hourly, visible. The vanishing of experience (which leads to the absences key to this discussion about equality for all genders within the dance sector), seems to happen when people witness or relate to one another in systems ranging from the intimate to the institutional.

To be asked to be on a panel such as this, often asks me to represent myself and to some extent others, as best I can. This stirs up all my subjectivities and they settle eternally into this identity or that identity. I think it’s worth acknowledging that there is a tension between representing your own identity, wanting to and needing to… and the exposure that often accompanies it. I wonder how much institutions organising panels are aware that we hold these collisions of identities, responsibilities and exposures when we speak?

Today, I feel comfortable stating my identities and experiences because these are all things which have  informed my experiences and thinking around gender equality. If I am here to represent, this is what I am representing.

To state my subjective positions as best I can, I am a pansexual cis-woman of colour, engaged to a cis-white man, living with a long term invisible disability. I am a rape, sexual assault and emotional abuse survivor. I am educated to Masters level and I am middle class. I am a Capricorn. 

I’d like to add to this discussion by reading statements from the future; as if we have already untangled a few tensions. I do this to carve out the landscape I am most interested in speaking within tonight.

In the future, current articulations of gender are ancient history  – without denying experience for it is a given that all have been heard and respected and included.

How might we get there?

In the future, instead of the reactionary and human instinct to defend territories, it has been acknowledged that bodies can frequently become battlegrounds; under represented, intersectional, liminal, hidden bodies in particular. These battling bodies do not need to undertake the labour of describing the fight, or if we do, then it is our choice, it is supported and we can say no at any time.

How might we get there?

In the future, discussions around gender representation are navigated responsibly and happen as frequently in the small spaces of heads on pillows and late night dancing, as on panels such as these.

How might we get there?

In the future, 50:50 ideologies fade to dust because they are too narrow, too binary, and mistake equality for equity or justice. To paraphrase political activist Angela Davis, equality is not to be understood as achieving status or parity with white, able bodied, cis-men because that status is contingent on the oppression of other peoples. In the future, everyone has transformed the meaning of patriarchy so that it no longer operates by domination. This has been done without loss of men or manhood.

How might we get there?

In the future, no one ever assumes that the most visible part of your identity is to be called upon to produce something of value to an institution while the bearer is isolated. That is tokenism. We cultivate and tend to all our parts, particularity the invisible parts; the parts that perhaps are not aesthetically expressed or signified because of an an empowered choice to refuse, or otherwise.

How might we get there?

In the future, women – which includes trans women – all women; women whose identities interlock with other socio-political and economic identities are believed. Women are believed. Women are believed. Women are believed. Women are believed.

How might we get there?


Originally written for 50:50 Dance Programming – is it time for quotas in dance? panel discussion hosted by South East Dance, 5th March 2019, Brighton Dome

Panel chaired by Cath James

Other panelists:

Amy Bell

Rob Jones

Laura McDermott

Es Morgan

Charlotte Vincent

Watch the video stream of the discussion here: https://www.facebook.com/SEDanceUK/videos/394559357759472/

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