They are four and they are certainly graceful, although they’d rather call themselves Gracefools. Kate Cox, Sofia Edstrand, Rachel Fullegar and Rebecca Holmberg are the directors, choreographers, performers, producers, public relations, social media coordinators, finance department, marketing specialists and event planners for Gracefool Collective. They are also a relevant bunch of clever entrepreneurs artists. Oh! And all of them are females, conditio sine qua non to be part of this series called ‘Dancing Femmes’.
I had the pleasure to share a Tupperware of pasta and some carrot sticks & hummus with them in their lunch break, well… I watched them eating it… part of the beauty of being freelance artists is about having to keep an extremely measured track of resources, therefore every carrot stick counts!
They are currently rehearsing and fund raising for their latest piece ‘This really is too much’, which is soon to see the light again at the prestigious but extremely expensive Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Consequently every minute with them is golden, well for that previous reason and for their powerful perspective on the world of dance and the dancing world.
Anna Cabré. – Is the arts world sexist?
Gracefool Collective. – The arts world is part of the big world and the big world in general is sexist.
In dance specifically there is an imbalance because it’s dominated by women, in part because of stigmas around men and dance. For instance in our year group there was 25% of man if not less, but afterwards while looking at audition notices there´ll be as many for men as for female if not more. That means that statistically once they form a career there is less competition for them, that’s just a fact, so it’s easier for them to get experienced and therefore to develop.
Anna Cabré. – Considering then that men are a minority in the dance industry, how come that the top jobs in choreography and dance leadership are occupied mostly by males?
Gracefool Collective. – It’s a part of socialization that men are taught to believe at very young ages that they should be reaching for the top success and that they will make it, and women are taught to believe that they should cut their expectations. As a consequence of that, men are more likely to be offered a role or a job on their potential and women on their experience. Therefore there’s a disparity between hiring a man with the intention of moulding him, whereas women really have to prove their worth. And you can’t prove yourself unless you are given an opportunity to do so, so it is this kind of vicious cycle.
Anna Cabré. – Do you consider the fact of being ‘potential mums’ as an element of disadvantage towards young female choreographers and performers?
Gracefool Collective. – Sometimes it might just play at the back of people minds, it’s not that they are not choosing the woman because she is going to have a family. But the fact that she might at some point choose her family over her career is part of the association of women as weaker. On the contrary a man would be able to carry on and have a family because the woman is going to look after the kids.
Also there is no childcare or support within dance, it´s a very precarious world where you don’t get sick pay, maternity leave, pension…any of the resources that would secure your career while or after having a baby. This lack of support definitely leads to there being less women in leadership roles in dance because you need the experience to reach those positions, thereby more men end up in those positions because they have the chance to gather that experience.
Anna Cabré. – Does that make you wonder if you will have to choose between family and career?
We have talked about it loads in terms of, if we are still working collectively, what could we do about that; for example starting a dancer maternity fund system because something needs to be done to support women to be able to keep on working.
Part of it comes from the fact that men are not expected to take an equal share. So it’s part of a bigger question of how we talk about paternity as well as equality in terms of splitting the labour that childcare is. However it’s not all about gender roles, but also about the fact that there’s no money in dance. It is such a shitty industry for getting paid that it seems quite unlikely making a choice just because you couldn´t support a child. We can barely support ourselves on this wage… how could we even support a family…?
Anna Cabré. – The work you create is feminist activism in the shape of comic dance theatre. Do you feel that feminism needs to be treated with humour in order to make it palatable for the general public?
Gracefool Collective. – There’s a real important place for anger but it’s not always useful in terms of getting someone on your side, on the contrary they just feel preached to or shouted at. Particularly regarding the history of feminism there is a stereotype of an angry bra burning feminist, which taints the word ‘feminism’ as still slightly dirty. It kind of holds this idea of hairy, angry, lesbian women that burn bras and hate men, which is a ridiculous stereotype that a lot of people still associate with the term.
We feel angry, very angry, which is why we made ‘This really is too much’. It is just that we enjoy laughing at it at the same time. There is also something about taking people off-guard with humour, luring them in for then being able to talk about that angry stuff. There’s a really powerful, beautiful place for anger but maybe having it contrasted with other things has more of an impact. Otherwise two hours of just anger makes anybody become desensitized to it.
Not just astute, witty and feminist, Gracefool Collective also takes politics very seriously. The collective runs in a truly flat structure, a non hierarchical system coherent with their view of a better balanced world.
Joining the lasts carrot sticks while shouting under the motto ‘All for one and one for all’ the Gracefool musketeers need to go back to work – The Fringe is awaiting them and soon after, the world.
Dancing Femmes is a series that wishes to explore the views of performing artists that happen to be born in a female body. Dancing Femmes focuses on how being female can affect your career.
Dancing Femmes portrays a spectrum of women´s experiences , from the newest to the veterans. Getting to know their work, their ideas, their aspirations, their struggles, their emotions… as a woman.
My name is Anna and I am from a beautiful town in the coast of Barcelona, where I was born 29 years ago. From a young age I was captivated by the performing arts, which took me to start a career as a dancer in the ‘Institut del Teatre’, the conservatoire in Barcelona. After a few years of intensive training there I decided to give my life a twist, so I enrolled university to study a degree in journalism. However, all the way through it there was a crucial element missing in my life; dance was still a vivid creature shaking my insides. So I started back and I was accepted in the Northern School of Contemporary Dance (Leeds) to undertake a dance degree.
Writing for au-di-tions.com is therefore a great challenge that allows me combining my two professions.
I hope you enjoy my writing! Feedback is always more than welcome!