Special Projects

Women in Dance


This page offers links, thoughts, articles and documentation of practice and curated events that highlight the political, aesthetic and employment issues facing women choreographers working in Britain today. What are the qualities and practices that distinguish women’s practice from male driven work? What are the conditions are attached to this work? What are the practical problems that women choreographers and dancers face? Is there real equality in the dance field?

Documentation of Curated Events

Space for Ideas at The Point
Curated by Charlotte Vincent and Liz Aggiss
21 & 22 November 2009
Creation Space, The Point, Eastleigh

After seeing Double Vision and An Audience with Charlotte Vincent and Liz Aggiss at Southampton University, Director Gregory Nash invited Charlotte and Liz to lead a research / sharing / discussion weekend for established female artists at The Point, Eastleigh  on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 November 2009.

Using the Scripted Conversation from An Audience with Charlotte Vincent and Liz Aggiss as a starting point, the pair invited a group of female practitioners to talk about female led practice, text and visuality in performance, choreography, herstory, economy of practice, notions of beauty and confidence and what constitutes a mature approach to making work across the forms.

The group was invited to discuss how women practitioners may have preoccupations, interests and ideals of success that differ from our male counterparts, how women choose to work and in what contexts and how female artists voices are heard in the current cultural context. The weekend was used to share individual ideas, processes, thoughts and experiences.

The research weekend took place in The Point’s new purpose-built Creation Space, which features attached residential accommodation. Participants included a core sleepover/dinner group of:
Charlotte Vincent (choreographer/artistic director)
Liz Aggiss (choreographer/film maker/professor)
Jane Mason (Choreographer)
Ruth Ben Tovim (Dramaturg/Collaborative Artist)
Sue Maclaine (Signer/Performer/Writer)
Sacha Lee (Creative Producer)
Gaby Aggis (Dancer/Choreographer)

Plus a group of South East based practicing artists who came for a four hour Saturday afternoon session:
Jane Watson (University Winchester – Live Art and Performance/Curator Cornershop)
Catherine Church (Artistic Director, Platform4/theatre)
Carrie Whittaker (Director, Lila Dance)
Debbie Lee-Anthony (Dance Artist)
Abi Mortimer (Director, Lila Dance)
Detta Howe (Joint Director Mapdance/Senior Lecturer Chichester University)
Stella Subiah (Resident Choreographer for Sankalpam Dance Institute and Productions)
Vidya Thirunarayan (Freelance Dance Artist – South Asian dance)

The weekend was designed to be an opportunity to share stories and thoughts, methodologies and politics, to network and relax together, time to talk and time to discuss. There were no funding strings attached and no prescribed outcomes.

The weekend started with lunch on Saturday 21 November for the larger group, followed by drinks and a smaller core group having dinner Saturday evening and a Sunday morning session until 3pm. Catering and travel costs were supported by Vincent Dance Theatre.

Starting points for discussion were designed to give access to each other’s internal processes, to raise questions that stimulate discussion in order to find out more about how other people approach, analyse and develop their own practice. An opportunity to share thoughts and stories and political ideals.

Session One Sat 4.30-6pm
Why have you accepted this invitation?
What are the central questions and issues around women’s practice, context and confidence?
Is the central premise of a body as spectacle, framed in space, a ludicrous starting point for making work?
Are women celebrated for their female energy?

Session Two Sat 7.15pm – 10pm
How do you know how to start a process?
How do you start?
How do you know when to stop?
What is it like in your head when you plot and plan a piece of work /project?
Against what or who are you measuring your own success?
Do you have a career plan?
How do you remain comfortable in the choices you make as you mature?
What are your perceptions of the differences between male and female practice in your given field?
How to sell mature or middle aged work?

Session Three Sun 10am- 3.000pm
Members of the Core Group were invited to each bring three items that have been fundamental to the development of their own creativity and to share these with the group.

  • A piece of writing that is always somehow with you
  • An piece of music that has affected you deeply in some way
  • A photo/DVD/soundtrack of a piece of work that you have made that has become a landmark in your own practice

Feedback from the Weekend

I went with an open mind with no particular expectations except to get to meet other experienced artists. The event was thoroughly thought provoking and equally enjoyable. It gave me a useful insight into ideas and perspectives of other artists at different stages in their practice. Helped me reflect on my own practice and evaluate it. It was good to meet artists as ‘individuals’ and openly share thoughts in an open and trusting environment. Indeed it was a special opportunity to meet some experienced artists and exchange views in a flexible discussion framework It would be fantastic to start a regular sharing like this with a more ‘mature dancers collective. Hospitality was par excellence! Thank you!

Thank you for inviting us. The day was very enlightening…. very refreshing to have a room full of women talking about women (and men) from our perspective. It seems like that issue could be a little bit of a taboo- but the “set up” of the day seemed to make it ok to approach those issues with honesty and with confidence .It seemed like there was an equality in the room (despite some people talking much more than others) it still seemed as though there was always an open “invite” for anyone to chat- and that was encouraged by Liz and Charlotte. This is important for the perhaps younger/less experienced artists like ourselves. Fantastic that there were people there of many different backgrounds- both in life and in dance/arts- and women of all ages. The Lunch provided the “social scene” and provided opportunity for networking and “off the record”/non-professional connections. The scripted conversation on provided a lovely opener and “paved the way” for chat…. and the Free chat after that was necessary it seemed. However, we do feel that the chat went on a bit long without enough structure and consequently some members of the group “disappeared” to the more prominent figures – which was a shame. Perhaps if the conversation was a little more structured there might have been the opportunity to tackle issues – get advice, as oppose to just throw the idea round the group – to get more questions! What was most beneficial for us was that yesterday we performed at Movement 12 and Liz Aggiss was there and approached us following the performance. The day with her meant that we were able to talk about the performance from within a context – and she understood where we were coming from and was really encouraging. These connections are invaluable and therefore the day was also invaluable.

I really enjoyed the afternoon. It was refreshing to be in a room with no obvious agendas – no pitching for money, no funding bodies, no targets and crucially no groups of companies or same arts disciplines – so a mixture of people/ companies/individual practice – people who only practiced occasionally/ people who were overloaded with it and people who were at different stages of career – living – this felt really fresh. I would have liked it to be longer – I walked away with my mind buzzing with thoughts and anxieties and would have liked longer trying to express myself better than I felt I did and finding out much more about the others. I think we were just about getting there when we stopped. I found it challenging in all sorts of ways – it throws up loads of stuff when faced with such strong mixtures of women artists – and I am sure it did for lots us.

A sense of community. Placing of myself within a community. Knowing that discussions of this kind HAVE to be part of the practice. Most useful – Going round again and asking participants to speak again. The least successful aspect was not initially understanding the framing of the discussion. I think you have to be quite brave to be involved in something like this. It would be great to do it again.