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British ballet dancers scrutinise plans to diversify scene

CONTROVERSY: Senior ballet executives feel that they may have to drop productions such as Romeo and Juliet and The Nutcracker as they tend to often attract white middle class audiences only

PLANS TO diversify the creative arts scene have come under intense criticism from leading ballet dancers, with one labeling the idea as being “the deathbed of true creativity.”

The row comes after an announcement made earlier this year from Arts Council England stating that those within the arts scene such as theatre professionals, dance companies and other arts based organisations should prove their ‘relevance’ through a reflection of the diversity to be found in modern society when applying for funding.

“Relevance is becoming the new litmus test. It will no longer be enough to produce high-quality work,” said Simon Mellor, deputy chief executive for arts and culture. While such a stance has come as welcome news to organisations such as Ballet Black – a professional dance company for international dancers of black and Asian descent - it has been viewed by other more established artists and performers as a threat to their artistic freedom.

Speaking to Dancing Times, Gavin McGaig, a leading dancer for the Northern Ballet touring company, said: “Attending the theatre can’t always be about being challenged. Let the talented artists create, regardless of gender, race, religion or age. Over regulation in these areas are the birthplace of mediocrity and the deathbed of true creativity.”

One leading ballet dancer told the Sunday Telegraph: “This idea has been dreamt up by people who simply don’t understand reality. They mean well, but they’ll end up putting us out of business. And it’s nearly too late to stop them.”

Senior ballet executives feel that they may have to drop productions such as Romeo and Juliet and The Nutcracker as they tend to often attract white middle class audiences only. However, Mr Mellor is still adamant that diversification in the creative industries is the way forward.

“We are not suggesting that the principle of ‘relevance’ should apply to individual works of art. But we do think it is reasonable to expect organisations that receive public funding to face their communities and their partners in ways that they value. And supporting quality – whether that is a reimagination of Giselle by Akram Khan, a brand new work by Cathy Marston or a classic staging of The Nutcracker – will be at the heart of what we invest in the future, as it is now.”

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