sorry if

I see that the pasta maker Barilla is providing further evidence that Italy remains a bastion of conservative attitudes towards equal rights.

After declaring that Barilla would only show a ‘classic family’ on its packaging, Guido Barilla – the head of Barilla pasta – issued the following apology:

I apologise if my words generated misunderstandings or arguments, or if they offended the sensibilities of some people.

This is the type of statement that now seems to pass for an apology. I am sorry if [insert words here that allude to the hyper-sensitivity of those who have genuinely been offended]. This is not an apology as it takes no responsibility for the situation. When someone says, “I’m sorry if …”, it’s in the same ball park as someone saying “I’m not racist, but … ”

An apology from Barilla – if they were to take responsibility for their actions and words – would go something like:

Barilla is sorry for the statements we made about only representing classic families on our packaging. We understand that by stating this we were explicitly undermining the dignity and human rights of gay people around the world. As an indication of how important human rights are to our ethos as a company we will immediately include representations of all kinds of families on our pasta packaging. We sincerely apologise for out actions and take full responsibility for the damage they have caused.

Advertisements

what did you do

Last week I had a public discussion with Michael Pinchbeck about dramaturgy and choreography as part of The Place’s Summer House Socials. Michael and I had a good time swapping reading and writing beforehand (although it mostly went downstream to me), and the day after Michael sent this:

I would have also told a story about how the French film director Godard went to the cinema with a friend and when they came out the friend said ‘That was terrible’ to which Godard replied ‘What did you do to make it better?’ I think there is something in this in terms of the dramaturge’s role. We are there to make it better.

This question of responsibility when watching dance and performance is fundamental.

teaching choreography

Last Friday (6 September) I attended a roundtable discussion at Independent Dance in London called What is it to teach choreography?

The session was led by ID’s Kirsty Alexander and there was a good group of people there (perhaps 25+). Kirsty described a basic tension between the teaching of choreographic practice forms (and how these forms might be unintentionally developed by the restrictions, tasks and activities placed on students) and allowing forms of choreographic practice (and outcomes) to emerge. She also described a similar tension between students being socialised into culture versus creating a space for culture(s) to emerge.

My basic concern as someone who is responsible for leading choreography modules is to find ways to nurture and support the curiosity and interest of the students I work with. In many respects, this is about first helping them identify what their interests are, and then trying to get out of the way so that they can pursue them. This is similar to what – on Friday – was called the Art School mentality of allowing interest to be supported rather than placing aesthetic, formal, cultural, social constraints, etc. (however well-meaning, or however unintentional) on the kind of work that students should make.

Such an approach leaves a great deal of responsibility with students to drill down into their own interests so they can develop and find processes that best suit their interests. This is a long way from cookie-cutter choreography lessons where students are provided with basic choreographic tools that they somehow must bend to their own work and experiences.

I’m excited about being back in the studio with students this coming academic year. To find a way to provoke (and not tell), and to support the inevitable (and remarkable) diversity in their interests, processes and outcomes.

provoking not telling

A couple of weeks ago I went and listened to Lost Dog’s Ben Duke talk to Told By An Idiot’s Paul Hunter at The Place. The discussion was about keeping things alive in performance.

Hunter said (among other things) that working with performers is about provoking not telling[1]. He also said that “restrictions create spontaneity”, and described how important it is to leave scenes unfinished (and to rehearse with gaps).

Best of all: “the time it takes to discuss not doing something always takes longer than trying it out”.

It was a good night.


  1. This is precisely the same in teaching.  ↩