Suck it up – Don’t Fuck it up

So I’ve been sucking up a lot of feelings recently about my job, mainly because I love my job, I’m a lucky fucker to get to do my job. I turn up, I work hard, I make things happen, my job is my identity blah, blah, blah. I make good work, it’s not for everyone but for those who like it, it makes a difference to them (they have told me). I am in a position, thanks to outstanding mentors, my producer Maddy and some wonderful supporters, friends & family, that I am (I think) a recognised dance artist, with good reviews, and lots more to say, with improvements to make, with potential, with ambition to make a difference, using dance theatre as my language. Navigating the dance industry, having not trained at a leading dance conservatoire, has meant relationships have taken longer to build, and I have had to make my own path and travel it alone, which is fine, suck it up (It seems to suit my working class, hard done by, chip on my dance shoulder vibe) But I carry that personally and never let it be present in my relationships, if anything I’m too smiley. I have always had a mantra ‘do not be reactionary’, however on Sunday night I found myself in A&E with chest pains a numb arm and a strong feeling that an impending heart attack would ruin everyone’s Christmas.
The diagnosis was actually anxiety. After a month of chest tightness, not feeling very present in social situations, or tanked up just to get through, and not being able to get through simple work tasks it seems the job I love has taken it’s toll. I kind of hoped it was my body that was poorly rather than my brain, and after a bit of a cry I started the process of training my brain to tell my body that I’m OK. Suck it up.
Feeling calmer the next day, I receive an email from a stakeholder (after a 5 month conversation period). They decided we did not have a close enough relationship yet to give me money. They have financially supported me in the past; I think they have just forgotten. Merry Christmas. Suck it up.
And I was going to suck it up but after my near death (imaginary) experience I thought I would highlight other moments this year when I did suck it up.
Being told that my show title’s will prevent me for being booked anywhere, especially rural touring, (we have now toured to 7 venues and have 7 booked next year, including a rural venue).
Being compared to other female artists in a negative way ‘I wasn’t convinced by the ‘Liz Aggiss’ style delivery you chose, though I get the device you were using’ (This is dangerous, it wasn’t my intention, I respect Liz Aggiss, I was performing ‘the self’ and I would like to know if any male choreographer finds themselves been given these comparisons by an AD).
‘I’m not sold on the concepts or imagery’ a prejudgment by a programmer before seeing any of my work live. (I understand it, but have issues on how this supports an artist) (Consequently they did eventually see the work, used their phone during, and didn’t like it. Fine)
After 3 unsuccessful funding opportunities from leading venues, where ‘place your brick’ or ‘stick your post-it -note’ or ‘get on the menu’ game-like structures are used to determine artist’s future’s, only to see the list of successful artist still lack equal representation in diversity, age and BAME projects. I hope I am not the only artists that thinks REALLY? Are we making the right decisions here? Should I suck this up in fear speaking out and potentially harming relationships?
There are more, they are depressing, scary and highlight how much work is still to be done in the dance world to find equal and fair workplace systems that offer diverse independent artists healthy working practices.
At the moment I get my salary from under 15k GFTA project funding. I am grateful to the support form ACE and the brilliant venues that do continue to support me (thank you). It’s not enough to live on and some months I have nothing. That’s not down to bad budgeting or planning, that’s being in limbo while you wait for a venue to contact you, before you can put in the next app. From my first example you can see the difficulties when this doesn’t work out.
I know I am fucking lucky to even be in this position. Not because I don’t deserve it, but because of the state of the arts. I expected it to be hard. I did my Degree, my Masters, my PGCE, as quickly as I could, so I could maintain a dance company and have been working on it relentlessly since then. I am 33 now and I have anxiety.
I know all relationships take work and I am working really hard on having a positive relationship with the arts and with the dance world (I still love you my darlings – I really do). I also believe that relationships work both ways and if one party’s needs aren’t being met, then the balance is off.
That balance needs to be restored, through open and honest conversation and the desire and determination to make it work.
I am taking a break for Christmas to reflect on my feelings and will be in touch when hopefully my thoughts are more concise and less reactionary. I usually send out a Christmas Greetings Card but can only imagine creating a unique ‘Yule Log’ right now.
We will be starting our new show in the New Year, Smack That (a conversation) about resilience and survival, working with women that have experienced domestic abuse in their lives.
Because it’s important,
So with trepidation, inspiration and the themes of resilience and survival, I look toward 2017 taking care with my dealings and sharing my feelings – and continuing to suck it up, so I don’t fuck it up.
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8 Replies to “Suck it up – Don’t Fuck it up”

  1. Dear Rhiannon, I can see you.
    I understand all of this, I’ve been swimming the same ocean: it does not matter where we are living, the Art World – unfortunately – sucks all over the globe 🙂
    Remember that I consider you one of the most gifted artist, one of most heartful coreographer. I congratulate on you.

    I will email you soon, (let’s say after christmas holidays) I have a nice idea which may interest you and some other people from your dance gang 🙂

    Please, keep up
    Be brave
    Take a break

    L O V E
    Giulia

    1. Thank you beautiful Giulia, I hope you are well. Yes be in touch after the new year it would be great to hear from you. Have a magical christmas xxx

  2. What a wonderful woman you are. You have articulated the flaws with such sincerity and truth.
    It’s not right.
    I don’t know how positive change can come about. However your honesty feels very relevant and like a wonderful starting point. Thank You!
    Best wishes for 2017. It certainty sounds like YOU will be doing an extraordinary amount for other people. I hope other people will do extraordinary things for you.
    Merry Christmas

    1. Thank you Lucy, that is really nice of you to reach out. It means a lot. I feel like I have take the control back (in a very small way) I hope you have a wonderful christmas. Do stay in touch. xxx

  3. My new year’s wish is to make more space to see more and more performances. If you have a mailing list for events etc, please do add me. Best wishes to you. Take care of yourself and have a restful seasonal break.

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