Reflections on Artist as Entrepreneur intensive sessions

As a choreographer and artistic director of an independent dance company, it is not unusual for me to meet and engage with other artists, producers and presenters. What is rare is to do that on a peer-to-peer level, where everyone is encouraged to take risks, to share and question what we know, and to remain open to Other perspectives and experiences.

This was the invitation from the Artist as Entrepreneur programme of Surf The Wave, which have offered myself and JCD Assistant Producer Vicky Wilson an opportunity, not only to gain new skills, knowledge and contacts, but to take ownership and co-responsibility with others for the change we all want to see in the sector.

Throughout the sessions we were invited to unpick some of the terms we casually use in our work: excellence, success, touring, engagement, programming… It was very useful to interrogate these ideas in order to open up possibilities, new approaches to old problems. We were encouraged to think both radically and realistically, to envision incremental change within the existing structures and to think out of the box and put forward alternative models.

As an independent company based in Scotland, it was extremely valuable to hear about what other artists, producers and venues are successfully doing elsewhere in the UK. We felt inspired and invigorated by the ideas and examples of best practice shared, and they will no doubt inform our strategic and artistic thinking as we move forwards, hopefully making our practice richer, more inclusive, and more significant for our audiences.

Much like making a piece of work, the sessions required a high level of trust and investment from everyone in the room. There were light and difficult moments, and hope mixed with struggle. What I really appreciated is the opportunity to come together as a community and engage with each other beyond a transactional setting, challenging the usual power dynamics that determine our interactions and opening spaces for more creative and meaningful relationships between artists, producers and promoters.

The possibility to now take some of these relationships further with the support of seed bursaries and to get involved in the showcasing and legacy phases of the project over the next two years feel like an exciting opportunity to keep the dialogue and learning alive. We look forward to new encounters and conversations, and the challenge of bringing forward a more sustainable, diverse and confident dance ecology.

Joan Clevillé