Dance and drama classes reflect ‘white supremacy’, leading conservatoire claims

Dancers, dramatists, and even circus performers are part of  a “white supremacist” system, a leading UK conservatoire has claimed.

“Power is held by white people” at the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama (CDD), the institution has said, and this “white supremacist” structure must be “dismantled”.

This is according to documents setting out methods to decolonise the “white-dominated” CDD subjects, which span disciplines including dance, drama, and skills for circus performers.

Documents state that subjects, taught by “mostly white staff” with “mostly white faces in their classroom”, should be reviewed on an annual basis to assess the content of courses.

This majority has been asked to help the process, with protocols setting out “how white people… can be better allies and use their inherent privilege to dismantle persistent white supremacist structures in the Conservatoire”.

Documents state that white people have “privileges that their whiteness has imbued” and “inherent complicity” within supremacist systems, which include the UK, US, and “other European or European settler nations”.

‘Self-reflection exercise’ for staff members 

Staff have been given a “self-reflection exercise” which asks “what advantages” they have enjoyed in their lives, and whether their subject has been colonised

Evidence of this colonialism may include focusing on the “UK and ‘Britishness’ at the expense of other interpretations of the world”, or failing to “interrogate how issues of power, privilege and oppression have developed historically in relation to the subject”.

The decolonising process should not be limited to curricula, documents state, and “the Conservatoire and its Member Schools must work to decolonise themselves at all levels”.

This will include ensuring specialist makeup and hair stylists for all performers, and tackling micro-aggressions in the conservatoire’s end of year performances.

Ballet could be subjected to this process of decolonisation, with documents sharing concerns raised about “shoes and tights” and ensuring that a “range of skin tones are available”.

Training in “allyship” has been outlined, with students and staff encouraged to “call out” perceived racism and given advice on how to do this by being “active bystanders”.

Advice has also been issued for those who are themselves “called out”, with those facing accusations told not to “get defensive”, and given tips on how best to apologise. This is exemplified by saying; “I am sorry that my behaviour was offensive”, with those called out further advised to “move on and be better”.

Plans to decolonise recruitment procedures 

The plans also aim to decolonise recruitment procedures for new staff, with one point considering “including students and cultural and ethnic diversity in the recruitment process”. Under this plan students would be able to meet prospective staff, and offer feedback to the interview panel.

However, the CDD has highlighted that student expectation should be managed, and that that their “expressed preference for any particular candidate may not necessarily mean that this is the eventual appointed candidate”.

Founded in 2001 to centralise various schools, the CDD comprises Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, Central School of Ballet, London Contemporary Dance School, National Centre for Circus Arts, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, and the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance.

The CDD has made clear that it is a separate and smaller legal entity to its member schools, and cannot impose training on the schools, which are also responsible for recruiting their own staff.

The CDD advised: “These policies and protocols are a suite of resources designed to embed and support an inclusive environment for all members of the Conservatoire, from staff to students and beyond. 

“They are intended to facilitate difficult conversations, educate, and bring about positive cultural change within our institutions to promote and embed the most inclusive community.”

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