Tuesday, January 16

In my opinion

Simone Clarke, a principal dancer with the English National Ballet (ENB), has danced her first lead role at the London Coliseum since being forced to admit to being a member of the far-right British National Party (BNP). A reporter for the Guardian newspaper exposed her in December 2006 after having gone undercover for seven months to explore the BNP.

The English National Ballet is funded by the Arts Council who requires all recipients to be "aware of how their work contributes to race equality and promoting good race relations". This case clearly shows a lack of awareness, yet the Arts Council are not taking any steps to withhold funding, and consequently the ENB is not inclined to express concern. But I can't help but wonder how this makes the other dancers feel.

Here is some interesting trivia:

  • 81% of the ENB's Principal Dancers are born outside the UK
  • 100% of their First Soloists are born outside the UK
  • 71% of their Soloists are born outside the UK

In an interview Clarke explained that she joined the BNP after reading their manifesto, although she admitted that most of what she read went over her head. She justified her decision by saying that some of the things they mentioned were the things I think about all the time, mainly mass immigration, crime and increased taxes." What a fine reason to join a nationalist party.

I felt prompted to read the BNP’s manifesto myself to see if it was indeed difficult to understand. I was quite astonished to find out that apparently the British people are being “denuded of any pride they once felt within themselves” as they are progressively marginalised in their own country. I can’t help but suspect that this “pride” has quite a lot to do with a hankering after the glory days of the British Empire. But how can they then justify this concern when the British Empire was systematically depriving native peoples of their rights, organising mass slavery, and generally showing little or no respect for the lands and cultures it conquered, covering a quarter of the earth’s entire area?

Worse yet, the leader of the BNP refers to the Holocaust as the Holohoax, and is an advocate for the restoration of capital punishment.

Is Clarke feeling marginalised at work? The ENB is after all known as one of the world’s most ethnically diverse ballet troupes, and as one of only a few British-born dancers she is a clear minority. But considering the following, how can she justify her membership?

  • Her husband and dance partner, Yat-Sen Chang, with whom she has a young daughter, is not allowed to join the BNP because he is a foreigner (he is from Cuba and has a Chinese father)
  • Richard Barnbrook, the leader of the BNP in Barking and Dagenham, who turned up to support Clarke at the Coliseum said: "I'm not opposed to mixed marriages but children [of these relationships] are washing out the identity of this country's indigenous people.”

Because dance is an art form not reliant on language it can metaphorically cross borders and bridge continents. Perhaps this is just another example that entertainers should refrain from expressing their political views. But with the ENB’s rather spineless response I can’t help but focus on the word National in their name. And that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

This entry was prompted by an article I read on the BBC news website. More information can be found in the following Guardian article and on this more recent BBC news entry. I also visited the BNP website to read their manifesto (but I don’t want to link to them - they are easily found on Google). The following interview with the BNP leader was published in the Observer. I also went to Wikipedia to read about the British Empire.

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