Monday, January 15, 2007

Dances With Fools

We have got our tutus
well and truly in a twist over the Simone Clarke ‘affair’. For international readers, this particular tornado in our parochial little teacup concerns the affiliation of one of our more air-headed artistes to our most irksome political outpost, the British National Party (BNP). Put crudely, our prima ballerina has been ‘outed’ as a fascist by our most respectable Guardian newspaper. Unfortunately, underhand infiltration methods of the kind perfected by our BBC’s most excellent and mellow drama Spooks had to be deployed to discover that a previously anonymous woman in the national consciousness had spent £25 of her inflated salary to become a card carrying idiot. Needs must. Has our Darcy ever been more Busselled? Our Margot more Fonteyned? Our Rudolf more Nureyeved? Our Pavlova more, er, laden with passion fruit and clotted cream?

Now if it was Jade (needs no introduction anywhere in the known universe) Goody who was found to be a member of the BNP, we might have some reason to fear as, by her own admission, she is the 25th most in-fool-ential person the world. But Simone Clarke had no profile with anyone except ballet people. For over a month we have been gripped as the English National Ballet (ENB) has been besieged by increasingly vociferous demands that Clarke be sacked, culminating in a seriously angry protest at her first performance since the disclosure of Giselle on Friday. It’s unfortunate that she is appearing in a ballet where she becomes a ghostly vampire. Could have been worse. Coppelia with BNP leader Nick Griffin guesting as the toymaker perhaps?

Many considered words have been written. Tim Worstall posted a sound and sensible piece on 1st January concluding,

‘… if action must be taken by the ENB, then it should simply state that as we are a free society, one without the crime of sedition, then whatever passes for political thought in the brain of one trained since childhood to dance on tippy toe is her own business and nothing to do with them. Or any other branch of the State. Private individuals are entirely free to react (within the bounds of libel and incitement to violence) as they wish.’

Absolutely. I want the BNP to remain a legitimate organisation with the right to speak so that it I can participate in open discussion along with the overwhelming majority who don’t want fascism in this country. I don’t feel insecure about my ability to verbally challenge what they think and back my assertions with accurate information. Better distasteful discourse between people who can articulate than a clandestine bunch of sheet wearers chucking petrol bombs into the letter boxes of the most vulnerable.

Dave Hill hosted a debate on 8th January, referencing an article by Tim Footman and offering this personal perspective which drills into the fragility of the emotional connection between artist and audience on which the credibility of the performance ultimately depends,

Anyone who loves ballet and hates fascism surely cannot help but have a changed relationship with Clarke the dancer. Their response may be to boycott her (which I probably would) or want her to be fired (which I wouldn't) or to still attend and admire her performances. But even in the latter case the relationship is certain to have changed: mixed in with appreciation there may be conflict, resentment or regret. Then there will be those who love ballet and couldn't care less if a fascist party gathers strength from having a vaunted ballerina among its members or may even think it would be really rather good if a fascist political party took power in this land. My angle on such people is straightforward. They need a good kick up the arse. And that includes you, Simone Clarke.

I agree, but now the context has moved dramatically on. The time for Simone Clarke’s mostly immigrant colleagues, including professional and domestic partner, Cuban-Chinese dancer, Yat-Sen Chang to administer that much needed ideological kick up the tulled arse has passed. Today in the Sunday Times, Minette Marrin exposed some anomalies,

‘This is a strange story in every way. Despite her fear of mass immigration, Clarke has an immigrant boyfriend of Chinese-Cuban descent, also a dancer; there is a hint of inconsistency here surely, and the BNP certainly finds it a touch embarrassing. And then the protesters in the street, who say that ethnic English people’s fear of immigration is nothing but irrational racism, rather undermined their own case by shouting “We are Muslim, black and Jew, there are many more of us than you” — by this threat confirming that a fear of mass immigration is not merely irrational racism. Brilliant.’

Protesters have widely quoted the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 to justify the claim that Clarke should be sacked from her (partly) publicly funded employment. Let’s be very clear about the scope of this act of parliament and its power. It gives national, regional and local government bodies a duty to promote race equality. What it does not do is give lobby groups the right to bully an individual out of their employment because of their personal beliefs, no matter how vile they may be. We have all earned the right to be ghastly as long as we don’t threaten anyone else’s right to be hideous and please, let us never forget how great that is…

Picture from


With Hammer And Tong...The LetterShaper said...

As a poet, and an avid reader, I have to say that I very much enjoyed my leisurely stroll through your was time well spent; entertaining and enlightening. I invite you to visit my own, should you care to.

That's so pants said...

Thank you H&T. I have made the return visit and enjoyed it muchly.

YellowDuck said...

Despite - or because of? - being an immigrant to the last three countries I have lived in I find myself in full agreement with you. Ms Clarke is of course entitled to her own political beliefs however silly they may appear especially concerning her own private life.

Again, it is so much more useful to debate with rather than shout down sympathisers with the extreme right. Not necessarily to change their minds (I tend to agree with Dave that their position is too fundamentalist to be likely to change), but at least to show up the flaws in their arguments to the currently non-committed and apolitical who wonder what all the fuss is about.

That's so pants said...

Exactly Yellowduck - To shrink from an argument suggests a weakness of conviction and lack of confidence and just looks suspicious to the undecided - who you rightly point out are the crucial audience for this debate. I can understand the protestors' frustration since we ought to have moved on by now but we haven't and picking on a single airheaded woman who, by her own admission, does not really understand the issues, erodes the moral high ground somewhat.

That's so pants said...

Crown of Thorns left a comment which was at least as long as my first novel. I have edited it down to these two snippets

'Hi Here is what I would say to Simone Clarke if I could have her audience for a few minutes: If you would kindly spare a few minutes to entertain my point of view, I would like to express some thoughts.'

Fall asleep and wake up in 20 years,

'I will never hate another man because of the colour he is even if he hates me for mine. I was not born that way and will not be shaped that way. I wish enlightenment to you, and the power to think for yourself.... Peace be unto you!!!!'

Dear Crown of Thorns - I suggest you get your own blog.

Thank you for your visit.

That's so pants said...

My mistake - The comment was from Cross of Thorns rather than Crown of Thorns. Someone has their metaphor mixed and I'm pretty sure it's not me - I know my starfish.