When Tamsin Fitzgerald set about battling a boys club culture permeating the dance sector, she rolled up her sleeves and got on with it.
The artistic director of Herefordshire-based 2Faced Dance Company has long been fighting for equality for female choreographers; from commissioning work to founding ground breaking initiatives which ambitiously aim to "innovate the sector".
The company has now secured more than £150,000 in funding (grant givers include the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Arts Council England) to push boundaries with The BENCH - its mentoring scheme for mid-career female choreographers, and to continue the Outlands project - a dance exchange run as part of Arts Council England’s Reimagine India fund.
Both projects were developed in direct response to serious concerns about the lack of equality faced by female choreographers within dance.
The second year of The BENCH will see seven female choreographers spend nine months embracing training, discussions, debates and mentoring – then pitching for commissions which will support a forthcoming artistic production.
"Year 2 of The BENCH marks a significant development for female choreographers globally," said Tamsin.
"We are delighted to be able to offer more opportunities for women across the world and increase awareness of the barriers that women face within the industry. We are excited to be working with some incredible choreographers and mentors and are looking forward to teaming up with venues across the UK and abroad on the next stages of levelling the playing field.
"The UK has many incredible, eloquent and talented women creating work whose choreographic voices are just not being heard or seen.
"The BENCH explores and unpicks some of the issues surrounding women as creators, whilst also putting talent and creation at the forefront."
In its first year, The BENCH received an overwhelming number of applications from female choreographers – making it clear how much a project like this was needed.
At The BENCH Event at the International Dance Festival Birmingham in May, more than 70 delegates and 23 speakers came together to proactively debate the issues facing gender disparity within dance.
It culminated with the release of The BENCH Manifesto – a promise to shatter the glass ceiling, which the likes of DanceXchange, Deda, Lawrence Batley Theatre, Yorkshire Dance, Rosie Kay Dance Company and 2Faced Dance Company have signed up to.
Peter Knott, area director of Arts Council England has called 2Faced’s project an important step forward for wider industry support for female choreographers.
Applications from UK based, mid-career female choreographers (working in any genre) to The BENCH year 2 are now open. The deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday, August 26, 2016. For more information about the programme, visit www.the-bench.org.
Work choreographed by Rebecca Evans – the winner of The BENCH commission in 2015/16, will be performed by 2Faced Company as part of their forthcoming tour, RUN. The triple bill, created by female choreographers Tamsin Fitzgerald, Lenka Vagnerova and Evans, will premiere in October 2016 at DanceEast, Ipswich, and come to the Courtyard in Hereford in spring 2017.
See full tour dates here.