About rehearsal space and time

Working on "Triple-Entendre" has made me realise first hand what I had already been hearing and reading (e.g., here and here, and there) about the struggles of independent artists regarding rehearsal space in and around Oxford.

Doing a bit of admin, I realised that for "Triple-Entendre", a 15 minutes piece, by the time of the show we will have spent over 60 hours in rehearsal. Yes 60 hours for a 15min piece, that's 4 hours per minute of performance. You might think it's an overkill or that it betrays my inexperience, but discussing with other more experienced choreographers who have attempted the same quantifying exercise, the numbers I hear are in the same range (~3 hours of rehearsal per minute of performance). Obviously, that encompasses the creating of the steps as well as their practice. What it doesn't encompass however is all the rest of the time spent composing the music (thank you Malcolm), creating the artwork (thank you Suzie), creating the costumes (that I've done myself, with the help of my lovely 1949 Singer Featherweight 221K), creating the video (that I'm doing myself too) and more generally discussing, debating, explaining, teasing out all the ideas about the piece.
Added to that there is also the time spent setting up a rehearsal schedule and booking rehearsal space. We're only two dancers in this piece, and we had help from  a third dancer (thank you Isabel) for the bits where we interact with Memory as a human-sized character (rather than as a giant intruder in my solo, or as a tiny nagger in Laura's solo), and we had to negotiate hard around our respective time-schedules! Most of the independent free-lance artists who I know can't solely make a living out of performing, they do have a day job, a bread-earning job. So rehearsal schedules need to take that into consideration, we need to find time where we all have about 2 hours to spare. Rehearsals lasting less than that aren't very efficient: count 30 minutes to warm-up (you don't want to jump straight in and injure yourself!), and then within the 1.5 hour left, you can hope to fix around 30 seconds of the piece (on my 60 hours for 15 min basis) -- well that's not really how it works, of course, but that gives you an idea.

So once we've found how to fit rehearsals around all of our busy schedules (for me that entails taking some days and/or half-days off my full-time academic job; for Laura that means slotting rehearsals in between the numerous classes she teaches, not only at her own dance school, but also for other schools around Oxford) the chase for rehearsal space begins. And that's a tricky one...
The Pegasus Theatre offers free time in their amazing studio as part of their support of the Moving with the Times artists (I'm told a cat regularly comes at the French windows of the studio to help out those in creative mode - although it's never come when we were there). But their studio schedule is already very full with lots of amazing activities (they're very much engaged with the local community); and, solely for Moving with the Times, we are 5 groups in need of rehearsal space, all with our own idiosyncrasies when it comes to time... So, unfortunately, it's not entirely unexpected that we can't all fit all of our rehearsals in at the Pegasus. In whole we will have spent about 25 hours rehearsing at the Pegasus. It's great but it is also far from covering the 60 hours we needed. We've had to turn to other venues which we naturally had to pay for. At a going rate of between £12 and £15 per hour (and those are the reasonably priced venues -some ask up to £30 per hour), you can imagine the financial dent this is making into our budget... I'm so very lucky that I have a well-payed job - and one which I also love!
But can you imagine how much it would affect those with a less well-payed day-job? The one obvious way to cut down the costs is to reduce the time in rehearsals (and this applies to people with or without external financial support from funding bodies, really, as budgets are being cut right left and centre!). So artists have to walk the fine line of enough rehearsal but not so much as to create a financial hole.
I think that this is very detrimental to the quality of the work presented to the audience. Less time in rehearsals does mean a less polished performance in one way or another, which in turn will discourage audiences from attending future shows. I'm also very much of the opinion that presenting less polished performances is simply disrespectful to the audience. These conditions actually create the vicious circle of the self-fulfilling prophecy whereby "audiences don't come to shows, so shows make a loss, so production costs must be cut". A bleak perspective, which could be modulated if ticket prices could be raised a wee bit, ensuring that venues don't make a loss but also allowing for more rehearsal time for the artists.
I do wish I had a magic wand to solve this conundrum; I don't have any ready-made solution for this problem though. One first step regarding the rehearsal space problem however could be to get more support directly from the performance venues and their rehearsal spaces (or say, another step, as some schemes are already in place, e.g., through Oxford Dance Forum's Home-bed programme). It would be a good idea for example (and thank you to those who pointed me towards this model - they'll know themselves) for those venues to adapt their rates to their clientèle. If the room is used for commercial purposes (e.g., a paying class) the rate shouldn't be the same as for those using the space for creative and exploratory purposes, in view of creating/rehearsing a piece. Chisenhale Dance Space in London does follow this model, and oh how lovely it would be if at least some venues in Oxford were to adopt this model!

But that's enough admin talk for now...
We're still giving all we have to create our pieces... 
And for proof... here's a short promo trailer of "Moving with the times" that the Pegasus produced with excerpts of our pieces shown at the Scratch Night on 25th Jan 2013. Hot off the press(?)!


Yes the beginning of our piece was very dark, so the camera was switched to night vision... intriguing isn't it?