News & Blogs

11 May 2021
Author: The Place

LCDS Student Podcast: A Brief History of the Feminist Society at London Contemporary Dance School

How did the LCDS Feminist Society come to be, and what is it like now? LCDS students Kitty Pilgrim-Morris and Anouk Jouanne caught up with alumna Izzy Ripley, who founded FemSoc as a space for feminist discussion and exploration before graduating in 2017. Listen to (or read!) their discussion in our latest podcast below.


The Place · LCDS Student Podcast: A Brief History of the Feminist Society at London Contemporary Dance School

Anouk Jouanne:

How did FemSoc first came about? Was there any specific reason why you felt there was a need for it at the time?

Izzy Ripley:

I started the Feminist Society because I was really growing in my excitement and self-education around feminism and feminist theory, that probably began when I was just joining The Place. Feminism at that time, and this was only around seven years ago, was really not as widely talked about or accepted as maybe it is now with young people. I felt like a lot of the time, I was trying to talk to people about the really cool and interesting ideas that I was learning about but the conversation would always derail into, “Oh, but do you call yourself a feminist?” “Oh no, I'm not, I didn't call myself a feminist because I don't hate men.”

And that conversation was probably the most common one surrounding feminism, but it was missing the point and I was getting so frustrated. I think I felt like I wanted a space where feminism was just a given and so then launching a group with people who identified with being feminist allowed us to actually have conversations that could go somewhere and be productive rather than those more common conversations, which I just felt were not that productive and not what I was interested in talking about. I was just looking for allies, I guess.

Anouk Jouanne:

Were you alone in forming it?

Izzy Ripley:

I started it as an individual during my third year, but I was so inspired and influenced by the people around me who were starting to form small collectives and groups. I felt really inspired that they were just starting something from scratch, and it empowered me to start something myself. Then immediately people jumped on board and were so excited about doing it with me. So, I do like to kind of claim it as an individual thing because it was probably the thing that I feel most proud about doing at LCDS, but it was also definitely a collective thing.

Anouk Jouanne:

When you talk about “common conversation” or the way that people were discussing feminist politics or theory, do you mean more widely in society and your circles or maybe more specifically within LCDS at that time? I wonder if there's been a change now between when you were a student and now with how feminist theory is included within our education.

Izzy Ripley:

Culturally and socially, it was quite significantly different to how it is now. I have a sister who is six years younger than me and her level of understanding of feminist theory and politics is way above where mine was at 18 years old, probably because she has older sisters, but also because of social media and how feminism and quite complex ideas can be really well-communicated through social media to a wider population. Whereas I had to read books and go to talks, it wasn't like I could just scroll online.

So widely, I think there was that difference, but also within The Place (this is just my personal opinion) I felt like the political thought that I was kind of trying to engage with was quite fringe. When I would bring stuff up, which I did a lot because feminism was the lens I saw everything through, I always felt kind of marginalised and a bit like, “Oh, that's Izzy going again about her thing”, which was definitely accepted and really well-encouraged, but also it felt that it wasn't woven into the education, maybe as much as it is now.

Kitty Pilgrim-Morris:

It's interesting because I wasn't at the school at the time and I joined a year after Anouk, so I have even less of an idea of what the feminism was like pre-that. And also because of COVID I feel like I've missed out on a really big chunk of actually being in the school with everyone. But I find it interesting what you said about a group of people who have a kind of unsaid belief that feminism is good, because I feel like at the moment that is my experience of the school. I feel like even the definition of feminism within the school has diversified and it ties into a lot of issues, not just about women's rights but it has a much broader lens.

It's interesting to see how that change happened and I wonder if between us, there is a point where it changed over the last six years within the school, or if the change is reflective of the wider world. As you said, social media probably does have quite a big part in opening our eyes to things.

Izzy Ripley:

Definitely, and I think that just starting a student society has a big impact, because from my knowledge of LCDS, I don't believe there's previously been a similar thing that has then become recognised by the school; having societies is more of a university thing that people do. I like to think that by making clear that we weren’t talking about feminist ideas as much as we, the students wanted to, that that also added to creating change. So I think the difference between then and now is stark, which makes sense because it's a contemporary dance school. It's trying to stay contemporary. So that’s good.

Anouk Jouanne:

I'm curious if you had a very specific aim, or if you thought about the future of the society continuing beyond you leaving, because it could have easily not been taken up by the next year group or cohorts.

Izzy Ripley:

Well, Dulcie May took on the Feminist Society after I left, and they just did so much for it. Way, way more than I ever did. My year probably had less than 10 meetings and it was not organised, whereas Dulcie just absolutely took it and ran with it.

In terms of a vision, I did not have a vision. I found my third year so overwhelming and the society was an anchor for me to feel like I was pursuing something that was important to me. So it fills my heart with so much joy to see that it has a complete life of its own and is still going. I don't take credit at all for any of that.

Kitty Pilgrim-Morris:

It's funny hearing it from your perspective because I have this really vivid memory of doing an audition preparation workshop or a kind of taster day at The Place, and going into the female changing rooms and seeing a handful of the lockers with this little pink sticker on that said London Contemporary Dance School Feminist Society. I remember seeing that and being like, "Yes, there's a FemSoc here!", because there was a FemSoc at my old school that I helped run and I didn't know if there was going to be one at LCDS because it's such a small school. So that was actually such a big reason for wanting to come to The Place, and it's interesting seeing it from like I was, with an outsider's perspective.

Izzy Ripley:

It was Dulcie who made all those stickers and really took it, and if you speak to them they will probably say their vision was so much bigger than mine! I’m sure that, even if I hadn't started the society, there would still be one now because of all of you.

Anouk Jouanne:

It's funny that for Kitty, that was a really big deal-breaker for wanting to study here, because I was already here. I think it was in my first week when I heard about it and literally my only thought was, “Huh?”, because my English language knowledge didn't extend to what a society was within a school. I just kind of rocked up because I thought it was interesting to get to chat to other people and now here we are trying to do anything and everything we can!

Kitty Pilgrim-Morris:

I know earlier you said didn't really have a specific vision, it just felt like a necessity, but did you have any kind of concrete aims, or were there tangible things that you felt needed to change?

Izzy Ripley:

Hmm. I wanted everyone to be a feminist and I wanted to do fundraising, which we did do for the Bloody Good Period. They gather period resources for people who can't afford them, so we did a big fundraising for that at the school, which to me felt super radical because I was making the principal buy tampons for me.

So it was that kind of thing that I wanted to do as well as panel discussions - just learning and sharing and helping people understand it. And also for me to be able to understand it, I wanted us all to practise being able to talk about political theory and feminism without feeling stupid. And that's the really great thing about doing discussions and events like you do now - just learning to articulate what is important to you.

Anouk Jouanne:

What was the staff or faculty response like? Now FemSoc has existed for quite a few years and in a way has perhaps proved itself, especially as FemSoc has for the first time ever received a budget from The Place, which is incredibly exciting and crazy and weird! But I am just curious what it was like back then? Did they even know that it was happening?

Izzy Ripley:

When I reached out to people to introduce what I was doing and check that it was okay, I spoke to the staff and the official line was, “We aren't allowed to get involved with anything political.” There was definitely personal support and real encouragement on a personal level, but from an official stance, it was kept very much separate.

Kitty Pilgrim-Morris:

That feels like quite a big change because I feel like in this past year, it has felt like a necessity for institutions to have a standpoint on some political issues. It's interesting the way that FemSoc has changed, and the school has changed, and FemSoc has maybe changed the school. I wonder if having this quite active political society has probably had an impact on that, as well as being influenced by the way that the world has also changed in that short space of time, quite significantly and I suppose because of COVID. It feels like less of a political thing and more just a people thing to support things that other people go through.

Izzy Ripley:

Yes, I think the change around the politics of bodies and dance has made this complete shift. I feel like the school had so much more of a focus when I was there of training and discipline technique and becoming dancers, and I felt that there was a lack of exploring who we are as human beings. I think that's a cultural shift.

Anouk Jouanne:

I'd say within LCDS, the change has really gone from not having to be a disciplined dancer first and foremost, but I feel we are taught to at least be aware of where we stand politically, that our body has a political implication. It doesn't always have to be the point that you're trying to make, but it's there. So it's been a lot more about making conversation with outside artists that aren't within The Place to go beyond us so we can know how to be practicing dancers with that knowledge.

It makes me very excited about what the LCDS FemSoc is going to be doing in the future and what's going to be necessary for them, and what will make me go, "Oh, why didn't we do that?" I'm super curious to follow it going forward into the future.

Izzy Ripley:

Yes and it's just makes so much sense, the direction that it's going in terms of expanding awareness. I think if I had been turned on enough in that moment, that would have been my goal for FemSoc, just expanding awareness.

Kitty Pilgrim-Morris:

I guess we should thank you Izzy. Thank you for starting FemSoc and doing that service for the school, because the change in the school culture feels huge, from the way it's been described from when you were there to what it's like now and what our experience has been. FemSoc I think has had a really big part in that.

Izzy Ripley:

Well, I am just so thankful to FemSoc because on a very, just selfish individual level, it is just such a great memory of being at LCDS. For me, it has been a springboard for all the work that I do now, and I hope that it is also that for other people. It is so vital and inspiring to see.


Tags

#lovetheatre(1), 2019(1), A Festival of Korean Dance(1), adult dance classes(2), Akademi(1), analytics(1), Anthony van Laast(1), Artistic Director(1), artists(1), Arts Council(1), Auditions(1), Awards(2), backstage(1), ballet(1), Ben Duke(1), benefits of yoga(1), Bloomberg(1), Bloomsbury(1), Border Tales(1), box office(1), Camden(1), CAT(4), CDD(1), Central Saint Martins(1), Channel Rose(1), Chief Executive(1), circus(1), Clare Connor(2), Classes and Courses(1), climate change(1), collaboration(1), Collaborations(1), Comma(1), Conservatoire for Dance and Drama(1), Contemporary Dance(6), Contemporary Dance; Rosemary Butcher(1), costume(3), Crying Out Loud(1), culture and arts(1), currency(1), CYD(2), dance(15), dance class(1), dance for adults(2), Dance Helathcare(1), dance writing(2), dancer(1), design(1), digital(1), Donald Hutera(1), double bill(1), Eddie Nixon(1), EDge(6), EDge2014(1), EDgeDC14(1), edinburgh(1), education(5), Eleesha Drennan(1), Elixir Festival(1), Emma Fryer(3), Europe(2), exhibition(1), Family(2), festival(3), film(2), Free(1), fringe(1), Guildhall School of Music and Drama(1), Health(2), Igor and Moreno(1), in and around(1), James Cousins(1), juliet fisher(1), Kenneth Tharp(1), Kim Hutt(1), Korean Dance(1), LC3(3), LCDS(12), LCDS alumni(1), LCDT(2), Lea Anderson(3), Lewis Cooke(1), Liam Riddick(1), London Contemporary Dance School(5), Lost dog(1), Luca Silvestrini(1), Lyn Gardner(1), MA Screendance(1), Nathan Goodman(1), National Dance Awards(2), new shoots(1), new year's honours(1), Nigel Charnock(1), Olivier Awards(1), One Dance UK(2), One Dance UK awards(2), One Dance Uk Awards 2018(1), Opportunity(1), performance(6), performance company(2), Planet Dance(2), Policy(1), postgraduate(2), production manager(1), Q&A(1), RADC(2), refresh(1), Res2014(1), Res2015(28), Res2016(3), Res2017(24), Res2018(27), Resolution(3), Resolution Review(35), Resolution Review!(51), resolution!(2), Resolution! 25th Anniversary(1), Resolution! Review(17), Richard Alston(5), Richard Alston Dance Company(1), Richard Alston Dance Company; BBC Young Dancer; An Italian in Madrid;Place Prize; Hofesh Shechter; CAT; Centres for Advanced Training; Kathak; contemporary(1), Richard Alston; Richard Alston Dance Company(1), Robert Cohan(1), Robin Howard(1), Robin Howard Dance Theatre(1), Rosie Neave(1), Sandy Powell(3), Scatter(1), Screendance(1), Seeta Patel(1), Shift(1), Shuffle(1), Simon Vincenzi(3), Siobhan Davies(1), Southbank(1), Spektrix Conference(1), Spring 15(1), Spring Loaded(2), stage manager(1), Startin' Point(1), Startin' Point Commission(1), technician(1), The Cholmondeleys(3), The Featherstonehaughs(3), the place(12), Theatre(5), tour(2), trailblazerthursday; blog(1), Training(1), users(1), veronica Lewis(1), Victoria and Albert Museum(3), website(1), what's on(1), Wimbledon College of Arts(1), Work Place(8), workshops(1), yoga for dancers(1), Young people(3), Youth dance(3)

In this section: