Have you always been a freelancer? No. When I was a dancer, I feel that I spent the majority of my time actively trying not to be freelance. My perception of what it meant to be a freelance artist 20 yrs ago was very different to what it is now. Back then, I was auditioning and applying for jobs/gigs in dance companies or long running shows. I was looking for a long contract, so I could settle in and get on with the craft of performance. In my mind, the burden of being “free”lance, translated to unemployment or being without work. Fast forward a few decades, and how I view myself as an artist has shifted, grown and developed. I now understand that it’s the creative process I enjoy the most. The collaborative work in rehearsal to create something from nothing. In my current capacity, I am labelled and label myself as a freelance artist now. I actually feel free to create, which has given me a sense of control and a lot less desperation. The balance has tipped and I currently accept and embrace my freelance artist title.
‘The personal is political’ – This is something that I hear Jacky Lansley say a lot and it always has me thinking. She said it to me when I first became a mom, talking to her about the trials and tribulations of new motherhood alongside the guilt for wanting to continue pursuing my career with the same energy I did before my son arrived. Jacky said, “The personal is political” and she was right. My new found personal circumstances were entrenched in a feminist debate of redefining traditional roles of parenting. It was wrapped up in the contradiction of wanting to be a yummy mummy but also dying to just get back to work. It was in the silence of not wanting to complain about any of this for fear of offending the multitude of women who are unable to have children of their own. As a freelance artist, you sometimes feel so alone in this Political brouhaha of parenting that it is impossible to imagine how you even managed to get yourself to work let alone get offered the contract. When lockdown hit and Covid-19 altered our normal hustle, to stay at home, the politics of care-giver vs breadwinner combined with the grief of lost work as a freelance creative bathed with the vulnerability of the performing arts industry perfumed with the fear of contagion, was ALL TOO MUCH! I was slowly contradicting my freelance professional persona. My whole creative output was dependent on my ability to care for my home first!
I think there is something in assumptions as well. We tend to make sweeping assumptions about everyone’s journey’s and pathways into the dance and creative industries. As freelancers, there seems to be an assumption that we all need the same things or even that we have the same desired outcomes. Maybe it goes back to the individual, we are quick to join a community before we have taken the time or gifted the time to find out what type of artist we are. This takes time to develop. Jumping on the bandwagon of what we ‘think’ a freelance artist looks and feels like before we have even defined what type of artist we want to be. Maybe we want freedom, we don’t want to be tied down to one version of ourselves but for me there is more clarity in avoiding the shape shifting. In reflection, I can look back now and see that I have always wanted structure. I have always wanted to be settled. So yes, I have shifted, grown and developed as an artist but the shape has always been built on a sustainability and structure. So, now am I still ‘freelance’? Who knows…
Ingrid Mackinnon is a London based movement director, choreographer, teacher and dancer. Movement direction credits include #WeAreArrested (Arcola Theatre), First Encounters: The Merchant of Venice (RSC), Typical (Nouveau Riche/Soho Theatre), Liar Heretic Thief (Lyric), Cacophony (Almeida), Mischief Festival: #WeAreArrested (RSC), #DR@CULA! (RCSSD), Mischief Festival: Kingdom Come (RSC), Fantastic Mr. Fox (associate movement Nuffield Southampton and National/International tour). Choreography and rehearsal direction credits include The Headwrap Diaries (assistant choreographer and rehearsal director) for Uchenna Dance, Our Mighty Groove (rehearsal director) for Uchenna Dance, Three Penny Opera (choreographer) for Wac Arts, Boy Breaking Glass (rehearsal director) for Vocab Dance/Alesandra Seutin , Hansel and Gretel (assistant choreographer and rehearsal director) for Uchenna Dance, Imoinda (choreographer), In The Heights (choreographer) for Wac Arts. She has taught for FE and HE institutions such as WAC Arts, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London Studio Centre, Mountview, ALRA and University of Kent. Ingrid holds an MA in Movement: Directing & Teaching from Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She is co-founder of MoveSpace.