This past week, the sh*t was going down in London as Simone Clarke, 36-year-old principal dancer with the English National Ballet, began to reap the repercussions of her extracurricular activities. One month ago, undercover reporter Ian Cobain (for The Guardian) made public her prior 18-month card-carrying membership with the British National Party, the most prominent far-right political group in the United Kingdom.
Clarke initially joined the BNP to staunch the escalating immigration influx in Great Britian, and shrouded her identity within the organization, using a pseudonym. She also apparently told the undercover Guardian reporter Cobain that immigration, "has really got out of hand".
Clarke relays that her off-stage partner Yat-Sen Chang (who is also a principal dancer with the English National Ballet) had influenced her to join the BNP. The couple have been living together for five and a half years, unmarried, with a four year-old daughter who lives with Simone’s parents in Leeds.
This story has been brewing since the New Year, but escalated this past week on Friday, January 12, when Clarke was slated to dance the lead in the English National Ballet's Giselle. That's when about fifty members of the campaign group Unite Against Fascism showed-up outside (and later inside) the theater to protest Clarke's involvment with the BNP. They are calling for Clarke's dismissal from the ballet company, saying she has been used to "promote and prettify extreme right-wing politics." They go on to say:
"We are calling on all those who have an appreciation for the arts, music, and dance to demand that the promotion of racist and fascist politics are incompatible with a leading arts institution such as the English National Ballet, to speak out against the association of artists with the BNP, and that Simone Clarke should be removed from her position."
Members of the BNP also made it their duty to support the ballerina's involvment wiht their cause, and arrived on Friday afternoon to counter the UAF protesters. They reported on their website:
"Unfortunately, a small group of anti-democratic morons [UAF] decided to hold a pathetic demonstration across the road from the Coliseum, most people walked by, ignoring them. One brave young man who is not a BNP member held a one man counter demonstration at the theatre door holding a placard 'Leave Simone Alone, Free Speech Works Both Ways.' Well done that man!"
"The only nasty incident was 15 minutes into the performance when one imbecile shouted obscenities from the upper circle, the audience jeered at him and the theatre security staff hastily throw him out, the amazing thing was that the dancers and orchestra played on as nothing had happen, with true professionalism."
Regardless of all the pressure, Clarke has refused to cancel her membership. And where does the English National Ballet stand under this scrutiny? Under their pact with the Race Relations Act of 2000, they sterilely state that they, "fully supports the democratic right of people to mount a legal protest. Any personal view expressed by one of our employees should not be considered as endorsed by the company," and have refused to can the fancy-prancy-dancy lady.
On a lighter note, the English National Ballet has a quirky page where they catalogue trivia about the company, including some Aspergerish things like this: "The dancers use up to 105 pairs of false eyelashes a year."