On 20th May 2014, just before a BP-sponsored performance of the Royal Opera House's La Traviata was screened, we performed this 'flash dance' against BP sponsorship.
YES! to opera, but BOOO! to BP
'FLASH DANCE' PROTEST AGAINST BP AT TRAFALGAR SQUARE OPERA SCREENING
At 6.15pm this evening, ten dancers performed an impromptu routine in front of a crowd of thousands at the #BPBigScreen in Trafalgar Square. The dance was a protest at BP's sponsorship of arts and culture. Performing to the tune of 'Trouble' by Taylor Swift, the costumed dancers were applauded by the crowd, but heavy-handed security intervened before the end, trying to remove their speaker. The dancers finished their routine without music, then bowed and handed out flyers before leaving the square safely before the police arrived.
The 'BP Big Screens' event takes place three times a year, and is part of BP's sponsorship of the Royal Opera House. The unexpected dance took place just before the official screening of Verdi's famous opera 'La Traviata' began at 6.30pm, with a live-stream available around the world. The dancers -- calling themselves 'BP Out of Opera' (BOOO), and dressed in black with masquerade masks on their faces and large BP logos on their bodies (which were ripped off dramatically during the performance) -- say BP sponsorship is a stain on culture.
Dancer Donna Abato said of the protest:
"We danced before the screening because we want BP out of opera. BP gets invaluable prestige from its association with the Royal Opera House, which helps the company clean its sullied public image. Sponsorship helps BP distract attention from its massive contribution to climate change, disasters like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and protests and legal challenges to its projects such as those in Canada against the tar sands. That's why we say yes to opera, but BOOO to BP!"
'BP Out of Opera' are not the first group to protest BP sponsorship of the arts. Just last month, BP or not BP? made a theatrical intervention at the British Museum, to challenge BP sponsorship of the Vikings exhibition. Late last year, Liberate Tate performed at the rehang of Tate Britain's 'BP Walk Through British Art'. In January 2014, after several pop-up choir performances from another anti-sponsorship group - the Shell Out Sounds choir - the Southbank Centre announced it was ending its long running sponsorship relationship with Shell. All four groups are part of the Art Not Oil coalition, which aims to "free art from oil."
BP has sponsored the Royal Opera House for 25 years, and Peter Mather, BP Regional Vice President for Europe is an Honorary Director of the Royal Opera House.
The dance performance had a musical accompaniment of the pop song 'Trouble' by Taylor Swift. Dancer Josh Brown said:
"BP is trouble -- for people, for oceans and for the climate. There is growing outrage at oil sponsorship -- and with other groups challenging British Museum and Tate, it seems like no deal is safe from creative protests."
Two more 'BP Big Screens' events are scheduled for July and September this year.
Follow BOOO on twitter: @BPOutOfOpera