Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Arts Council England


  Arts Council England is the national arts development agency, responsible for developing and implementing arts policy and funding on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and making strategic use of both National Lottery and Treasury grant-in-aid funding. Arts Council England believes in the transforming power of the arts and aims to place the arts at the heart of our national life. We welcome the Committee's interest in dance, and the opportunity this Inquiry presents to summarise the current position and potential of the art form. A summary of its development is attached as Appendix 1.


    —  Dance has achieved much over recent years.

    —  It is diverse, innovative, collaborative and culturally relevant, and demonstrates the benefits of sustained public investment.

    —  Its future is dependent on talent; we need to do more to identify, nurture, sustain and retain that talent.

    —  Now is the time to address:

      —  Career development;

      —  Choreographic development;

      —  The potential benefits of dance in health.


  In 2003-04, Arts Council England directly invested £33.8 million in dance (excluding investment in The Royal Ballet which is integrated into a single grant to The Royal Opera House). Of this, £26.8 million provided regular investment in organisations, equivalent to just over 10% of Arts Council England total regular investment in organisations compared to nearly 21% for music and 33% for theatre.

  About 78% (£21 million) of regular investment in dance was in 40 dance companies. Of this, over 80% (£17.4 million) was invested in six companies each receiving over £1 million, the remaining 34 companies each received less than £500,000. Regular investment is also made in nine National Dance Agencies, umbrella organisations, promoters and theatres.

  The other £7 million was from the Lottery funded Grants for the Arts programme, and represents around 14% of total expenditure on the programme. The flexibility of this new programme allowed the largest single touring grant, of over £800,000, to support the touring of international dance companies.

  A breakdown of direct investment in dance in 2003-04 is provided as Appendix 2.


Outstanding international reputation

  London and New York are the leading dance capitals of the world. The UK's high international standing is largely the result of sustained public investment, and characterised by its:

    —  Infrastructure of support for dance artists.

    —  Internationally acclaimed artists, wealth of dance styles, and cultural diversity.

    —  Innovative productions for public spaces, videos and new media.

    —  Wealth of professional education and community work, the growing application of dance in the wider social agenda.

    —  Major professional training institutions that attract students from across the world.

    —  Leadership in healthier dance practice.

Increasing audiences

  The Target Group Index shows an increase of nearly 29% in audiences for dance, comparing the period 1990-91 to 1994-95 with 1995-96 to 1999-2000. Between 1999 and 2003, the total UK audience for the five largest companies (Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Northern Ballet Theatre, Rambert Dance), grew by almost 10%. Dance attracts a significant proportion of younger people and those from lower socio-economic groups.

Quality, diversity and collaboration

  Performance standards have risen dramatically in recent years, the diversity of dance is a major strength and the profession is resourceful and entrepreneurial in collaborating with others. Dance has close connections with music, sport, the visual arts and theatre; different aspects of dance are experienced in many walks of life.


  Escapade, produced by the South Asian Dance agency Akademi, involved 118 performers, ranging in age from 11 to 75 years, dancing in the less attractive spaces around the South Bank Centre, London. Attracting an audience of around 15,000, it re-positioned Indian arts in a contemporary British context. Major sporting events use dance to celebrate their openings, examples being the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and the Sydney Olympics, choreographed by UK based Lloyd Newson.


Organisations and Infrastructure

    —  Dance is still building its critical mass. Having grown dramatically since the 1960s, dance is newer and smaller than its peer performing arts disciplines of music and drama. While beginning to benefit from a building infrastructure, as yet dance lacks the visibility provided by a network of buildings equivalent to the concert halls, libraries, art galleries and theatres that benefit other artforms.

—  Low levels of investment:

    —  Local authority funding provided an average of 4% of total organisation income for dance, compared to 9% for all arts (Arts Council England Survey of Regularly Funded Organisations, 2001-02).

    —  Business invested £2 million in dance, of a total investment in the arts of £99 million (Arts and Business survey of Business Investment in the Arts 2001-02).

    —  Commercially, dance does not lend itself to mass reproduction. Dance is essential to commercial products such as musicals, advertising and pop videos, but these industries provide minimal investment in the artform.

    —  Creating dance is expensive. All dance companies produce new work, usually at least once a year. Creating dance requires a group of dancers working with the choreographer in a studio. It can take a day to create one minute of dance. The dancer's day must start with a dance class, and injury prevention treatment is essential.

    —  Touring is expensive. Only The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet have home theatres, and share these with other artforms. Larger companies normally perform in a theatre for a week; smaller ones may be booked for a single performance so increasing costs and limiting opportunities to build audiences. A few key promoters programme dance with energy and commitment, and consortia of theatres are emerging. It is possible to see dance performances in many parts of the country on any night of the year, although such opportunities are fewer than for music or theatre. Evidence shows that dance attracts many first-time attenders, who then return to see other arts events in the same venue so benefiting the venue more than the company.

Individual dancers

    —  Increased employment costs. It is estimated that the increase in National Insurance contributions will cost the arts some £9 million annually. Most dancers cease performing in their mid-30s, and the larger companies contribute to The Dancers Pension Scheme and to career transition provision.

    —  Poor job security. Only a few companies provide full-year contracts to dancers. Most dancers juggle portfolio careers, combining dancing with teaching and other work. Some also move between the subsidised arts and commercial musicals, for example Bombay Dreams and The Lion King.

    —  Low pay. It is not uncommon for dancers in full-time work and at the peak of their performing career to earn less than £23,000 annually. Pay is also an issue in recruiting and retaining experienced managers. There is a will to improve this situation, but financial constraints inhibit the capacity to act.


  The Place is the home of Contemporary Dance Trust, UK's leading centre for contemporary dance, and created The Place Prize in 2004. It will provide £100,000 for new dance work and attracted 178 applications from choreographers, 23% being from British Ethnic Minority groups, who all submitted a three-minute DVD. Dance promoters, including 30 from across Europe, selected the shortlist of 20, and the audience will decide the final prizes.

  Bloomberg was attracted to sponsor The Place Prize by the creativity of the idea, its potential profile and its benefits for the wider dance ecology.


Arts Council England Dance Policy

  Arts Council England is the only agency charged with responsibility for policy and public investment for the development of dance as an artform. The dance department was established in 1979. Since then, and within the financial resources available, the approach to developing dance has been to balance:

    —  Artistic development—responding to the vision and energy of dance artists, nurturing their creativity, experiment and professional development.

    —  Audience provision—choice of high quality, adventurous dance product and opportunities to engage with dance as audiences and participants.

    —  Environmental factors—appropriate working conditions, education and training, geographic and demographic spread, partnerships, public perception of dance.


  Siobhan Davies CBE is one of the UK's leading choreographers. A dancer with London Contemporary Dance Company from the 1970s, she established her own company in 1988. She collaborates with musicians and visual artists, and recently toured the critically acclaimed Bird Song that re-defined the relationship between artists and audience. Her concern for supporting the development of dancers motivated her to establish a building base in Southwark, which has been awarded £3.2 million from the Arts Council's Capital Programme and has raised almost £1 million in partnership funding.


  Over the last 25 years Arts Council England investment in dance has achieved:

    —  Growth in the number and kinds of dance companies, from 7 in 1970 to 40 in 2004. Last year, a further 45 companies received Grants for the Arts funding for production projects. Early support for Matthew Bourne's Adventures in Motion Pictures in the 1980s, provided the foundation for his subsequent commercial success with new productions such as his all-male Swan Lake.

    —  Dance buildings through the Arts Capital Programme, including the new Laban Centre that won the Stirling Prize for architecture last year, The Royal Opera House, Sadler's Wells Theatre, and Birmingham Hippodrome providing a home for Birmingham Royal Ballet and DanceXchange. Work in progress includes a new home for Northern Ballet Theatre and Phoenix Dance in Leeds, for Dance City in Newcastle and DanceEast in Ipswich.

    —  New kinds of arts provision: community dance practitioners delivering dance participation and performance locally; National Dance Agencies providing local activity, national centres of excellence and a network for dance production and distribution; choreographer-led production companies.

    —  Improved working conditions, through better studio and performance spaces, healthier dance practice and the Dancers Pension Scheme, established in partnership with the larger dance companies and Equity.

    —  Strengthening the position of culturally diverse dance. In 2003-04, 11% of dance expenditure on regularly funded organisations supported this area, compared to the 9% of the population who are from British Ethnic Minority groups. The South Asian diaspora looks to the UK for leadership and innovation, and internationally acclaimed CandoCo Dance is a world-leader in integrating dancers with and without disabilities.

    —  Dance and new media. The Dance for the Camera programme has run for over 10 years and given rise to initiatives with broadcasters such as Dance 4, Capture and Dance Film Academy with the BBC and the Scottish Arts Council. New distribution networks for dance film are being developed and UK dance films regularly win international awards. Other uses for new technologies are emerging, such as software for dancers.

    —  Resources for education. Including the work of funded dance companies and Set Steps that has created two films, of works by Akram Khan and Henri Oguike, that have become set studies for GCSE and A-level dance examinations.


  Launched in August 2000, the Company shot to international fame within 18 months. Arts Council England investment of just under £160,000 in 2004-05 will result in partnership funding of over £400,000 and a world-wide audience of around 80,000 people.


  Arts Council England investment is critically important to dance. The 2001-02 survey of organisations showed it accounted for 43% of total income, across all art forms it was 38%.

  Comparing data across a constant sample of dance organisations over the previous four years shows earned income has increased from 31% to 43% and contributed income grew from 6% to 10%. These indicative trends show a broadening of support for dance, and that increased public investment is levering funds from a range of sources.


  Created as three pilot agencies in 1990, National Dance Agencies were a new kind of arts organisation—flexible, dynamic, entrepreneurial and providing quality dance experiences for the community and the profession in the same space, at the same time and with equal status.

  By 2002 the network of nine agencies were achieving a great deal. In that year, they commissioned 68 new dance works, provided 450 professional performances in 183 different venues to an audience of over 85,000. Their education and community programmes involved almost 300,000 people in 600 venues. Audiences and participants together represented a subsidy of £4.78 per attendance. Arts Council England contributed around £1.7 million to their combined turnover in excess of £6 million. Examples of significant initiatives include Swindon's DansConnect apprentice company creating performances for young people, Birmingham's Bare Bones making dance for small spaces, and Dance East's Rural Retreats bringing together for the first time 26 artistic directors of international ballet companies.


  Arts Council England believes dance makes a significant contribution to the lives of young people. Education is the only way to ensure all young people have access to relevant, high-quality dance experience and to learning in, through and about dance. The position of dance in education is precarious and fragmented. It does not attract the kind of policy attention, resources and status that benefit music and visual art.

  Despite this, dance is attracting increasing interest in both arts and sports specialist colleges, and in entrants to examinations in dance. Arts Council England manages Artsmark, achieved by over 1,700 schools. To qualify, schools need to dedicate a minimum amount of time to dance and provide out-of-hours dance opportunities. The Arts Council's arts and education initiative, Creative Partnerships, has brokered dance projects in Cornwall and Sunderland with Random Dance, in dance from South Africa, Japan, Brazil and Maori dance in Slough, and with 500 young people aged from 3 to 19 working with Birmingham Royal Ballet.


  The National Dance Teachers Association has proved effective in providing resources, professional development and knowledge exchange for schools. It operates as a voluntary organisation with no staff, and has the potential to be even more effective and productive in return for investment in its organisational capacity.


  Only since the mid-1990s have aspiring professional dancers been eligible for Department for Education and Skills funding for their training. The first Conservatoire for Dance and Drama was established last year. Higher education contributes to developing academic understanding and practice with graduates gaining employment mainly in dance management, teaching and development.

  Ensuring young people are able to progress and reach their potential in dance requires clear pathways from first access, to deepening interest and support for the most talented. Work has begun on building the framework, through collaborations between Arts Council England, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Education and Skills.


  This Department for Education and Skills scheme provides funding for talented young people to attend specialist boarding schools. In partnership with Arts Council England and the dance and music professions, the need to increase geographical spread and genres has been identified. Complementary models of advanced training for exceptionally talented young dancers and musicians aged 11 to 18 years are developing. Provision will be selective, child-centred and provided locally. The first two dance pilots will be in Leeds, combining the expertise of Northern Ballet Theatre, Northern School of Contemporary Dance and Phoenix Dance, and in London at the London School of Contemporary Dance. Plans are in place to extend provision across the country in coming years.

  London Contemporary Dance School is introducing a South Asian dance route in 2004, beyond this there are limited training opportunities in culturally diverse dance forms or for dancers with disabilities. CandoCo Dance is an internationally acclaimed contemporary dance company and a world leader in integrating dancers with and without disabilities. The Company established CanDo 2 to provide initial experience and training for young people and is now working with the Dance and Drama Awards scheme as part of its initiative to establish appropriate provision for young people with disabilities.

  The future of dance is dependent on identifying and nurturing talent, providing clear pathways for progression through to training and employment. Years of diminishing discretionary funding for training positioned a dance career as unobtainable for many. Happily, this is now changing, and the "Billy Elliott" effect has been a positive boost. It is essential that dance careers are equally progressive and sustainable if we are to fulfil our promise to young talent and to the potential of dance in society.


Balancing infrastructure and artistic development

  A positive start has been made in building the dance infrastructure of studios, education and training provision and development organisations, and more will be done as additional resources become available. We need to turn our attention to raising artistic ambition and the capacity to take risks.

Visibility and profile

  We need to increase the visibility of dance, through encouraging new ways of programming, creating more dance product for specific audiences and unusual settings, developing the network of dance buildings and promoting the values of dance in the wider social agenda.

Sustainable careers and diversity

  We need to work harder to promote sustainable careers in dance, particularly for artists and managers, and ensure our artists of the future better reflect the geographic, demographic and cultural diversity of the population. The majority of dance organisations are micro-businesses, so offer limited opportunities to develop leaders.

  Developing pathways for young people has been greatly assisted by improved working across government departments. Notably, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has initiated and championed several key developments in this area. A significant barrier remains as dance is rarely on the radar of those most directly concerned in developing and implementing policy in the areas of health, social inclusion and justice. Recently, the DCMS has seconded an officer to Arts Council England specifically to develop the area of arts and health. We are confident that this will help to improve the situation.

Space for dance

  We need to continue providing spaces for dance to ensure geographic spread and address gaps in, for example, culturally diverse dance, for the pool of freelance dancers who sustain the major part of contemporary dance production, and in the standard of facilities available to some of our major companies.

Sustaining investment

  Key to ensuring the world-class reputation of dance in the UK is the ability of Arts Council England to build the capacity of our regularly funded organisations, bring on new talent at the appropriate moment in its development and encourage a wide range of artistic experiment and local dance activity. Any reduction in investment at this stage would seriously undermine the achievements of recent years.


  Dance has potential benefits for health, active lifestyles, regeneration and social cohesion.

  Dance Included is taking dance to young people at risk in Middlesbrough, young offenders in East London, older people in Plymouth, homeless people in Kings Cross and Wetherby Young Offenders Institution. Motionhouse dance company is working with long-term inmates and officers at HMP Dovegate over 20 months, to develop skills and reinforce positive attitudes and behaviour through dance. Performances for peer groups extend the impact of this work beyond the participants themselves. Research and publicity will demonstrate the values of dance in the wider social agenda, based on evidence.


  Dance has re-invented itself for the 21st century in its contemporary diversity of style, meaning, social benefit and cultural relevance. This has largely been a result of the creativity and entrepreneurialism of dance artists and practitioners, nurtured by sustained public investment. With an enviable international reputation, growing public interest and increasing support from a widening range of sources, there has never been a better time to invest in dance.

  Recent increases in Arts Council England's grant have enabled us to increase core direct investment in dance. This is a positive start in addressing previous years of standstill and cuts, but the task is far from complete. Priorities for additional funding would be:

    —  Career Development—to ensure dance careers are progressive and rewarding, and to ensure that dance can recruit and retain the talent that is essential to its future creativity and effectiveness, there is an urgent need to bring pay more in line with other graduate careers. Implementing this requires a step-change in funding levels specifically for this purpose.

    —  National Choreographic Hub—various organisations provide choreographic training and development opportunities. Provision is fragmented and lacks coherence, and too often pathways from experiment to public presentation are unclear. A national choreographic hub would provide a mechanism for addressing these issues, raise artistic ambition and the capacity to take risk.

    —  Dance and Health—there is a significant body of anecdotal evidence to show the benefits of dance in health. More needs to be done to demonstrate the specific and special benefits, and extend the delivery, of dance in a range of health contexts.

Annex 1


  Dance is one of the oldest means of human expression. Since the 1960s new styles and purposes have made dance artistically vibrant, and more culturally relevant than at any time since we were dubbed "the dancing English" in the 16th Century.

  Ballet became established in England from the 1920s and became increasingly popular through the 1940s. The Arts Council of Great Britain supported Sadler's Wells Ballet (now The Royal Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet), Ballet Rambert (now Rambert Dance) and Ballets Jooss when it was first established in 1946.

  During the 1960s an increasing number of contemporary dance forms took root, notably through London Contemporary Dance Trust (The Place) embracing training, education and production within a single organisation. Ballet Rambert re-invented itself as a contemporary dance ensemble, and an increasing number of dance artists developed new forms of expression and distribution.

  From the 1970s a new breed of arts practitioner developed, the dance animateur. Based in a specific locality they provided and promoted classes, workshops, youth dance groups, training and performances, and provided the foundation for the establishment of National Dance Agencies in the 1990s.

  Choreographer-led dance companies grew in number and the first Dance Umbrella Festival took place in 1988. A wider range of companies and organisations became established, including those working in classical, traditional and contemporary South Asian and African Peoples' Dance forms and involving dancers with disabilities. Regionally based companies developed, some presenting a repertoire of works by different choreographers and some, for example Ludus in Lancaster, focused on dance in education.

  As the sector grew and diversified, the need for professional organisations to provide information, networking, professional development and advocacy also grew, leading to the establishment of artist and practitioner led organisations such as Dance UK and the Foundation for Community Dance in the 1980s.

  In its contemporary diversity, dance is adventurous and innovative, and standards of physical performance have risen dramatically in recent years. UK companies perform styles that range through ballet, South Asian dance, African dance, contemporary and hip-hop, reflecting the growing diversity and dynamism of contemporary society. Almost all subsidised companies provide dance education and participatory activity alongside their performance work, the continuum between artistic excellence and access is embodied in the same organisation, and often in the same individual.

  Dancing is one of the most popular recreational activities; people dance for fun, inspiration, learning and recreation, and dance is increasingly recognised as valuable in social justice, inclusion and regeneration contexts. Dance can be seen in theatres, art galleries, musicals, film, opera and between the programmes on BBC1. It sells healthcare products, building societies and clothing, opened the Commonwealth Games and animates public spaces as diverse as the Natural History Museum, Tate, the British Museum and Canary Wharf Station.

  London enjoys a rare choice of dance every night of the year. Alongside the permanent presence of The Royal Ballet, there is the more experimental work of ROH2. Sadler's Wells is London's major dance theatre, presenting the best of UK and international dance companies. The Peacock Theatre presents popular work while the Barbican presents the more esoteric, and The Place Theatre and the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the South Bank present cutting edge work. The National Theatre presents musicals and the hugely successful Play Without Words. Each Autumn the Dance Umbrella Festival creates a special excitement, and last year included commissioning Merce Cunningham to create a new work for Tate Modern. London's musicals are a significant factor in attracting tourists.

Annex 2


Number Amount% of total

97 26,836,058100%
Companies4021,003,696 78%
National Dance Agencies8 1,567,1156%
Other Agencies311,785,241 7%
National Umbrella



Promoters, Managers15 2,188,1668%


    —  London Contemporary Dance Trust includes the Richard Alston Dance Company and The Place National Dance Agency in the same grant, which is included in Companies.

    —  National Dance Agencies combine participation, production and promotion and form a national network for the creation and distribution of dance.

    —  Other Dance Agencies combine participation and professional dance activities.

    —  National Umbrella Organisations are Dancers Career Development, Dance UK and the Foundation for Community Dance.

    —  Promoters and Managers include Sadler's Wells Theatre and independent dance managers.


All Companies
40 21,003,696100%
Ballet413,417,450 64%
Contemporary255,261,173 25%
Cultural Diversity11 2,325,07311%
Over £1 million6 17,403,76283%
£100,00—£499,00013 3,031,74614%
less than £100,00021 568,1883%


Number Total £

138 613,071
Total378 6,997,806

May 2004

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