Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Dancers' Career Development

  Thank you for inquiring into the development of dance as an art form. We are particularly keen to answer your questions regarding the current state of the dance economy as this relates most closely to the work conducted by Dancers' Career Development (DCD). To further explain our mission and field of expertise in the dance sector I will begin with a short summary about the organisation. Dancers' Career Development is the premier authority for retraining for professional dancers in the UK. Its mission is to empower dancers in all dance forms to overcome the insecurities of a short professional life-span by creating new careers built upon the distinctive strengths and transferable skills gained from the dancers' performing experience.

  Dance is a profession that entails an extraordinarily high level of commitment, extensive periods of training and a professional life that is relatively brief, since many dancers have to retire in their early thirties and some earlier if injury or illness occurs. For many dancers the end of their performing careers can be traumatic. Having lived in a relatively inward-looking and intensively focused world they are often ill equipped to deal with the manifold economic, psychological and educational difficulties that occur in the dancer transition process from one career to another.

  Dancers' Career Development takes pride in alleviating these aforementioned difficulties through providing specialist practical, psychological, and financial retraining support for all dancers in the UK. The organisation has served as a blueprint and outstanding example of good practice to all other dancer transition centres worldwide. For example a survey conducted in 2003 showed that more than 93% of all dancers who retrained with the support of DCD over the past 30 years are still working in the same profession they retrained for and 95% have found their current employment as a result of their retraining. Most importantly the organisation's work is a vital tool in enabling dancers to experience a smooth transition from one profession of their choice to another, thereby guaranteeing that they do not suffer emotional trauma, financial hardship and/or have to depend totally on state benefits at the end of their performing careers but continue to contribute to our society through an exceptional variety of career paths and professions.

  Yet DCD is in danger of being severely compromised in the conduct of its mission due to persistent inadequacy of funding for career transition from public and private funders resulting from a worrying lack of understanding of the processes involved, and the current disregard in the Arts Council England's (ACE) agenda for dancers' rights to choose his/her new career path.

  Whilst DCD receives adequate funding to support dancers from nine leading ACE funded dance companies (Company Fund Division) throughout their career transition, there is a severe lack of funding available for all dancers falling outside these guidelines. Traditionally these "independent" dancers perform in medium- and small-scale classical, contemporary and ethnic dance companies, commercial productions, cruise ships, west-end musicals, theatre and pantomime. Many of these productions can be credited for encouraging new, innovative work, for acting as a springboard for emerging performing and choreographic talent, for promoting ethnic diversity, for touring their shows to the regions and smaller theatres. They are a vital element of the dance world; play a crucial role in generating income for the leisure and tourist industry and contribute to an all important cultural heritage. However, the Independent Division of DCD has no regular contractual funding and is entirely dependent upon voluntary contributions from regular supporters such as the Equity Trust Fund and the Society of London Theatres as well as donations from other charities, foundations and individuals. As a result, the Independent Division's ability to provide assistance has been limited and its grants are severely restricted.

  To complicate matters further for the Independent Division the Arts Council England has decided to withdraw its annual grant of only £13,000.00 altogether from the beginning of the financial year 2004. The reason given to DCD was that ACE now had the ability to support dancers' transition themselves through the Grants for the Arts scheme. Whilst DCD welcomes the many exciting opportunities Grants for the Arts provides to the dance sector, the scheme has already proven itself to offer no retraining support for the vast majority of independent dancers, due to its restrictions which include, amongst others, no funding for dancers within the commercial sector, no funding for career retraining outside the arts sector and no funding for courses leading to a professional qualification within or outside of the dance profession.

  Since Dancers' Career Development now receives the majority of its deficient funding for the Independent Division from organisations associated with the commercial dance sector, the organisation is forced into a position whereby it has to prioritise commercial dancers' basic transition support needs over those of all other independent dancers, thereby creating an involuntary financial three-tier support system amongst all dancers. Adequately supported dancers are those within nine companies from the Company Division. Commercial dancers receive extremely limited funding available from the Independent Division and dancers within the independent arts sector are currently left without regular funding and face severe hardship at the end of their performing careers. Strikingly, even the majority of dancers who received ACE funding for Continuous Professional Development at one stage of their dance career later turn to DCD for support to gain accredited qualifications.

  DCD strives to disperse these inequalities in retraining support amongst professional dancers as it is our strong belief that all dancers share the same right to a fulfilled post-performing career of their own choice, whether it is within or outside of the dance profession. We very much hope that you will have the opportunity to outline our concerns as part of the public enquiry.

  In summary: The UK has often been one of the worldwide signposts in dance and dance education and especially in London, which boasts as a dance capital envied by many. The UK was also the first country to develop a support system for dancers in career transition through the funding of DCD in 1974. However since then funding for dancer retraining has stagnated or even dropped and reached an unsustainable level to provide equal support for all dancers in all dance sectors. The current public investment and policy initiatives have failed to address this issue and the Arts Council England is too focused on promoting its own agenda and limited remit to take measures into consideration which fall outside this agenda in order to create prestige projects.

  Thank you very much for taking the time to consider the issues outlined in this letter. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any further questions. DCD has additional information and data to support this evidence. We would be most grateful to hear about the outcomes of this public enquiry.

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