Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by DanceCity

  Response from Janet Archer, Artistic Director, DanceCity, National Dance Agency, Newcastle upon Tyne, on behalf of ANDA, the Association of National Dance Agencies, written in collaboration with Deborah Barnard, Artistic Director, Ludus Dance Company, (Dance North West) and Jane Greenfield, Artistic Director Dance 4. ANDA constitutes the following organisations: Birmingham Dance Exchange, DanceCity, Newcastle, DanceEast, Ipswich, Dance 4, Nottingham, Dance North West, Dance South East, Brighton, London Contemporary Dance Trust, London, Swindon Dance, Yorkshire Dance, Leeds.

  The National Dance Agencies were established by the Arts Council in partnership with regional arts funding agencies and local authorities in the late 80s to develop opportunity for dance provision to be established at a community, educational and professional level throughout England. The network has provided a national dance infrastructure for dance for the first time. It is however still operating on a relatively fragile resource base and it is critical that this is strengthened if the network is to build on its current strengths and service the wide ranging set of demands that are now presenting themselves to NDAs nationally.

  This paper endeavours to respond to the issues outlined in the call for evidence, published in April 2004. It comments on the key areas of concern identified for the enquiry, and offers recommendations in relation to future strategy development for dance in England.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATE OF THE DANCE ECONOMY?

The following is an email circulation sent out collectively by the National Dance Agencies in 2003.

  "In Europe, exists a country, which provides a networked support for the development of dance achieving a nation wide distribution of resources. The `dance hubs' provide a critical, solid layer of maturity regarding the continued evolution of dance as a significant contemporaneous art form.

  The dance hubs employ 13 artistic leaders/facilitators, a full-time workforce of 115 people (of which 40% are artistic posts) and 30 additional part-time posts. Over 300 artists are contracted on a regular sessional basis to deliver an extensive community class and professional development programme.

  Per annum, on average, 140 community residencies occur alongside 17,000 community dance activities which, combined, involve up to 300,000 people in dance.

  61 performances are either commissioned or co-commissioned. 182 venues are worked with. Up to 450 performances are presented. 85,000 people see the work. Over 2,600 artists are worked with in an average year.

  The network contributes over 700 professional development activities for the sector and run two accredited Further Education programmes. They manage five theatres, 30 dance studios, five cafe«/bars with three further purpose built dance centres in development. The hubs act as centres for support, advice, advocacy and information and house dance resources (LX equipment, hot desks, dance floors etc), which are available to artists.

  The system is non-prescriptive allowing each individual hub to develop specialisms alongside a programme of activities informed by common aims. The artistic work covers producing, presentation, professional development, community and education, new technologies, experimental work exploring the advancement of form, national & international promotion and film.

  They are recognised as contributing to the social, educational and cultural economics of the country and attract a wide migration of artists from around the globe. The dance ecology as a whole is currently enjoying secondary industry development with the emergence of new layers of dance service providers creating an essential arterial system.

  The central government investment in the hubs sees a 4,950,000 euro (£3.3 million) base subsidy achieve circa a 200% return. The network generates/levers an additional 7,950,000 euro (£5.3 million) for the industry."

  (It costs 15 million euro (£10 million) to build one mile of motorway. The average cost of making a 30 second commercial in the USA is just over £0.5 million.)

    —  The critical point to make is that this new leverage has only been made possible by the establishment of a dance economy which is genuinely national. Prior to the establishment of the National Dance Agencies England's dance economy was largely rooted in London. Research should be carried out to explore what increase a greater level of investment in NDAs would bring in relation to both economic return and artistic endeavour through the further development of regional partners/investors. Discussion should take place with ANDA to explore a nationally strategic approach to increasing the dance economy over the next decade.

The infrastructure of dance and the built environment surrounding this

  Dance has benefited from investment from the Arts Council's Capital Lottery Scheme and other Capital investment regionally and locally. A network of venues is beginning to be established including but not exclusively:

  The Place, London; The Laban Centre, London; Greenwich Dance Centre; Derby Dance Centre; The Pointe, Eastleigh; Birmingham Dance Exchange; (Dancebase, Edinburgh); Dance East, Suffolk—new scheme in development; DanceCity, Newcastle—new scheme in development; Phoenix/Northern Ballet Theatre, Leeds—new scheme in development.

  There can be no doubt that this new infrastructure has benefited dance opportunity on all levels. David Miliband MP, Minister of State for Schools Standards, spoke recently at a conference in Newcastle (Creative Futures) on the importance of educational spaces to learning. Dance has for too long suffered from having to work in inadequate spaces. ANDA celebrates the development of new spaces and looks forward to future development of new purpose built spaces for dance performance and participation.

    —  In order to safeguard future stability a position needs to be taken in relation to future expansion of this network by Arts Council England and its partners. This will give clarity to the sector in relation to scope (or otherwise) for future development and a clear steer to organisations with responsibility for maintaining buildings in relation to their future scope for sustained artistic growth in relation to the overall competitiveness of the sector as a whole.

ARE THE BENEFITS OF DANCE AS A SPORTING ACTIVITY RECOGNISED AND BUILT UPON EFFECTIVELY?

  Although dance is now recognised as an Olympic sport, the dance profession generally resists responding to the sports community in relation to the inclusion of dance within its portfolio. The reasons for this are rooted within the education system, where it is generally felt by the dance community that dance sits better within an arts curriculum, than within the sports curriculum where it is often sited in schools. PE staff are sometimes not sensitive to the creative potential within the form, and focus on the use of dance as a fitness regime to supplement sports studies.

  There is no doubt however that as a physical activity dance can enhance sporting achievement quite considerably. It develops overall agility, flexibility, movement skills and teamwork in ways which can complement sport with extremely positive results. It is an increasingly popular form of study at GCSE/A Level and can, when taught well, have an extremely positive effect on lifestyle choices and healthy living. It is also used as a complementary training means in this country and abroad for many professional sports including football.

    —  Investigation needs to be carried out to explore how to refocus dance within the school curriculum to enable it uniquely to be recognised as both an artform and a sport by teachers.

    —  Research could be carried out in relation to how dance could benefit/is benefiting the professional sports sector, eg football.

EFFECT OF PUBLIC POLICY AND INVESTMENT

How have public investment and policy initiatives influenced the development of dance as an art form in the UK?

  There can be no doubt that the dance economy had increased substantially over recent years, the NDA statement outlined above, and Graham Devlin's recent audit of National Dance Activity, published by the Arts Council in 2003, demonstrates this growth. ANDA welcomes the influence that has been brought to bear on cultural agendas recently through the embracing of social inclusion and educational development within mainstream arts agendas. This turn in policy has seen a massive uplift in demand for dance from a wide range of sources, including local authorities, schools, social services departments and the private sector.

  There is a concern however that the demand for growth in dance outweighs the current core investment in the form. ANDA believes that if this imbalance is not rectified, then dance as an artform will suffer. As organisations working reliant on project income from a multiplicity of sources, all with differing agendas, we sometimes have to construct projects that don't always have art at the centre of them. If there was greater freedom and resources to support "excellent organisations" we would be able to create more genuine and meaningful projects for communities, audiences and artists. This is backed up by a growing view that the UK is currently not producing a substantial number of exciting and diverse experimental dance artists in the same way that it managed to achieve throughout the 80s and early 90s. If we are to return to being respected as a major world player in the dance field, then we must invest in the process of art creation in a much more significant fashion.

  One analogy that could be made aligns the dance industry with the pharmaceutical industry. Laboratory experimentation is critical to ensure the safe and effective development of drugs to cure the world's illnesses. This is only possible with serious investment.

  Similar investment in experimentation is needed to develop good art, without which the wide scope of projects delivered by NDAs, are all invalidated. At the same time, this research needs to be managed, to ensure that it is properly factored into professional activity in a cohesive and structured way.

    —  ANDA asks for an acknowledgement in the need to support managed research and development for dance art and dance artists nationally.

How effective is Arts Council England at developing policies, deploying investment and implementing policy initiatives?

  ANDA welcomes the Arts Council's key policy to redistribute its cultural framework and to invest in a national network of dance agencies throughout England. We welcome the support of Arts Council England on a number of important areas of our operations including:

  1.  The placing of art at the centre of our agendas to ensure that all people not only experience high quality work, which they can enjoy and learn from, but also that they can engage with emotionally, physically and spiritually. Whatever the context, eg Young people, social inclusion, health etc. Our main aim is to develop people's creativity and imaginations. NDAs ensure their international remit feeds into local community and education work. Eg International companies from Australia, Italy, America and India have all undertaken teaching based activity with young people and schools in different inner cities in England. In 2002 Igneous Dance and Multi Media Company (Australia) worked with a group of young people from two schools for a week long residency during which time the young people looked at issues of disability, difference, personal journeys through dance and film making. Our aim is to encourage our local communities to feel challenged and inspired and to question their world around them. In this sense we are trying to support and develop a global or creative community.

  2.  Cultural exchange. NDAs are providing artists, audiences, venues with the opportunity to see a broad range of dance and performance work from around the world—we bring the global to the local. We actively work across geographical and cultural boundaries. NDAs aim to broaden everyone's horizons and demonstrate that multiculturalism is something to celebrate not denigrate. Eg in 2005 ANDA will tour a Spanish and Estonian company throughout the UK to venues and communities who have not experienced dance before.

  3.  As producers and curators, NDAs have been encouraged to introduce international artists/companies into this country and giving them a foothold into touring in the UK. Eg Dance 4 produced a UK wide tour for French company Jerome Bel and Austrian company Willi Dorner. Both companies now perform in the UK independently of D4 and are building their own relationships with venues, festivals and educational establishments. DanceCity is supporting Samir Akika, a protege of the world famous Pina Bausch and Granhoj Dans from Denmark in the same way.

  4.  The art forms in general are developing in such a way that cross disciplinary or collaborative work is becoming more and more the norm. Arts Council policy has supported this. Artists and artforms are looking to work outside their definitions. Again NDAs are able to galvanise this through community and professional work. Encouraging dance and film based projects, gallery or site specific work, dance/performance and environmental art. Eg Dance 4 commissioned land artist Jim Buchanan to create a labyrinth installation in a swimming pool in which the public could swim the pattern and pathways of. It was a "conceptual" event that become very popular with families and children because it was very "social". DanceCity has developed a dance/digital media project, which has created an interactive installation in a hospital in Middlesbrough, which was designed to develop sensory skills in under fives with severe learning disabilities.

  5.  Strategic dance development. Dance Agencies in some regions are being encouraged to establish a wider dance infrastructure through developing partnerships with local authorities to support the development of other independent agencies and expanded investment in dance. Eg in Tees Valley, DanceCity has established teesdanceinitiative, based at ARC in Stockton, which employs a team of eight people working at grass roots level to develop dance in Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton and Redcar and Cleveland.

    —  We welcome the fact that Arts Council England is working closely with NDAs to ensure a continued expansion of dance as an artform nationally.

YOUNG PEOPLE AND DANCE

What opportunities and support currently exist in order to promote the inclusion and progression of young people in dance?

  It is widely acknowledged that dance participation in the UK still focuses on young people from the middle classes with parental support for their chosen progression within dance. Access to dance is now mainstreamed into our educational and community provision. What is lacking are basic pathways to ensure that young people without support can be provided with a route to further training should they demonstrate that they merit it no matter what their background or previous experience of dancing. The current development within the Music and Dance scheme for vocational training is set up to address this, as is the new National Youth Dance Agency. It should be acknowledged however that not all young people want to progress into dance as a career, and routes for young people who want to dance as a complement to their overall social and personal development should also not be discounted in developing new schemes for access and participation. Uniquely amongst art forms, dance has the ability to progress both creative, social and physical development at a serious level. It is an emotionally releasing activity, which is proven to benefit human spiritual growth through both its value as an activity for individuals and for groups of people working together. Like anything however, it does not generate results, if it is not taught well, by professionals who are in contact with their own artistic practice at the highest level.

    —  All young people should have access to dance, particularly those from disadvantaged social backgrounds.

    —  Dance should only be taught by experienced qualified professionals in contact with current artform thinking relevant to the sector as a whole.

What is the role of dance within education at present? Should this change in the future?

  See above.

IS PUBLIC INVESTMENT IN DANCE AT A SUFFICIENT LEVEL? CONSIDERING THE IMPORTANCE PLACED RECENTLY ON "ACTIVE LIFESTYLES" BY THE GOVERNMENT, DOES THE FUNDING LEVEL NEED REVISION?

  Yes, this paper is centred on the need to review investment. There is no question that dance participation, both as a spectator and as a dancer enhance bodily awareness and a greater sense and motivation to increase fitness levels. Dance participation is now available nationally and could be developed to provide everyone with an alternative and holistic means of keeping physically and psychologically fit whilst at the same time enjoying a social activity which is part of our popular culture, amongst young and old alike.

April 2004





 
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