Assessment of American concert dance world: Needs Improvement

I have seen the dance world from multiple perspectives. I have studied dance most of my life and performed, choreographed, and taught dance. I have learned about dance (with a degree to show for it) and read, thought, and written about dance. I have worked in administrative roles for dance education, presenting, and service organizations. I have engaged with Dance/NYC, Dance/USA, the Congress on Research in Dance, the Arts and Business Council, and the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries. I live in New York City where I see dance performances and hobnob with a variety of dance professionals on a regular basis.

And my consensus from observing the dance world from these diverse vantage points is: 1) I love it; I believe in it; I’m not done with it, and 2) It needs a lot of work if it wants to grow and sustain.

I have compiled here a list of problems or areas that I think need improvement in the large context of concert dance in the U.S. I have been thinking about these things for a while, but when I went to actually write down a list, I was surprised that I came up with so many – 20 in total. Because of this, I decided to divide them into categories, so that the full list wouldn’t be as overwhelming. Thus, here is my current list of areas of need for American concert dance

Coming together

  • There is not enough connection and caring among the different sectors of the dance world. I often refer to the 4 A’s and an E: Artists, Administrators, Advocates, Academics, and Educators. I feel that there need to be communication bridges between each of these groups as well as mutual respect and concern for the health of each sector.
  • Specifically, academic researchers and writers tend to be very exclusive. I spoke about this in my review of the Congress on Research in Dance conference last November. I particularly wish that academics were more inclusive of the rest of the field in their studies and also shared their findings with a broader audience, sparking positive change by sharing the knowledge with those it actually affects.
  • Once connecting bridges are established between the different sectors, there needs to be more discourse among people in dance. We need to come together to talk about issues and discuss solutions.
  • I feel dance writers could play a critical role in helping this discourse to happen – using media platforms to bring up topics and engage conversation (not just providing dance criticism). In order to do this, though, we need more opportunities, support, and compensation for dance writers.
  • To fully bring everyone to the table and working together to promote change, we may need to improve our current service organizations and possibly create new ones. For example, I think the Dance Critics Association and Dance/USA could benefit from clarified missions and rejuvenated energy. And with so many separate organizations for each professional group (though each useful), is there need for a national umbrella organization for all things dance, to at least bring representatives from each community together for cross-conversation?

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15 Reasons why all children should learn to dance

Ever since my post back in May about the Side-by-Side dance program in Utah, I’ve been thinking about dance education in schools and checking out various sources on the subject. Recently I read Judith Lynne Hanna’s 1999 book, Partnering Dance and Education. I really appreciated Hanna’s thorough analysis of the topic, as she explored the potential of dance education, discussed various models of teaching, and cited specific programs and research studies that helped to illustrate the ideas. Particularly I enjoyed her many reasons why learning dance is so valuable, including an entire chapter called “The Power of Dance Well Taught.”

I’d like to share here, straight from the book, 15 benefits of dance and dance education, as listed by Judith Lynne Hanna.

1) Dance education aids the development of kinesthetic intelligence.

2) Dance education creates opportunities for self-expression and communication within the constraints of the medium of the body.

3) Dance, whether representational, thematic, or abstract, is a repository of civilization that changes through time.

4) Dance education teaches the values and skills of creativity, problem solving, risk taking, making judgments in the absence of rules, and higher-order thinking skills.

5) Dance provides an opportunity for students to recognize that there are multiple solutions to problems. (more…)