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A Shared Vision for the Future

This September saw the fourth national conference organised by Youth Dance England (YDE). Having started the consultation process at the previous conference in April 2009 (see DANCE Issue 448 p 18), YDE used this conference as a platform to launch their vision for youth dance for the future. The publication Young People’s Dance: A Ten Year Vision aims to highlight what dance means to young people, where is dance now, where it has come from since 2008 and what are the priorities to ensure children and young people have a cohesive dance offering across England. 

Through keynote speeches from the likes of Ed Vaizey (Minister for Communication, Culture and the Creative Industries), Lord Tony Hall (Chief Executive, Royal Opera House and author of the 2008 publication The Dance Review: A Report to Government on Dance Education and Youth Dance in England) and Maggie Atkinson (Children’s Commissioner for England) and through focussed breakout sessions, YDE aimed to create a debate around youth dance that would help them develop the five year strategy for the implementation of their 10 year vision. 

The strength of dance’s position is clear. Quoting Arts Council England figures Lord Hall confirmed dance as the fastest growing art in audience terms. He also quoted a School Sport Survey that shows dance as the second most popular activity for young people after football. Ed Vaizey drew attention to shows like Strictly Come Dancing and Britain’s Got Talent, which are bringing dance into people’s living rooms and lives. 

Despite this, the general concern that pervaded the conference related to funding, or lack of it. The funding cuts resulting from the UK Government’s Spending Review will affect the arts and there were fears that dance would be strongly affected by these. Regardless of these concerns, everyone attending the conference was passionate about dance and this shone through in the variety of sessions held and the multiplicity of voices heard. 

In the session ‘Crossing the Divide: The Private and Public Sectors Working Together’ led by Sean Williams, Director of the Council for Dance Education and Training, for the first time dance awarding organisations were given a voice within the context of the YDE conference and were asked to contribute their experiences of the private sector working in conjunction with the public sector. Representing the ISTD with aplomb was Miss Karen King (Principal, The Centre Performing Arts College and ISTD Fellow and Examiner), who illustrated the breadth of teaching work covered by ISTD qualified teachers in many diverse areas of the dance sector. Drawing on her own personal experience and on those of other teachers, she suggested “maybe there is no such thing as a divide between the public and private sectors, that maybe there is simply the dance teaching sector”.

“Maybe there is no such thing as a divide between the public and private sectors, that maybe there is simply the dance teaching sector”

The ISTD was also well represented by Professor Christopher Bannerman, Sujata Banerjee and Pushkala Gopal who led the session ‘The Future of South Asian Dance: Developing Opportunities for Children and Young People’. The purpose here was to get an insight and create a debate on how South Asian dance practice with, and for, children and young people can best be developed. 

The conference started with seven National Young Dance Ambassadors outlining their own 10 year vision. In 10 years’ time, they want everyone to have the opportunity to experience dance, in schools and outside of schools; they want dance to be the ultimate human form of expression; they want dance to be acknowledged for what it does: it involves the whole body with the mind and the personality to explore and create ideas as well as increase fitness. 

As a way of concluding the conference and as part of the process of implementing their ten year vision, YDE would very much like to know what you want to see happen to dance in the next 10 years, and the things you can personally do to make it happen. Visit their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TenYearVision) and share your thoughts. If you would like to read more about this event and YDE’s ten year vision, please visit the YDE website (www.yde.org.uk) under the ‘Programmes & Events’ section. There, you can access the full report of the conference along with all keynote speeches and some of the presentations from the breakout sessions. 

Nathalie Islam-Frénoy