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Animated Edition - Autumn 2006
Beginning to grasp the nettle?
Chris Fogg, Director of Take Art: Dance, the county dance agency for Somerset
I am impressed by the aspirations contained in Making a Move as it nears the end of its Baseline Research process, which will subsequently inform its crucial commissioning phases. I applaud the comprehensive manner in which the Strategy is presented within the context of the 'bigger picture' of community dance, and what the professional framework is for - who it is targeting and how it will be marketed. I welcome the articulation of a set of Core Principles, and I recognise the hypothetical case studies of practitioners at various stages in their careers, who might access and benefit from the framework once it has been implemented.

But there are some difficult and thorny issues here, which the draft acknowledges, but which will need plenty of work to tackle in the vital commissioning phases to come, if the framework is to be a success. Phrases such as 'gold standard' and 'kite marking' are bound to raise some hackles, as is the notion of a 'Practitioner Membership Scheme', and even more so the suggestion to form a 'Committee' to oversee the practice of the framework. But the draft is right to raise these issues, for - from an organisation's (and employer's) perspective - I need to see dance practitioners with a record of continuing professional development (CPD) whose credentials I can trust, and whose quality I can champion.

Working in a (largely) rural setting here in the south-west, our dance practitioners feel even more keenly the sense of isolation voiced by dance artists everywhere, and my partners in the other dance agencies across the region regularly share practice and resources in order to maximise CPD opportunities for our artists. Consequently, the references in the framework to both 'generic and specialist professional competencies' are indeed welcome, as is the emphasis placed upon the creation and maintenance of a CPD Map. I particularly like the flexible number of potential entry points to the map suggested by the framework, depending upon individual need. I would hope, when this is more clearly formulated, that the more established Higher Education dance training providers might be encouraged to incorporate them into their own courses - particularly an introduction into the generic and specialist competencies - for I find myself increasingly frustrated these days on behalf of the many graduates I see returning to the south-west, who have not been as carefully prepared as they need to be to make that difficult transition from graduation towards possible employment.

However, the key word for me that emerges from reading the draft framework is 'will'. It appears many, many times. For although I admire the framework's ambition, it is in the implementation of its aspirations that it will succeed or fail. The next few months - referred to as the Commissioning Phase - will be vital, for it is then that the competencies will need to be agreed and articulated; it is then when the current CPD opportunities will need to be audited, assessed and disseminated; and it is then when all these nettles of implementation will have to be grasped. What we need is to progress from what the Professional Framework will provide to what it is actually delivering. And what we need then is a swift and universal identification and acceptance of recognised CPD opportunities available to enable quality in dance practice to be identified and then raised.

The Foundation for Community Dance has grasped the first of these nettles, by producing a Strategy. It is now up to the whole sector to work with them to take hold of and shake all the rest.

contact chris@takeart.org

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Animated: Autumn 2006