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Animated Edition - Autumn 2006
Harnessing diversity, empowering identity
By Anna Daly, Community Dance Artist, Ludus Dance
The framework - a positive step forward?
Absolutely. In terms of professional standards and development for community dance as a sector, I think it is very exciting and has a sense of harnessing all the wonderful strengths, experiences and diversity within the field of community dance. Developments in training have been reflecting this for a few years within the field, rather like beginning to prune a beautifully wild garden, highlighting the colours, shades and variety of all the different aspects on offer!

I am a practitioner at Ludus Dance and have been for six years. Primarily my role is delivering dance work within community and education settings across the county of Lancashire. Recently my work has developed to include a slightly more managerial role in terms of supporting and developing placement students and freelance artists within the region. Therefore, it is from my personal point of view and my experience that I write this response.

Practitioners often refer to themselves as 'professionals' as it is usually a vocational choice to work in the sector and rightly so. Yet still, I feel, struggle to articulate and evidence the values and benefits of this 'profession'. How many of us still find it hard to explain our jobs to family and friends, let alone communicate the integrity of our work to funders, policy makers and potential partners from outside sectors? Therefore, for me, the framework is about INTEGRITY: supporting, evidencing, articulating and extending the integrity of the work of community dance.

Consistency of integrity
I think the Strategy is crucial in terms of developing a consistent national picture of community dance, specifically in relation to the aspects of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and regional dialogue that can underpin this.

In my opinion a real strength in how the sector currently operates, is its responsiveness to different needs and opportunities as they arise. This is often in quite an organic way, whether responding to the local environment (groups, partners) or the climate (funding, support). Although this responsiveness is beneficial to those local communities and separate regions, I feel that on a national level, it can perhaps lead to provision of training and CPD becoming somewhat diluted and duplicated and regional dialogue slipping to the bottom of the list. The professional development branch of the proposed Framework would highlight and support the balance needed between addressing provision locally and nationally.

Developmentally, the Framework serves to distil and refine the values and quality of work happening in the whole sector and in turn begins to create more consistency across the regions in terms of the provision of CPD and engagement in regional dialogue. This ultimately affects the nature and ethos of the work delivered nationwide.

Communication of integrity
Ludus would engage with the framework on many levels in relating to different 'target audiences', engaging most immediately the dance practitioners; by addressing their needs for support, offering guidance and development (CPD Map) in order to sustain a quality 'workforce' in the region. The Framework would allow for more clarity, a sense of direction and the development of a wider support network who share the same values.

In a more public arena when engaging with non-dance sector employers, it would enable a more articulate communication of the holistic benefits of community dance. Moreover, a more 'professional' status would open up dialogue with many more potentially productive partnerships in the wider community.

Both these aspects in turn would enrich the contribution that community dance offers to the fabric of our communities.

Too corporate?
Some people may have reservations that this kind of development would lead to the sector becoming too corporate, that standardising may lead to cloning. However, I feel the very nature and essence of community dance, as a sector, is too varied, versatile and holistic to let that happen and become solely about brands, prices and products.

I hope it will be about harnessing the diversity, the richness and the superb skills of the sector and start shouting about it! I hope it will be about empowering our identity through the diversity of the work, not diluting it. With the Framework for support, I feel that artists and practitioners can focus on developing their individuality, finding their pathway and thus extending their value to a wider society rather than repeatedly 'fighting their corner'.

Aside from the business images, 'corporate' is also about communal values, groups, shared ideas, community and mutuality; this is surely a language we are familiar with in community dance.

contact anna.daly@ludus.org

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Animated: Autumn 2006