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Animated Edition - Spring/Summer 2012
If you’re dancing, we’re asking
In April 2010 Animated published an article called Thinking Big, which set out some ambitions to develop Big Dance in 2012 as a UK-wide programme for the London 2012 celebrations. Two years on, and the 2012 programme is now underway. Chris Stenton explains
The Foundation for Community Dance has been working in partnership with the Greater London Authority, Arts Council England, Creative Scotland, LOCOG and organisations across the UK to develop the Big Dance 2012 National Programme – taking a lead from the team in London, spearheaded by Big Dance Director Jacqueline Rose.

The biennial Big Dance festival has grown since its first outing in 2006 to become the UK’s biggest ever celebration of dance in 2012. Big Dance is London’s Legacy Trust programme, one of a number of large-scale initiatives to help create a lasting legacy for London 2012 in communities across the UK. This year’s programme, part of the London 2012 Festival, the finale of the Cultural Olympiad, will take place across the UK between 7-15 July 2012 and includes a seven-week countdown to Big Dance starting on 18 May.

There will be a huge number of opportunities for people to take part in, see and talk about dance of all types and styles happening in all kinds of places and public spaces. In terms of scale, events range from huge, with audiences and participants of several thousand, to the small and intimate. There are opportunities to take part, to watch, to write about, to photograph.

We describe the programme as the UK’s biggest ever celebration of dance: it’s about people dancing, celebrating those who dance already and aiming to inspire people who don’t dance to try it out. Overall Big Dance aims to engage with five million people – as participants and audiences - 1.8 million people in London, 3.2 million across the rest of the UK.

An extensive programme of curated events has been organised by the Big Dance Hub network. There are 21 Hubs in total: eight in the English regions, five in London, six in Scotland and one each in Northern Ireland and Wales. The Hubs have been tasked with building a network of local authorities, health organisations, museums, libraries, sports and arts organisations to deliver an ambitious, locally driven programme. There is also a broader programme that includes social and recreational dance, with activities ‘self organised’ by participants themselves – either formally or informally.

The Hubs have been really successful at attracting new partners and supporters, without exception. We estimate that there are about 350 partners. The articles that follow give a sense of this. A particular ambition is to embed this network and approach to partnership working, as part of the longer-term legacy for community dance and the basis of continued support – in the broadest sense of the word – for people dancing when the 2012 party is over.

One of the real strengths of Big Dance – which in turn is drawn from the scale and diversity of dance in the UK – is that it’s about celebrating everyone who dances, wherever, however and for whatever reason they dance. This might be dancing for pleasure, as a social activity, for creative expression, for a sense of community, to celebrate traditions and cultures, for exercise, and very often for all of these things and more besides. My colleague Ken Bartlett has coined a phrase for this - ‘all dance, all dancing, and all dancers’ - which works really well for Big Dance.

Whilst a strength of Big Dance is about it being for everyone, it’s also an enormous challenge: just because you say it’s about everyone, it doesn’t follow that everyone can see themselves within it and we need to work hard to ensure that the offer is genuinely open, welcoming and inclusive – both in terms of what the programme is, and how it represents itself.

As far as I know, this is the first time that there has been a dance project of this scale across all four nations of the UK. We are also working with the British Council to support our international work: the Schools Pledge Word Record Attempt will take place in 45 countries; Big Dance has been adopted by the 2016 Cultural Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro. This cross-border working is an important part of Big Dance being for and about ‘everyone’.

The level of local authority interest in this project – including financial support, which in some places is significant – has been excellent and in terms of scale, unexpected. The Big Dance ‘offer’ seems to be something tangible that local authorities have responded to as a structure and an opportunity for extensive local engagement through dance with the London 2012 Festival and 2012 games celebrations. There are examples of different departments across local authorities working together: eg, the arts department working with sports development people working with public health people. A local authority officer described Big Dance to me as ‘a genuine opportunity for some joined up thinking and working within our organisation’. This feels important, and we’re going to look at what this might mean in the future.

It has been fascinating to watch the programme develop, in the two days each week (well, occasionally three) that I’m seconded to Big Dance from my usual role at FCD. Between them, the commitment from funders has been outstanding. The ability and willingness of the Big Dance Hubs to roll their sleeves up has never diminished. And actually, it’s a whole lot of fun too. Big Dance is not a formalised organisation, rather it’s a collection of people and resources from a whole range of organisations that are rolled together to make one big project happen. It’s an unusual way of working, but for something like Big Dance it feels entirely appropriate. The last year or so has really underpinned my beliefs in dispersed or shared leadership. There are so many people to thank.

At a time when the world is watching what will be the biggest ever Cultural Olympiad, this year is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shine a spotlight on the breadth, quality and diversity of dancing, and the people who dance, and for us all to be loud and proud about all of our dancing nations.

Big Dance is London’s Legacy Trust UK programme, and led by the Greater London Authority and Arts Council England. The Big Dance national programme ‘wraps around’ London and is funded by Arts Council England, The Foundation for Sport and the Arts, the Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland – where Big Dance is part of Get Scotland Dancing, a Scottish Government initiative. Big Dance is supported by Dance Takes the Lead, a group of dance organisations, teaching and membership organisations from across the dance sector.

Chris Stenton, Development Director, Foundation for Community Dance & Executive Director, Big Dance National Programme
contact For more information and programmes visit 

The Big Dance Hubs

Dundee area - Dundee Dance Partners

East of England - DanceEast

East London - East London Dance

East Midlands - Dance 4

Edinburgh, East and West Lothians - Dance Base

Glasgow and greater Glasgow - Dance House

Inverness and the Highlands - Eden Court Theatre

North East England - Dance City

North East Scotland - Citymoves

N. Ireland - Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre

North London - Sadler’s Wells

North West England - Merseyside Dance Initiative

South East England - South East Dance

South East London - Greenwich Dance

South London - Siobhan Davies Dance

South West England  - Dance South West/Pavilion Dance

Stirling area - Macrobert Arts Centre

Wales - Wales Millennium Centre/Dance Cymru

West London - English National Ballet

West Midlands - DanceXchange

Yorkshire - Yorkshire Dance

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Animated: Spring/Summer 2012