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Animated Edition - Issues 1996 - 2001
Investing in flagships
Animated, Spring 1997. Laraine Fischer reflects on the value of work placements
"So you have a degree in dance but what do you actually know? Do you have the skills and knowledge to survive in the real world?"

I have often imagined this scenario occurring at my first job interview on leaving university. Nine months ago I'm not really sure I could have come to my own defence but following a period of work experience, first at the Foundation for Community Dance and then at Thamesdown National Dance Agency, I have developed real skills relevant to my chosen career path and had one year's experience as part of my training, the value of which is already obvious and will become more so in the future. I've had a chance to take stock of what I actually know and as part of the experience I have found that:

  • Close working environments mean it is important to establish positive working relationships and offer insight into individual working practices, people management, personnel procedures and familiarity with management of arts organizations
  • Mistakes coincide with confidence growth so you are better prepared to take responsibility for them. The host cushions you from mistakes allowing you the freedom to make them in the first place an effective learning method
  • Working to deadlines develops time management skills
  • Opportunities to experiment creatively allows for identification of personal strengths and weaknesses
  • You are forced to develop communication skills effective and efficient writing and telephone skills and computer literacy. As the computerised millennium dawns, it demands the acquisition of technological skills including fax, Email and the Internet
  • Vital contacts are developed within dance through networking
  • It is a chance to reaffirm your belief in your chosen profession and in your decision to follow this particular career path, or alternatively it can help you decide dance isn't for you
  • Enthusiasm can dampen when you constantly hear of the impossibility of finding work in your chosen career. As realistic as this may be, when you meet individuals who have, with vision and determination, successfully carved a living from dance, it can help you resolve to do the same and why not?
  • It is a time to contemplate the future and to learn about oneself, and the skills accumulated during the placements form significant building blocks for the future.

One might consider work experience to be an invaluable part of training, so how are so many people not provided with the opportunity? Is it because there aren't enough willing hosts or mentors or is it due to cuts in training courses leaving little time for work skill development? Todays work placements could be tomorrow's funders, directors, administrators or audience members they are the future flagships for dance and an investment now by organisations, course boards and funders could make a great deal of difference for the future of the industry.

Laraine Fisher, Student, University of Surrey.

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Animated: Issues 1996 - 2001