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Animated Edition - Summer 2007
Reflections on conversation
Luke Pell, Education Manager for CandoCo, talked with young delegates at Youth Dance England's conference and here reflects on what they had to say
Members of the Wirral Youth Theatre attended this years Youth Dance England conference as young delegates. Myself, Sri Sarker and Pam Johnson from Arts Council England were fortunate enough to spend part of our afternoon talking with them about their thoughts and questions. I am really happy to share my reflections on our conversation here.
Professionals and policy makers are currently talking a lot about 'what is potential?' Within the sector we are giving increasing attention to progression routes for those with 'potential', through Centres for Advanced Training, Foundation Courses, Vocational Training Programmes and so on.

Does this mean that when we discuss potential we are referring only to the potential to perform and that these opportunities are limited specifically to dancers? Are we looking for those who can achieve excellent technique, or those with the greatest capacity to learn, or perhaps those that can challenge physicality through dance? Of course there are all of these elements to consider and many more, but are we considering the potential for engaging with dance in a wider way?
Where are we addressing progression routes for tomorrows' exceptional dance programmers, producers, designers, managers, educationalists and audiences? Is there enough opportunity for young people to explore the possibility of an exciting and meaningful career in dance without actually dancing? More importantly are young people aware that this is a possibility? Certainly from speaking with the young people from the Wirral I sensed a thirst for a richer understanding of the dance world and a need for better signposting to these diverse dance opportunities.

In our work at CandoCo we have made a conscious decision to ensure we contextualise our practice and place within the dance world for the young people we engage. By opening up the process, revealing all the contributors we provide a deeper relationship with the work, as well as more well rounded performers or practitioners. We are now creating educational projects that are not only accessible to all kinds of dancer but to the individual. In broadening young people's understanding of the professional dance world we can offer them a greater range of career options.

The young people from Wirral Youth Theatre were concerned that many of the strategists within the dance sector are focussing only on the development of exceptional dancers and that this approach immediately excludes young people with an interest in dance who may not want to perform professionally. Increasing awareness of the many roles in the sector could reduce its perceived exclusivity and encourage new contributors for a richer, more diverse sector.

Exclusivity was a key issue raised in our conversation. These young people felt that dancing for enjoyment was sidelined by discussion around training routes, excellence and the benefits to one's health. That there was little interest in those who have the potential to simply, enjoy dance.
There will always be debates about why do we dance, where do we dance, who do we dance for. It is this, who do we dance for or more specifically who do young people dance for that particularly interested me. The young people from the Wirral were saying that they dance for themselves, for pleasure.

One young person spoke about their dance session offering precious time out from conflict at home. Another spoke about the dance sessions providing both a safe place to be and a community they truly connected with. In allowing space for the multitude of issues young people encounter on a daily basis they found support through their dance sessions. They had an undeniable sense of company, of responsibility to one another and what they had created together whether that was trust, friendship or dance.

One of the final comments a young person made was that they would be the next professionals to be doing all of this after we have gone and as such we should listen more closely to what they are saying. So despite the negative association to exclusivity these young people feel comes with the terminology used for progression routes, they were clearly committed to a future in dance. It is worth considering the language we choose to use when initially engaging young people so that we do not lose them before they have even begun their journey.

However, with their commitment to the form and passion for its personable side, I am sure we can expect a really vibrant future. I certainly wouldn't want to limit this vibrancy by overlooking any individuals potential to engage with dance or their personal growth. What these thoughts really raised for me is that as we work to nurture young dancers, let's not forget we are also nurturing people.

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Animated: Summer 2007