The UK development organisation and membership
body for community and participatory dance
Animated Edition - Issues 1996 - 2001
Seen and heard
Animated, Spring 1998. Responding to people, themes and political newness. Penny Greenland speaks candidly about her fears and aspirations as JABADAO are poised on the brink of some pioneering new initiatives
Just before the Arts Council announced the first round of Arts for Everyone awards we sat down at JABADAO to decide whether we would accept a grant if it were offered. My goodness... it comes to something being 'sniffy' about a quarter of a million pounds! But, given the enormity of the change that such a grant is bound to bring, we felt it was essential to make a real decision about whether we wanted it - to stay in control of our own destiny.

As we tried to second-guess what the grant might bring with it we felt gloomier and gloomier. Funding to consolidate existing work, or to replace ever-dwindling local authority money would have presented few problems. But this was to be money for new projects. A lot of new projects. Opportunities to apply for big money have been thin on the ground recently, so, in common with most others we had gone for broke. Now, faced with the possibility of success, what made us hesitate?

We feared that managing the increased work load, and the financial turnover it would bring, would mean that no aspect of the company could remain the same. We would have to restructure completely. Gone would be the informal, almost collective way of working that we have worked so hard to develop over 12 years and in its place there would have to be clearly defined roles, much greater division of labour, and much less collaborative working. We would be working to targets like never before; not a month, a week or a day would go by when we weren't anxiously checking how we were doing against a plan devised back in January 1997 - leaving little room for responding to people, themes, political newness along the way. (Especially galling when a longed-for change of Government at last seems to offer possibilities of a rethink about the potential role of the arts in the delivery of new social policy).

A picture grew of a company so warped by the funding system that it didn't feel worth tangling with. So then we started to explore the alternative. What would it be like if we didn't accept? Albeit with our principles and practice intact, we faced cuts in hours, cuts in wages, moving out of our offices to reduce the rent, back to turning out our handbags to find the lost office biro... etc. We felt gloomier still - until one of us suddenly brightened and said cheerfully: It's simple. It's a disaster if we accept it and a disaster if we don't!" And she was right. With this fresh insight we accepted £227,536 and, yes, the last few months have been every bit as difficult as we imagined. But now, bruised, older, (wiser?) we are poised on the brink of some terrific projects. Target-led, or no, we are looking forward to every minute of it. And we will make the programme work in the context of the emerging new opportunities because we must. Things are looking good - last week we bought a grand photocopier that does do double-sided copies; this week the company doubled in size and next week we will begin to sow the seeds for our new publishing house.

JABADAO Publishing
"Movement is the most direct medium of human communication we possess; in dancing we can express things we cannot otherwise express and know things we cannot otherwise know. It is an ancient language that belongs not just to the 'dancers', but to all human beings". (1)

JABADAO seeks to expand the role of dance in our society. Dancers have an enormous contribution to make within primary health care, public health and social service provision, community development and in lifelong education. To make practical examples of this work more accessible, we are setting up a publishing house. This is our way to give easily accessible practical examples of this work in action. We want to develop a portfolio of the work people are doing in many different kinds of health and community development settings. Through these examples, we want to redefine the words 'dance' and 'dancer'. To show how people with apparently little movement range (compared to those traditionally called dancers) and no previous technical training can have a deep-rooted, natural ability to use movement to work with others, in ways that are entirely beneficial to the services they work within. We call these people dancers - people who know movement matters and quickly realise how they can both 'talk' and listen' through its language. And we need to prove, in qualitative and quantitative ways, the value of this newly defined dance work.

We want to make it as ordinary and obvious to use dance as it is currently to use words, or verbal counselling, or a prescription for medicine, or a community meeting. We dream of a time when anyone who uses movement as part of their repertoire can describe themselves simply as a health worker or community development worker, (They will not have to mention the fact that they use movement, just as a health worker now probably doesn't bother to tell you that he or she uses words.)

Each year, around topical themes, we will commission a broad range of writing from radical thinkers and people with stimulating things to say. Practical examples will come from the people who are doing the work physiotherapists, nurses, community development workers, youth workers, health visitors, occupational therapists, nursery workers, parents and those who call themselves dancers. On our web site we will make a place for ideas, debate, challenges, questions and sharing of practice in a more immediate way.

Collaborative Writing Service
Lottery money has allowed us to appoint a new Information and Publications Co-ordinator, Phil Vaughan, himself an ex-nurse and information worker with a community health team. For those who want to communicate their ideas, but don't have the time or the inclination to sit down and write, we will offer a 'collaborative writing service'. You provide the ideas and the examples - we provide the structure and the words.

Seeing and Being Seen
A research project taking a new look at the roles of performer and audience in our society.

For some years JABADAO members have been exploring and training in a form called Authentic Movement. This is a mediative and therapeutic form with roots in the psychology of CJ Jung. The form is simple: "There is a mover and a witness. The mover closes her or his eyes and waits for the movement impulses - the process of being moved. The body is the guide, and the mover takes a ride on the movement impulses as they emerge. The witness observes, sustaining conscious awareness of her or his own experience and of the mover. After a period of time, the witness calls the movement session to a close, and there is a verbal dialogue about what occurred." (2)

As we have done more of this work we have been powerfully struck by the kind of movement that emerges through this form, and by the parallels with the audience and or performer relationship. We have heard ourselves, and others, saying: "I'd rather watch that than any performance at the theatre" or "It's as 'good' as anything I've ever seen." And we have begun to think again about two things. Firstly, the nature and role of performance - why do we do it? Does the traditional theatre context mask some of what might need to happen? How might community dance learn from the Authentic Movement form? Secondly, is this a useful way for dancers to develop their movement vocabulary?

This project will bring together an international group of people who have worked with Authentic Movement as a therapeutic form, some with performance experience, some with no desire to perform in traditional ways at all, and explore the key issues about seeing and being seen with reference to performance. The subsequent seminar tour and publications seek to fuel the debate on the role of performance in community contexts and interest others in the Authentic Movement form.

Penny Greenland, Artistic Director, JABADAO. Guidelines for people wishing to submit ideas for publications will be available from June 1998; if you want these or information about the Seeing and Being Seen project, contact Pat Pickavance on +44 (0)113 231 0650.

1 JABADAO Policy Statement
2 Olsen, AJ, Being Seen, Being Moved, Contact Quarterly, Winter/Spring 1993.

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Animated: Issues 1996 - 2001