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Calling all female dancers of the African Diaspora
Date posted: 19 October 2017
People Dancing Associate Artist Louise Katerega introduces ‘Untold Value?’ It's an important new survey just launched under the Voice and Presence partnership
Louise Katerega with Remzije Sherifi. Photo: Rachel Cherry
Where does the time go? We’re now just past the half-way point of Voice and Presence (V&P), my collaboration with People Dancing that set out, last spring, to acknowledge, amplify and celebrate the influence of women of the African Diaspora on participatory dance. As the producer for V&P, for me the time has gone in so many different directions!

I have lots of news to share of national and international travel, artists met, experienced and written about. The biggest news, however, is that Untold Value?: The Voice and Presence Online Survey, a key focus of V&P, is now live and ready for you to complete and return before Sunday 10 December.

Why is the survey called ‘Untold Value?’ 

For me, the title ‘Untold Value?’ sums up why People Dancing, the V&P supporting organisations and I embarked on this journey in the first place: our quest to find out if, as our experiences, conversations and anecdotal evidence would suggest, there is a hidden economy of female dance artists of the African Diaspora. How many are contributing positively to the dance profession by:

Making dance, dances and dancers across a variety of styles that are yet to be fully articulated?
Training performers, dance-makers and teachers in ways still to be fully acknowledged?
Building bodies of research, practice and reflection that remain unarchived?

To what extent are these artists doing all of the above with an entrepreneurship that is yet to be recognised as giving crucial support to their own and others’ creativity, their own and others’ families, to supporting communities, the dance profession, the diversity agenda and the arts as a whole?

‘Untold Value?’ is your opportunity to help give us a snapshot of current practice and experience that either confirms or disproves all of this, or perhaps tells us something else altogether. We are eager to listen to what you have to say and we cannot wait to learn more.

To connect to the survey click here. 

Who is the survey for?

This survey is for you if you identify as female, as a dance artist, as having a full or partial heritage from the African Diaspora and lead workshops, classes or dance groups in the community or in education. Or if you know someone like this, please pass the survey on to them.

What is the survey like? What will your answers help us do?

The survey is very straightforward! It asks:

Where you live and work
What you do and who your work reaches
How your work fits with other dance work 
Your thoughts on your work, now and for the future.

The survey questions are mainly multiple choice so you could scroll down, clicking through your answers without taking up the options to comment, in about 20 minutes. This will give us vital facts and figures we can use to demonstrate the breadth and range of what you do, the ways in which you support others and how you would like to be supported in the future. 

Or you can opt to share your views and aspirations – anonymously if you choose. This will help us to produce not so much a piece of mapping as a picture of the genuine view from the floor, projecting the real voices and true experiences of those engaged in the activities surveyed, day to day. 

And if you are happy to share your details with us, you can opt to take up an invitation to have a brief, personal telephone interview. This will help us shape not only the future offer of the organisations involved in V&P but, potentially, because of those organisations’ connections, influence the data they will use to make the case at the top tables in the arts, academia and government for greater investment in women of colour.

From my own experience, when I test ran the survey on myself, it felt like I was finally getting to say things I had long wanted to say or only felt able to say in kitchens, cafes or dressing rooms to someone who could only listen and receive without judgement. I found this hugely satisfying.

“Why should I spend time on this survey”, you might ask, “what will happen to the results?”

Well, this is not ‘just another survey’. First of all, it’s a real first. It’s the first time, to our knowledge, this group of people will have been asked these questions about this area of their work. It promises to generate some rarely collected and much needed data.

Secondly, it will create a new, specialist space to express what women of the African Diaspora in Dance do as professionals. This will complement the work of organisations like One Dance UK, platforms such as Serendipity’s Leicester International Dance Frontiers and production houses like State of Emergency, who are all V&P supporters.

Yet, so far, we have no equivalent ways of publicly sharing this group’s activities in participatory dance. Thankfully, People Dancing - the foundation for community dance, through Voice and Presence, is now actively embracing its unique position to be that place and space where this work can rightfully be recognised.

Finally, we can assure you that when this survey is complete, it will not just be put away, never to be put to practical use by significant others – particularly you.
By Spring 2018, we will share the findings of ‘Untold Value?’ in a report that will be permanently available as a free download from the People Dancing website. This way, the data will also be handed back to you for your own use. You might use it as a way to see and hear of  others’ practice, to make your case to funders or employers, or to support your research or teaching. We very much hope you will complete the survey!

Louise Katerega
October 2017

Photos show (top) Johannesburg dance artist Gladys Agulhas, at the 2017 People Dancing international conference, in Glasgow and (right) Louise Katerega. Photography by Rachel Cherry.