The UK development organisation and membership
body for community and participatory dance
You are here:> Home > Developing Practice > 20 minutes to change our world
20 minutes to change our world
Date posted: 12 May 2017
Louise Katerega is producer of Voice and Presence, the first collaborative project as an Associate Artist of People Dancing. Voice and Presence sets out to acknowledge, amplify and celebrate the voice of women of colour in participatory dance...
Louise Katerega. Pic by Benedict Johnson
You know that moment when you have been writing ‘officially’ about a project for so long you almost forget how to talk about it like a human being? 

Now that Voice and Presence (V&P) has been made a reality thanks to Arts Council England funding and the support of five dance organisations, I’m looking forward to seeing the project once more through my own eyes as an artist. Since the views of artists will be central to V&P, that time is definitely now.

If I could wipe my memory of the past year of deliberations and applications (wouldn’t we all like to do that sometimes?), what would artist-me want to know to get intrigued, on board and involved with V&P?

You see, as well as producer - indeed driven by this fact - I also embody V&P’s target audience: a female dance leader from the African Diaspora with something to say about my community dance practice and what I want for its future. 

Beyond the obvious question of what exactly is V&P, I would add three more: How much of my time will be taken up by it? What will I get back for that time invested? And, most of all, can I trust it’s come from a place of genuine interest in my well-being - that it’s not just another ‘tick box’ exercise? 

Voice and Presence is centred on an online enquiry, a survey where female dance artists of the African Diaspora, including those, like me, of mixed heritage, are invited to describe their community dance practice and own development needs -  whatever form that practice takes. The aim of V&P is to take a national snapshot of the sheer number and variety of women of colour in participatory dance and the range of styles and forms they use. In other words, it doesn’t matter what you do. It matters that it’s you who does it. 

Around the survey will be a year’s worth of writing and events that will further illuminate and celebrate excellence among our particular population – including blogs, magazine articles and more online content. A crowning dollop of inspiration at People Dancing’s International Conference in Glasgow, 3-5 October 2017 will feature a panel of female role-models of colour from around the globe speaking on dance, identity and community. Keep an eye on www.communitydance.org.uk/international for updates. 

It will only take about 20 minutes to complete the survey, or a bit more if you want to add further detail and opinion. So what do we get for those 20 minutes? At the very least our voices will help inform the future thinking of the V&P partners: People Dancing, State of Emergency, Serendipity, One Dance UK and ACE Dance and Music. With their reach, scope and knowledge they automatically bring our work national and international attention and, through their networks, news of us could reach potential employers inside and beyond the arts, academia, archives and at government level. This project is about effecting change. 

Once collated and assessed, a report will be posted online as a free download so any of us can share in or learn from it, find new connections and make our case to funders, backed by the hard data currently lacking in dance. For a taste of what’s to come, take a look at a similar research initiative from last year at http://www.communitydance.org.uk/developing-participation/dance-and-older-people 

Lastly, between us, the V&P partners and I have a decades-long collective track record of tenacity and commitment to increasing the diversity of who and what is seen and heard in dance and the world beyond. My relationship with all of them goes back far and deep. This is not a token exercise. Rather, it is the focus for a long conversation which began way before I put fingers to keyboard today and will continue long after. 

My voice and my presence has been established at People Dancing from boardroom to studio to office and so, through the survey, yours will be felt there too. In other words, the only box ticking going on will be done by you!  

The Voice and Presence Survey was launched in October 2017 and is available at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/PD8KHRQ.
If you’d like to know more you can email Louise at
l.katerega@yahoo.com

--- 

Voice and Presence is setting out over the next nine months to celebrate the achievements and investigate the needs of Black women working to any degree and in any form of community dance. It centres on a UK-wide, on-line survey, available here during June and July, inviting female dance artists of colour (including those of mixed heritage) to describe their participatory work and what would help them do it better.  

Voice and Presence was inspired by Urban Bush Women (UBW) in its contributions to 2016's Let's Dance International Frontiers, where Louise and People Dancing were compelled by the company's commitment and success at telling 'under-told stories', whilst delegates highlighted a profound sense of the invisibility of Black female dancers both past and present here in the UK. 

Voice and Presence is our response. Not so much a project as the current focus for a much longer, larger conversation about equality and diversity that Voice and Presence partners have long been engaged in and will engage with long into the future. We do hope you will join us.

Louise successfully applied for a scholarship to UBW's Summer Leadership Institute in New York as part her own professional development on Voice and Presence, where she will learn more about their approach to equality and working with communities (see 
http://urbanbushwomen.org/bold/summer-leadership-institute/2017_sli

Voice and Presence brings Louise into an exciting new partnership with ACE Dance & Music, One Dance UK, People Dancing, Serendipity UK and State of Emergency.