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Community Dance, Health and Well-being members networking event
Wednesday 18 July 2007, Stratford Circus, East London
Come along for a day of discussion with colleagues in the field, make new connections, and exchange information and experiences. Plus, hear about a proposal from FCD to develop a dance, health and well-being network for members.
This event is exclusive to members of the Foundation for Community Dance and is free to attend! A light lunch and refreshments will be provided.

  • Janet Archer, Director of Dance Strategy, Arts Council England
  • Paul Stonebrook, Health Improvement Directorate, Department of Health 
  • Ken Bartlett, Creative Director, Foundation for Community Dance
Round-table discussions with:
  • Lucy Frazer, Director, Hampshire Dance on evaluation
  • Chris Fogg, Director of Dance and Theatre, Take Art! on Local Authority approaches
  • Peppy Hills, on working in the health service
  • Ian Rodley, Dance Action Zone Leeds on combating obesity
  • Plus an open mic table where you can get together talk about whatever you like!

Timetable (provisional):
Registration and Coffee
Welcomes and keynote speakers
Roundtable discussions (participants choose one to take part in one, from the list above)

13.50 Roundtable discussions repeat (participants choose one to take part in)
FCD Members health and well-being Network proposal

Ken Bartlett's presentation:

Thanks to you all for coming, to the other speakers and breakout group leaders, Kiki Gale and the staff of East London Dance and Stratford Circus for hosting the event and the Foundation's staff for the organisation and administration of the event.

For as long as I can remember the Foundation for Community Dance and its previous incarnations CDMF and NADMA, have argued that participating in dance can have a positive effect on the physical, mental, emotional and social health of those who take part in dance activities, and we have sought evidence through research, reports and articles in Animated and elsewhere to substantiate it.

Some of the people in this room have been at the forefront of articulating this and developing their practice to prove it. But the Foundation's message is that we all have something to offer the health and well being agendas.

So why are we having this seminar at this time?

First of all the issue of the nation's future health is clearly of importance to all of us as individuals and members of communities. It is certainly being given renewed prominence by the new Prime Minister in his recent speeches since taking office, albeit that the NHS spends most of its resources dealing with illness rather than health.

You will be aware that we have recently undertaken a massive piece of research into the current state of the Community Dance profession as part of 'Making a Move' our strategy for developing a professional framework for Community Dance. One of the early findings of the research is the increasing specialisation of the profession, we now not only have a large number of general practitioners, and to echo the NHS, a number of specialist consultants. At the end of the day we want to seek your views on how we as the national development body for the sector can better serve those of you who see yourselves as specialist working specifically in the various health arenas and to look at how we might support all our members and associates and partners to become more articulate about the contributions dance can make to general public health and well-being.

I think we have a number of challenges ahead in terms of our work in health and well-being. Not least of which is that of us becoming better at articulating what we mean when we talk about dance. People in the PE, Sport and voluntary sectors see something in dance that suits their purposes (it attracts more girls to take part in physical exercise for example) but when I talk to them - and I am more and more, for they are potentially great allies - I'm not sure that they mean the same thing by dance that I do. Don't get me wrong, I want them to keep mentioning dance so that we can keep putting our vision forward and so that dance is heard more strongly and widely as a positive experience.

There is also the challenge presented by the various parts of the health service for us to be clear to them about our professional competence and our knowledge of how their sector operates and what are its priorities. Last week Sue Akroyd and I held a consultation meeting with representatives of the health service who do, or are interested in employing dance artists and one of the questions was "What would you expect dance artists to have an awareness of, if not a working knowledge of, before they came to work in the health sector?".

I have to say that the list they came up with was not only extensive but also a bit scary. It included national and local government initiatives and arrangements for health service delivery. So maybe one of the Foundation's jobs is to summarise some of those answers into useful bite-sized chunks so that you have what you need when beginning to enter into partnership with the health services.

That being said I don't think that the kind of participation in dance I'm talking about is simply about developing a health and fitness regime, it is so much more and it is the added value of participating in the art of dance that I'm interested in, and being able to articulate that added value that is for me the real challenge.

I'm reminded of something that Jasmine Pasch once told me about a comment from a consultant in a hospital she was working in, it went along the lines of, I don't know what you do when you come in here, but it seems to me that the roof lifts off, the sky is blue and the sun shines. A fabulous metaphoric response, but in the realms of the mystical, which won't really wash even in the days of James Purnell's post-targetism.

So what are some of the added values?

First of all in an age when the cacophony of the individual voice as a right is almost deafening, it seems to me that the best of community dance practice takes account of the individual and weaves their creative offering into something bigger, the individual is at the centre of the creative process, it is what they bring to it that makes the particular dance, not some outside notion of what the dance should be, or look like. We are engaging with the individual on a personal, emotional and social level as well as on a physical level. It was interesting that when we undertook our first survey into dance and health in 1998 the majority of people who responded said that their main contribution was to physical health, but when we looked at the kinds of evaluation they were undertaking it was all about emotional and social health, and maybe that is where our greatest potential contribution lies.

It is not primarily based on a notion of seeking out the talented but acknowledging that everybody has something to bring to the dance and that we should celebrate what people can do rather than drawing attention to what they can't.

That we are working in an art form that has a process that begins with curious enquiry, uses experimentation and creativity to attempt to explore it, and art form skills and knowledge to select from that allow us to make new meanings and present solutions to the original enquiry in original and satisfying ways.

We also do recognise that as an art form we are dealing with the physical and perhaps we should be more out and proud about the different things that our work with the body articulates - transmission of emotion, effective communication between dancers and audiences, the promotion of ambiguity and complexity that the world really is, as well as presenting what it might be.

We are beginning to get these clearer by the research, evaluation and stories that you are all able to tell and that organisations like Jabadao, Hampshire Dance and Youth Dance Scotland (YDance) are beginning to put in place, and many of you here in this room have worked at for some time.

Ken Bartlett is Creative Director of the Foundation for Community Dance. Email