With cuts made throughout the dance industry this year it was about time that the subject of dance in the United Kingdom was finally brought to the attention of MPs in parliament. Cuts in funding have affected not only professional dance companies, but funding institutions such as Arts Council England; who allow dance youth groups and community dance work to take place every single day. With the money gone there are countless dance organizations which have had to close down or start charging children for classes in economic areas where this is just not possible.
On the 11th of October 2011 a gathering of dance professionals from all over the UK joined to support MP Frank Doran as he debated Dance in Education. Frank Doran is a co-founder of The All Party Parliamentary Dance Group (APPDG) established in 2006, which was created to raise the profile of the arts within the government. Nick Gibb the schools minister responded on behalf of the government. This debate was in response to David Willets comments in The Daily Telegraph stating that dance was a ‘soft’ subject when taken as an A-Level subject. Read Kelly Crocker’s blog ‘Fancy a dance Mr Willet?’ to discover more on what David Willets had to say.
To watch the debate please follow the link at the bottom of this page. Whilst watching Doran read all the positive affects dance has had upon the United Kingdom over the past few years, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed by our representation as people within the dance industry. I am fully grateful and did not think Doran was in any way wrong in his points or disappointed in him personally. I just wished that rather than an MP reading this all off numerous sheets of paper, that children, students, and teachers, who are all passionate and affected deeply by the cuts, could be there in person to share their personal stories of what dance has done for them. I believe that if we can only communicate to parliament through an MP that our full stories will not be listened to with enough attention that they need. For example if you observe the man behind Doran in the video link, he slumps bored and uninterested through most of Doran’s speech!
Highly renowned Royal Ballet stars Edward Watson and Lauren Cuthbertson were two of many who visited to support the debate at Westminster. Watson’s statement before the debate took place revealed his concern:
“I’m attending the debate today because I believe that all young people should get the opportunity to take part in dance at school. I benefitted from the best training and I’m so grateful. I want all those children who have a talent for dance to get the chance to receive high quality dance training, no matter what their financial background. I’m here to support the future generations of great British dancers.”
Arlene Phillips was tweeting all day and also attended the debate. She stated:
"I was shocked and outraged that a government minister should say that Dance should have lower UCAS points than other subjects. I’m so pleased that there is going to be a serious debate in Westminster so politicians can discuss the many benefits of including dance in the education system. By building dance into school life we can get kids physically active, drive up educational achievement and capture the attention of many students who are on the margins at school and suffer from low self-esteem.”
It’s very encouraging to see busy dance professionals taking time out of their hectic schedule for those who are aiming to involve dance as part of their futures. This industry needs role models such as Watson, Cuthbertson and Phillips to show that even though you succeed individually you still need to be aware of the opportunities being cut for those who have not quite made it yet. Their dedication and passion shines through for all to see and we should be forever grateful for the time they have given in support for all of us.
Members of the APPDG have also given a lot of time to Dance which cannot be ignored, especially at the time of DanceVote 2010. Sir Gerald Kaufman the chair of the party managed to persuade the secretary of state to provide £5 million pounds to help provide dance in schools. He is also currently negotiating with the Secretary of the State of Health for support for dance as a health-enhancing activity. I think the reactions and responses from MPs across the United Kingdom were great to see, and speaking for all who couldn’t make it to support parliament on that day, you did a fantastic job raising awareness for the art we love and want to share. I just wish sometimes that politicians such as David Willet would experience and see the real struggles we all face within this challenging yet dually rewarding passion we call dance.
Watch the debate : http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=9068&st=12:30:19