Let me say from the start that I am completely committed to dance. I go to watch modern dance, and I myself go dancing three or four times a week. (For what it is worth I jive, but the form of dancing is irrelevant).
What dancing does for me is give me a regular experience of an art form, contact with friends, and the regular making of new friends, enjoyable evenings out with no intake of alcohol (dancing and drinking really don’t mix!) and I am (according to my GP) extremely fit for a man of my age.
Because of this whenever there is a chance to promote dance in school I take it. Be it dance as part of the sport curriculum, dance as an art form with a professional choreographer coming into school, or just going to see dance take place.
Dance has so many benefits. Apart from the obvious fitness, it is sociable, easy to learn, and requires nothing other than a room and something to play the music on. One teacher can teach 30 or so at once – indeed in many adult dance clubs one teacher works regularly with 100+ at once. One could readily say it is just about the most efficient form of keeping fit there is, because of the lack of need for special facilities.
So when the per-eminent dance company Sadler’s Wells calls government plans to leave dance out of the new EBacc syllabus “deeply damaging” to the art form I take note.
The problem is of course that the EBacc certificate, which will replace some GCSEs from 2015, will focus only on core academic subjects.
Sadler’s Wells chief executive and artistic director Alistair Spalding said the plans were “the most serious threat” dance has recently faced. Along with the Royal Ballet and the English National Ballet, have written to education secretary Michael Gove asking him to reconsider.
Alistair Spalding, chief executive and artistic director, Sadler’s Wells, was the man who said “Dance is now second only to football as the most popular activity amongst school children and ranks first among girls.”
I don’t know if this is true, but I do know that every night of the week the jive clubs are full, and that in a recent survey it was found one in eight adults now dances every week. Let me reiterate that if I may: every week.
The department of education says that the EBacc will not prevent any school from offering qualifications in dance, art, drama or music, which is awfully good of them. But this move is just one more removal of direct link between young people and the arts.
But dance is on the up – partly because of popular TV shows, but also partly because of the decision by councils and regional planners to insist that areas of new housing have recreational centres which include not just rooms that can be hired out for society meetings, but also a hall which can be used for big gatherings and for dances.
Spalding added that “Five million Britons of every age and class and both genders are now participating in dance classes every week. The predominance of dance in the Olympics ceremony shows how rewarding and involving it can be. It will be deeply damaging to reverse this investment….
“It’s more important than money in terms of investment in the arts – that young people have access, not only to participate in dance, but also to come and see dance and make it part of their lives. It’s a backwards step to take it out of the core and say that people should only be studying academic subjects.
“We need to be creating whole young people who are good at all of those things and the arts is a very important part of people’s lives, it’s enriching.”
(Incidentally if you are interested in learning how to jive, there is a web site – which has nothing to do with me – which lists all the clubs and classes on each week throughout the UK. It is at http://www.uk-jive.co.uk/ You don’t have to go with a partner.)