Nowadays, we can observe a significant increase in the popularity of dance. According to the research in New Zealand, DANZ estimated that more than 630,000 New Zealanders of all backgrounds, abilities and ages dance regularly. In 2008 SPARC research showed 549,112 or 16.8% of New Zealand adults (aged 16 years and over) regularly participate in dance. Dance events and festivals have seen a steady extension of participants and audiences over the years.
With dance being a regular activity, people participating in community dance classes more and more each year, which leads us to question who delivers community dance and what knowledge and skills this person should bring to the community.
For dance educators collaborating with the community, it is essential to bring their artistic, facilitative and negotiating skills to a project. It is clear that a teacher should possess and demonstrate contextual knowledge of their dance style while engaging and managing participants during dance classes in a creative process.
A dance teacher should be able to recognise the individuality of participants and working with them in ways that support them to find their own dance 'voice’. (Amans 6)
A dance teacher working in a community sector should be able to design programmes of dance work that are appropriate to specific groups and individuals.
Providing a creative dance workshop for disabled people or people with special needs, a dance practitioner should collaborate with chosen specialists such as health workers, physiotherapists, learning support workers. They can help a teacher achieve the aims of the workshop with the group and to increase the dance impact.
It is essential for dance educator to research and understand the philosophy, values and needs of the community group in order to build relationships and trust with and within the group to inspire them to be a part of a project.
Community dance sector with its participants of varied cultural and social backgrounds, age, gender and levels of dance training can bring challenges to the work of a dance educator.
According to Stine Nilsen and Charlotte Darbyshire, creative workshops and open professional technique classes may be made up of non-disabled and disabled dancers in one group or a group of only disabled students inclusive of different disabilities. With the aim of providing an inspiring creative dance experience where everyone can feel included and achieve their physical and creative potential, it can be challenging for the teacher catering for different students and creating goals relevant to the individual student needs.
Working with a non-professional dance group, a dance educator should understand that specific ballet or anatomical terms can be alienating for the participants. A teacher must be able to deconstruct or interpret their language, but most necessary to identify their aims.
As the teacher working with disabled people, it is essential to have a responsibility to remember and act on the specific needs to the best of teacher's ability. For example, running a workshop with hearing-impaired dancers, it is crucial to establish a clear visual signal for stop and start or counting in the exercise using the hand. (Nilsen)
For the dance practitioners working in a community group, it is challenging to establish aesthetic norms and to broaden perceptions of who can dance, what dance is and how it might be performed. In community dance with its values, principles and methods, there are almost as many philosophies as individuals involved in the work. There is no agreement on a public account of the aesthetics and philosophy of community dance in dance education. (Peppiatt)
A clear demonstration is an integral part of teaching approaches to delivering exercises to participants. However, it is understandable that a non-disabled person in a chair will probably use different muscles, have a different balance and centre of gravity and so a demonstration will only provide a framework that the students must adapt further for themselves.
Providing a dance activity to disabled people, a teacher may face the challenge of understanding the mechanisms of a wheelchair or other mobility aids. For instance; how the wheelchair may move with specific movements of the body, or when it may be useful to use brakes. (Nilsen)
Community dance combines many various strands of practice delivered by dance teachers with a broad diversity of skills. It starts with knowledge of the chosen dance style and abilities to successfully communicate with a range of people and organisations including in a dance project (local authority or another funder, a participant, a parent, an education or health professional) till the understanding of the values and needs of the community group. The work of dance educator in the community sector has many challenges. However, the results of a project can have a significant impact not only on the participants of the project but a whole community.
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