AN OPEN LETTER TO THE NATIONAL CABINET
1 June 2020
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE NATIONAL CABINET
Ausdance National and the Ausdance Network respectfully bring to your attention the qualifications status of dance studio teachers and their businesses across Australia.
These thousands of businesses closed their doors on 24 March, demonstrating a shared responsibility to flatten the curve, despite never having been listed as a restricted business by the National Cabinet, and without any consultation.
We acknowledge that the National Cabinet has been careful to take account of the plight of gym owners, fitness studios, boot camps and other businesses whose primary concerns are physical activities. However – apart from an unfortunate comment by a state premier that implied dance studio teachers were not qualified – dance has been left out of the conversation.
The perception that dance studio teachers are not qualified is inaccurate – 96% of dancers and choreographers have received recognised formal training and 86% of dancers and choreographers supplement this with private training (An Economic Study of Professional Artists in Australia published by the Australia Council in 2017). Dancers at their peak are as highly trained and nuanced in their physical capabilities as elite athletes.
In the meantime the Ausdance Network has produced a comprehensive, national Return to Work Framework for post-Covid-19 recovery. The Ausdance Network is also conducting a national Covid-19 Impact Survey which is demonstrating the extent of economic and mental health impacts caused by the shutdown.
Ausdance offers the following information to assist the National Cabinet to understand the high quality of dance teaching that takes place in our communities, including First Nations teachers and choreographers.
Ausdance and the Australian dance sector introduced Dance Teaching Standards and Ethical Guidelines several decades ago, and these formed the bedrock of the rigorous vocational training programs dance teachers now engage in to ensure safe, methodologically sound and progressive dance teaching practice.
In addition to tertiary degree programs which train dancers in performance and teaching in community and school contexts, there are numerous professional membership bodies whose sole focus is the training and professional development of community dance teachers.
Organisations such as the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), Australian Teachers of Dancing (ATOD), Cecchetti Ballet of Australia, Comdance and others, including various ballroom associations, have pointed to their long-standing commitment to rigorous examinations and registration systems. There is also a range of professional qualifications specific to dance in the community such as dance and disability, community cultural development and dance for Parkinson’s.
This excellence of training is evident in Australia’s professional dancers, many of whom are the beneficiaries of training by dance studio teachers in suburban schools and full-time training courses.
We acknowledge that opening a dance studio does not require formal qualifications, as there is no government regulatory body for dance. However, there is a range of pathways and training for professional teachers, including for those who have had careers as professional dance artists, and First Nations teachers who not only have formal dance training but who have inherited thousands of years of dance traditions.
Ausdance has worked for more than four decades alongside the teaching organisations and artists by providing research, information, guidelines, publications, workshops and seminars to ensure that Australia has the highest quality community dance teaching anywhere in the world.
- Produced four Safe Dance reports (1990-2018), detailing the latest research into injury prevention and management.
- Published research papers to support Safe Dance practice, and made comprehensive recommendations affecting the syllabi and choreographic practices that are now widely recognised by teachers everywhere.
- Produced a Code of Ethics with dance teachers (first published in 1987), and a code for parents.
- Developed competency standards and skills sets with the sector, and encouraged teaching societies to incorporate these Safe Dance and ethical practice standards into their own curricula.
- Chaired a review of VET competency standards required for Certificates, Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas, opening pathways for dance teaching societies and companies to become Registered Training Organisations.
- Founded the Tertiary Dance Council of Australia in 1985, whose professional dance leaders have produced the current generation of choreographers, dancers, artistic directors and teachers, making this the most highly qualified dance teaching sector in history (see statistics above).
- Developed fact sheets and guidelines for studio teachers and their businesses, including access to tailor-made insurance, music copyright licences, etc.
- Provided workshops, seminars, conferences, and international and national research to aid communication and knowledge across the sector.
- Introduced a category into the Australian Dance Awards that recognises best practice in dance education in schools and communities.
- Encouraged professional artists-in-schools programs to complement the work of primary and secondary dance teachers (many of whom are not specialist dance teachers, particularly in primary schools where teachers are trained as generalists).
- Led the development of the Dance curriculum in The Australian Curriculum: The Arts and devised strategies for implementation that involved teaching artists from dance companies, studios and communities, as well as supporting registered primary and secondary teachers.
- Produced biennial Australian Youth Dance Festivals that provide students and their teachers with creative learning opportunities in dance for young people.
- Worked with the Australian Institute of Sport to create after-school dance programs for children that provide creative alternatives to sport.
Ausdance also made a submission to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and developed guidelines for both dance education and studios that have been taken up across the sector.
It’s also important to note that the AusPlay Focus Children’s Participation in Organised Physical Activity Outside of School Hours (April 2018) records dancing as the 4th overall out-of-school physical activity for all Australian children in 2017, and for girls it’s the second highest activity.
We respectfully request that the National Cabinet acknowledges the dance sector and its specific knowledge and expertise. We seek clarity about the post Covid-19 restrictions and the guidelines that need to be followed by a sector which consists of thousands of distinct and highly professional physical activity businesses across the country, employing well over 10,000 dance teachers.
This is one of the most affected groups as a result of the economic downturn during the Covid-19 lockdown, and we look forward to your support and acknowledgement. We would be pleased to provide further advice.
Paul Summers, Ausdance National President
With the Ausdance network: Ausdance NSW, Ausdance Qld, Ausdance Victoria, Ausdance SA, Ausdance WA, Ausdance ACT.
Ausdance NSW is the key support & advocacy body, for the creation, presentation and practice of dance in NSW.
Ausdance NSW is part of the Ausdance National Network.
Ausdance acknowledges and respects the Traditional Custodians of the Lands on which we work and dance and pays respect to elders past, present and emerging.
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