Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Public Funding for Dance Lessons?

The BBC News website reports that a fairly small pot of public money (£5.5m) may be made available to encourage the young to dance. They don't say how, so it's not clear whether there will be grants to pay for a few lessons here and there, or just a really expensive publicity campaign.

I'm right behind that in principle, but I expect the attitude will be (as it is in that article) to treat dancing as just another sport — "Extra centres for advanced training will also be set up to support exceptionally gifted young dancers." There's nothing wrong with making the most of the gifted, but I think taking that attitude too exclusively could be a mistake. It sounds like something that would take up a very large share of the funds, and you would probably get more value out of teaching it as an alternative to sport, as a social activity, an encouragement to likeable behaviour, and also an approach to musical education and self-expression that isn't quite the same as singing or playing an instrument. I don't really feel that this is arts funding, either — dancing is not necessarily a performance for an audience. It's nice to watch good dancers dance, but social dancing is also complete and satisfying for someone who's not even faintly interested in performing or competition.

They also say that dance "is the second most popular school activity after football," but they don't say how far behind it is, how popular football is, or what they mean by "popular", so that sentence is much less interesting than it looks.

Public support for dancing is not a new idea, and wasn't in 1747 when the City Council of Aberdeen employed a dancing-master, the interesting Mr. Francis Peacock, who I blogged about before. I'll quote again from Mr. Peacock's book:

I may here observe, that there cannot be a greater proof of the utility of Dancing, than its being so universally adopted, as a material circumstance in the education of the youth of both sexes, in every civilised country. Its tendency to form their manners, and to render them agreeable, as well in public as in private; the graceful and elegant ease which it gives to the generality of those who practice it with attention, are apparent to everyone of true discernment.


Alex said...

This in contrast to Johanna's post about dancing being illegal in most places in NYC...

Ya think we could ever get public funding for dance in the U.S.? Only if one of Bush's buddies was a dance entrepreneur - or if the contract went to Halliburton.

It's weird, wonderful world we live least I keep telling myself it's wonderful...

msHedgehog said...

I don't know how you get "licensed for dancing" here, but I don't think it's difficult. You do have to have some sort of a license, though. I don't think the dancers can get arrested.

I regularly visit a knitting shop that's licensed to serve alcoholic drinks. It's great.

msHedgehog said...

The world is at least this wonderful.