A dance utopia

  The goal appears to be an unattainable dream: bring all dancers under one umbrella. As a romantic ideal it is extremely seductive, everyone holding the hands of colleagues to unite into a family beyond frontiers and continents.

    Benefits from the getting together of dancers would be enormous. In every country dance will have for the first time a voice towards the government, a structure capable to formulate concrete proposals which will be studied and eventually applied. Dance is today the most dynamic and the fastest developing art – why then is it the most neglected? In most countries there is no legislation, no public education, no recognized diplomas, no protection of artistic copyrights, while funds for dance in the budgets at state or city level are between trifle and non existent.

    Theater, music and dance are sister arts but one sister gets ten times less attention than the others. Look at any newspaper in any country, at any TV channel; all media devote a small fraction to dance, while practicaly ignoring most dance forms. This results in less people attracted to dance, less funds allocated by sponsors.

    In every country, each dance form (ballet, modern, folk, ballroom, tango, salsa etc.) eitehr has no associations, or has some which are small and conflicting. Most have no representativity, since they consist of only a president and a few friends as members. None dispose of offices or employ staff. There is no organization representing all dance forms in any country.

    Without representativity an association has no weight. The government will not listen to it, even individuals of its own branch will not pay attention to it. Anyone can found an association bearing a pompous title and having a few members – it will remain on paper, deceiving the credulous, distributing vain titles and discerning worthless diplomas.

    Representativity is gauged at first glance from the number of members. Several dozens of members are sufficient for a local association, hundreds are needed for a nation-wide organization and thousands for an international one. Members should not simply be names in a list – they should show their support by contributing a reasonable fee, by gathering in meetings and by voting at elections.

    For a rough calculation we can assume that for every million in population there are 500 persons living off dance. This figure includes not only professional dancers, teachers and choreographers but also other professionals such as owners and personnel of discotheques, dancewear shops, costume workshops, dance magazines etc. This means that in a country of 10 million there are 5,000 dance professionals. Amateurs are 20 times more numerous and often occupied very seriously with dance. An organization claiming to represent dance in a country of 10 million populaton should have 1,000 members. This never happens.

    Returning to our initial question: is it possible to have a really world-wide organization when local, regional or national associations are lacking? Is it possible for associations from different forms of dance to cooperate in order to form unitary federations whose number of members will be proportionate to the total population of dancers? Only a great number of members will give dance the credibility it lacks.

    Our own reply is Yes. Though the target is extremely distant it is worth advancing towards it. It took the United Nations and UNESCO several decades to bring together all countries of the globe. CID membership grows and will constitute a nucleus urging associations to cooperate in one country after the other. CID will always remain an umbrella organization; it cannot replace national associations, which should increase their number of members and cooperate with associations from other forms of dance in the same country. As long as there are presidents who avoid enrolling new members for fear they will not vote for them in the next elections, this will take a long time.

    CID is above all carrier of an ideal. Ideals can sometimes mobilize people and crystallize into an effective structure. Examples abound: Doctors Without Frontiers, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Boy and Girl Scouts are world-wide non-governmental organizations having millions of members each. We believe that the art of dance can have its own equivalent organization where all different practices are expressed and all various tendencies converge.

    Each dancer will feel for the first time what it means to be part of a great family of colleagues, enjoying facilities, guidance and protection. Its warmth will give courage, its information will upgrade, its strength will secure better conditions. Government and citizens will provide the consideration dance deserves – and this art will contribute more in shaping society.

Alkis Raftis

President of the International Dance Council