Photography Dancing Books by DanceWest 

Photography Dancing Books by DanceWest 

The UK has a great tradition of public funding for the arts. Though there is much national pride in the Arts Council, established in 1948, its policy and funding decisions have always been the topic of debate and criticism from all sides of the political spectrum and the artists themselves. The latest round of Arts Council England funding for its National Portfolio Organizations for the period 2018-2022 raised one such debate. With 13 new dance organizations in the portfolio, 64 in total, up from 57, and more investment in hip-hop and South Asian dance, it all seems to be good news. Yet the decision to stop its subsidy for Greenwich Dance, one of London’s dance development organizations, caused much upset.  

From my experience there are a couple of big changes that impact how we fundraise for dance. Firstly, dance as a sector, is no longer a preserve of only professionally trained (young and able) bodies.  Inclusive dance companies and dance classes for older people are mushrooming across the UK.  Sadler’s Wells, London prestigious dance venue, hosted the Elixir Festival for the fourth year, celebrating lifelong creativity and the contribution of older artists.  

There is also an increasing recognition of the role of dance in public health. A cross party group of parliamentarians has just published a report ‘Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing’, calling for increased recognition at government level and a mix of private and public investment in this area.  

Arguably, the most significant change recently has been the fact that public bodies outside the arts, such as the National Health Service, are now prepared to invest in dance. For instance, earlier this spring the NHS England announced £2.3m investment in the rollout of a dance-based falls prevention programme by arts and health charity Aesop. The program will run for two years across England and Wales, in collaboration with health and social care providers, and arts organizations including Yorkshire Dance and Birmingham Royal Ballet. I am happy to declare an interest here. DanceWest, the organization I support as a fundraiser, was also recently awarded an NHS grant to run a Bolder Not Older program of free dance classes to improve health and wellbeing and reduce the social isolation of older people in west London.

These are all great developments and provide new job opportunities for dance artists interested to work directly with communities. The question might be – are the UK dance education institutions offering the necessary community dance training to all dance students and not only those on specialist courses? And how could those independent dance artists, already juggling portfolio careers, up skill themselves to respond to that increasing demand for dance in health?

Photography Dancing Books by DanceWest 

Photography Dancing Books by DanceWest 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mil Vukovic-Smart is a London-based dance and performance artist, writer and choreographer. She also works as development manager for DanceWest, the community dance organization for West London.

A New Age in Dance funding-a view from London

By. Mil Vukovic-Smart

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Secondly, it might be a cliché but dance is happening everywhere, beyond the safe but often insular compounds of dance studios. My favorite project, that I was recently involved with is Dancing Books. It uses literature as inspiration for movement for pre-school children and their families. DanceWest piloted the project in partnership with two local libraries last year. The project was so positively received by the participants and libraries staff alike. We secured further support from the Arts Council Libraries Fund, to extend the program to more libraries across West London.  

Of course, we cannot all work in the arts and health or community setting. We in the UK are tremendously fortunate to have the Arts Council, which continues to invest in nurturing and developing dance as an art form, however much we might not always agree with its decisions. I asked Gitta Wigro, Co-Director of Independent Dance, a London-based artist-led organization dedicated to furthering independent dance artists’ professional development, for her advice on the issue: “General advice I would give to independent artists orienting themselves in the UK funding landscape would be: get to know the Arts Council; do not assume that you are not eligible; and do not assume that you’ll be funded. I think the current project funding success rate is 40% - high enough to make it worthwhile applying, but not easy either!”

 

Simona Scotto, a specialist in dance education and performance for the over-55s and the founder of Counterpoint Dance Company, and Rehearsal Director of Sadler’s Wells’ Company of Elders, offers different advice: “Seek a variety of funding opportunities and don't rely just on Arts Council, there are many ways to fundraise.” I am not convinced that we could survive without public subsidy. Scotto is more optimistic: “I think we can, I would suggest that two or more artists, companies, organizations form a coalition and that would make them stronger, joining forces to raising funds in a variety of ways.”

There is an increasing pressure to fundraise through cultivation of philanthropic giving and crowd funding.  I agree with Wigro that we should also be wary of the limitations in that respect: “When it comes to independent artists, I have a hunch that crowd funding circulates money between us, more than it gets ‘new’ money from other donors into the system; so I think overall it isn’t as sustainable as perhaps it is made out to be, especially now that requests to contribute to campaigns are so frequent.” For me, it all comes down to relationships, and developing partnerships with people and organizations from all walks of life, dance or not.

 

Mil Vukovic-Smart is a London-based dance and performance artist, writer and choreographer. She also works as development manager for DanceWest, the community dance organization for West London.