Anne Valois and André Courchesne have been mandated by La Danse sur les routes du Québec, on behalf of the Alliance of Canadian Dance Networks, to provide a diagnosis and make recommendations on the dissemination of dance for young audiences (DYA) in Canada. This study received support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Quebec Council of Arts and Letters.
This research on the dissemination of dance for young audiences (DYA) is the first of its type in Canada and builds on the research done on theatre for young audiences (Saire, 2016), again with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
It goes without saying that Canada is a richly diverse country. A central theme of this report’s findings is the importance of better reflecting diversity (of artists and practices) within all recommendations to enhance the creation, production and dissemination of DYA. While there are many indigenous, culturally diverse, sexually diverse, integrated dance and deaf and disability artists, as well as minority language-based dance artists across Canada, they are not yet sufficiently represented or supported in dance creation and presentation activity directed at youth. It is imperative that today’s youth see themselves better reflected in the arts they experience. The research broadens the scope of what is included in discussion of DYA in Canada by referring to young audience-dedicated and family-oriented productions, in schools and by specialized and multidisciplinary presenters.
The report also identifies systemic issues in dance: better understanding and collaboration will alleviate, if not resolve, these issues. While many of the findings are not new, they do provide a snapshot of current realities and inform a set of recommendations that can allow stakeholders to develop a roadmap to move forward.
The second salient point in the report is a need for a better coordination at all levels, starting by the joint responsibility of Culture and Education Departments in the full development of children and youth through arts education. As well, this implies a better coordination of arts councils’ and departments’ programs and initiatives at the federal, provincial, territorial and regional levels, respecting their jurisdictions.
At the regional and disciplinary levels, the research identifies the best practices of the networks, as well as their weaknesses and challenges; the need for an increased investment in dedicated human resources highlights their central role in professional training, audience and market development, outreach and tour coordination.
The research also identifies a role at the national level for networks to better coordinate tours, invest in DYA commissions, map and share data and advocate on behalf of DYA presentation activity.
At the local level, an increased investment in dedicated human resources would enable the sharing of educational and outreach tools between schools, presenters and artistic companies to deepen engagement with dance for children and youth.
The 2020 pandemic has shaken the world of dance to its core and has brought a wealth of innovation. In the immediate future, artists have adapted by taking even more work outdoors and online and, in so doing, contribute to a greater democratization of dance through increased access in innovative ways. Digital strategies and tools developed should be shared as best practices to ensure a stronger presence of dance among youth.
Increased Public Investment
Creating and presenting works for young audiences requires a specific expertise, and considering that tickets purchased and fees charged for these works are much lower than those for adults, an increased public investment is needed.
Investing in DYA dedicated companies and identifying young audiences as a priority for presenting and touring funding will generate a body of strong work which will contribute to the reputation of our artists across the world. The most important benefits for young Canadians will be to their physical and psychological health, their individual and social development as well as in the development of their appreciation of dance through engagement with our best artists.