Artistic excellence and change
Summing up, Dave Pope of Bradford Youth Offending Team says, “I’ve seen offenders working on building sites, joining in team sports, doing Offender Behaviour Courses and Anger Management Courses. Contemporary Dance, much to my surprise, is the one thing where I’ve seen people make the most progress, in the shortest period of time.”
Less convinced is the UK’s mainstream dance community, which according to Crane has been slow to acknowledge the quality of the artistic engagement. Instead many choreographers and dancers have stayed on a largely abandoned aesthetic battleground, droning on about artistic standard versus community participation.
Dance United, like many arts practitioners and companies here in Ireland, have long proved that social inclusion and artistic excellence are not mutually exclusive. They insist on the best, because they cannot serve the participants’ needs by doing less-than-excellent dance. Crane says that although the project has a unique methodology, at its heart it is really just about good teaching practice.
Some of those in attendance mentioned Ireland’s Commission on Restorative Justice with two projects in Tallaght and Nenagh and possible ways to translate the Dance United model to the Irish context. While there was enthusiasm on the floor for such an initiative, Crane again stated the importance of the individual leading and effecting a multi-agency approach.