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Partnerships and profiles a review of Tanzplan Deutschlands five-year educational programme

Efforts to reform dance training in Germany had been apparent since the 1990s. The extent to which artistic practice, society and the requirements made of students had all changed had made the situation urgent. The following questions needed to be answered in particular: How do we find new content and methods to prepare students better for artistic practice? How can we support communication between dance education institutions, and how can this communication be used productively in remodelling dance training? What impact do these changes have on dance teacher training programmes?

Tanzplan Deutschlands Educational Programme has been looking specifically at these questions since 2005. National dance training institutions, universities that offer dance courses and vocational dance schools were integrated into the initiatives and discussions from the start. Working groups and projects aimed to accommodate the diversity and depth of existing dance knowledge, increase artistic practice in dance education programmes and prepare students for a modified job description.

"If one considers the far-reaching developments in contemporary dance the persistent questioning of representations and of the presence of dance and the body, as well as of the terms product, process and authorship, and critical reflection on what dance today can be and what it can bring about; the increased awareness of the various cultural, social and political contexts within which dance is developed, performed and received, and the reciprocal impact of this art form on these contexts; the exploration and formulation of implicit dance knowledge and practice; the inter-disciplinary dialogue between dance, other art forms and science; the increasing participation in cultural education work; the testing of new forms of co-operation; the changes in production and performance structures at institutionalised theatres, on the independent dance scene and in international networks of producers, festivals and artist-in-residency programmes; the transformation of dancer and choreographer job descriptions into one that embraces the concept of the dancer and choreographer as a single artist then the need for new study programmes becomes clear if we are to meet these requirements and help shape the future of this art form." (Eva-Maria Hoerster, managing director of the Inter-University Center for Dance Berlin (HZT))

Establishment of the Dance Education Conference

With these changes in mind, new and innovative study programmes were established as part of the Tanzplan Local projects in Berlin and Frankfurt: Contemporary Dance, Context, Choreography (Berlin), Choreography and Performance (Gieen/Frankfurt), Dance Teacher Training (Frankfurt). At the same time, thinking processes and practical initiatives involving all institutions were set in motion. The aim of these was to establish a dialogue with the institutions involved as well as to promote discussion among them, thereby moving beyond the boundaries of their own institutions and learn from and with each other. The "Dance Education Conference", a forum for in-depth discussions and a single voice for dance education in Germany, had already been established by 2007. In a longer process in which long-standing academies and new education establishments came face-to-face with each other, differences and similarities could be determined and specific weighting used by each institution to develop its own profile. (Prof. Christine Neumeyer, spokesperson for the Dance Education Conference and a dance educator at the Academy of Dance in Mannheim).

Tanzplan Deutschland initiated and supported this development with regular workshops as well as further training sessions for lecturers and professors. The aim was always to expand knowledge and look at new approaches to movement in addition to new teaching methods and tools. This is because, in addition to teaching technique and knowledge, todays dance education also needs to promote the exploration and testing of new ways of imparting information, the search for ways of generating new knowledge. (Prof. Dieter Heitkamp, spokesperson of the Dance Education Conference and the director of contemporary and classical dance at the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts). One example of this is the work with William Forsythes research project "Synchronous Object for One Flat Thing, reproduced", the forerunner for Motion Bank, which was supported by Tanzplan Deutschland. The idea is for educational institutions and students to be able to benefit directly from these new developments.

Dance Education Biennale

The framework for this association of artistic practice and dance education was the "Biennale Dance Education", another key Tanzplan Deutschland initiative that works both inwardly and outwardly. The one-week meeting of professors and students, the first of which took place in Berlin in 2008, presented the practical results of work carried out at dance education institutions and allowed guests to work and learn together. The linking of practice and education will be continued by Forsythes follow-up project Motion Bank, an Internet platform that will make it possible to access choreographic working methods via dance works presented in digital online formats. The project is being funded by the Federal Cultural Foundation. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research has shown recognition for the task at hand and agreed to fund the Biennale in the future.

The Conference and Biennale have created the space to actively encourage all participants and institutions to open up, investigate new ideas and move dance forward on several levels. (Prof. Jason Beechey, spokesperson for the Dance Education Conference and director of the Palucca Hochschule fr Tanz Dresden). They have also given a good reason for associating with and supporting each other, as well as for exchanging ideas, which means that existing platforms, for example collaborations with theatres, that simplify the transition to artistic practice, are expanded by new platforms such as Dance in Schools. (Neumeyer) Dance education has become richer and stronger, (Beechey) and more visible and more active. (Prof. Vera Sander, spokesperson for the Dance Education Conference and director of the Centre for Contemporary Dance, University for Music and Dance Cologne). The Conference has also become a model for other countries (Sander) interest from abroad is growing, as is the wish to create an international network.

New paths in tertiary education

Strengthening historical and theoretical knowledge in dance training was a particular interest. Reflection and creativity determine each other: knowledge is always a part of the creative process, even if its role goes unrecognised, and it is indispensable not only for choreographers but also for the dancers involved who help shape the work. The newly established study programmes in Berlin and Gieen/Frankfurt in particular take this fact into account, but there is also a list of other dance education institutions that are now focusing on this particular aspect. Theory/History is now well established as a subject in Frankfurt, new ways of teaching (e-learning) are being implemented in Essen, the Chair for Dance Studies is again occupied in Cologne and a part-time position for dance studies has been created at Munich University. However, recognising the importance of knowledge in artistic practice and integrating it into dance education remains a task for the future. One practical example of this the Dance Techniques 2010 research project in which Tanzplan Deutschland, together with dance practitioners and theorists, developed a model for practice-based research at seven dance education institutions.

Even theory is a mental practice that needs to be carried out and exercised regularly. It is no different to the practical work carried out in dance studios or in rehearsals on the stage, as it also needs to be trained. For students, the transition from thinker and researcher to doer and choreographer means leaving behind the traditional boundaries of the disciplines and fields of activity. Not knowing in advance how the piece on which one is currently working will look, but rather continuing to find other forms that emerge from ones own questions about dance, transform artistic practice into a type of research into the possibilities of dance. In this way, creative decisions cannot only be justified and communicated, they can also be made in a different way based on different historical and theoretical knowledge. This produces pieces that are independent of certain movement styles and dance vocabularies and can be seen as physical interventions in current social discourses and dance-related issues. (Prof. Dr. Gerald Siegmund, professor of choreography and performance at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies at the Justus-Liebig-Universitt Giessen)

Cultural education and forms of collectivity

The job descriptions and occupational fields of dancers and choreographers have changed dramatically. Creative work with amateurs, mostly children and young people but also adults, has emerged anew in particular, supported by a high level of political and social attention. It is now a fixed element of the work in a large number of theatres; artists themselves develop their own ways of integrating amateurs into their work. The approaches and working methods are very different and range from work with schools, the establishment of youth groups or performances for young audiences to developing new formats and researching new spaces. Different aspects overlap here: the interest in teaching an aesthetic and cultural education and in a close link between art and society; the issue of participation and new forms of collectivity; and winning over of other sections of the public and expanding the meaning of the term dance.

Tanzplan Deutschland has also been involved in this development and actively promoted it. Two of the Tanzplan Local projects, in Dsseldorf and Munich, focus on this area, while local artists in almost all Tanzplan cities are involved in work that imparts artistic information, in doing so expanding their field of activity. The national Dance in Schools association, founded in 2007, developed quality standards and is campaigning for dance to become a fixed aspect in the educational curriculum.

How can this process be supported in order to ensure quality and strengthen structural developments in the long term? On the initiative of Tanzplan Deutschland, representatives from all tertiary education institutions that award degrees in dance teaching and dance education met up in November 2007. The aim was to gain an overview of teaching models and offers, and to discuss ideas for expanding the training of dance educators (a list of study offers can be found here).

Teacher qualification offers

Tanzplan Deutschland launched a call for tenders in 2008 in a bid to develop study offers for teaching dance in schools. The call was named "Programme for establishing modules to strengthen dance education qualifications for Dance in Schools"" and aimed at existing study programmes. After the acceptance of a bid, teachers at general education schools are now being made aware of, and qualified in, education and further education in choreographic working methods. On the one hand, it is expected the concept of choreographing schoolchildren will become integrated into various subjects and, on the other hand, the idea is to enable pupils to work with contemporary artists to develop choreographic processes. A specialist module in dance has been added to the teacher training Masters programmes at the Sport University Cologne and at the University for Music and Dance Cologne. The concept was developed with various co-operation partners, among them the nrw landesbro tanz and tanzhaus nrw. The Masters programme at the University for Music and Dance Cologne offers students a diverse practical education with placements and periods as teaching assistants. By strengthening quality, all these offers contribute to increasing acceptance of this work and to developing the field further.

In addition, Tanzplan Deutschland and the Dachverband Tanz Deutschland/Stndige Konferenz (the permanent conference of the umbrella association for dance in Germany) supported by Tanz ist KLASSE/ Staatsballett Berlin commissioned a study from the Centre for Cultural Research in Bonn on the requirements for becoming ballet teachers and dance educators. The commissioning organisations have the results of the survey, which is intended to help clarify the need for well trained educators as well as provide recommendations and guidance.

There is still one thing still left to do regarding the training of dance educators, however. Given that it takes time for institutions to recognise the need for a new practice field and to formulate qualifications in study offers. The German Federal Cultural Foundation has developed a new instrument for the coming years, the Tanzpartner fund, which is intended to stimulate co-operation between dance companies and schools.

Transition to work

A critical phase begins when training ends, namely entry into the world of work. There are many decisions to be made: do I work for a municipal theatre? Do I work independently? Do I work alone or in a group? Do I apply for an artist-in-residence programme? How do I access the various dance scenes? The association with artistic practice is already being strengthened during training, for example via connections with a specific dance company, collaborations with choreographers or links to the professional dance scene. Students use the contacts made to obtain their first jobs and seek guidance. The transition remains a difficult one, however, mainly because of the fall in the number of dancers employed on permanent contracts, smaller dance companies and the tendency to fill vacant positions with experienced dancers. In these circumstances, on-going training, further training offers and professional exchanges are necessary. Young choreographers often lack production-specific knowledge (preparing applications, etc.) and contacts, but there is also a shortage of specific forms of support that promote experimentation, as well as a shortage of space. Young artists respond to the situation by developing their own strategies. Establishing work collectives and collaborative working methods support exchange and reflection, and enable joint working.
Two model initiatives can be outlined here as examples of building bridges between training and work. In Hamburg, Tanzplan and K3 established an artist-in-residency location for young choreographers, allowing them to carry out research, work on a particular production, gain knowledge and make contacts with the local arts scene. In Frankfurt, young, trained dancers haven shown through the PET ensemble and ID_Frankfurt/Independent Dance that collaboration within a city opens up new perspectives. Bringing together artists from across the region, among them graduates of the Frankfurt University of Music and the Performing Arts, helps develop an infrastructure that promotes independent artistic creativity, reflection and exchange. Our experience shows that students are very interested in getting involved. It is very enriching for them. I think it is very productive for students to come into contact with independent ensembles that can hold their own artistically and economically on the dance scene. It is also productive for students to deal with the production conditions of these ensembles. On the other hand, professional dancers and choreographers benefit from the open training and further training courses offered by training institutes and use their archives. (Norbert Pape, former student at the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts and one of the organisers of ID_Frankfurt).

Dance Techniques 2010

In addition to all these measures, Director of the Educational Programme Ingo Diehl launched a research project into contemporary and modern dance techniques in the spring of 2008. Renowned dance education institutions in Germany and Europe were invited to take part. Research units including dance educators, dance studies experts and students then investigated the working methods of seven well-known dance teachers. The aim was to gain comparable insights into the different dance technique teaching models as well as to make both practical and theoretical knowledge accessible. The results of the project have been published with two DVDs as "Dance Techniques 2010 Tanzplan Germany", edited by Ingo Diehl und Dr. Friederike Lampert (published by Henschel Verlag).

Berlin, June 201184

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