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                        StepBack ident
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THE 3-YEAR PROJECT 2001-2004

FUNDED BY Arts Council England, South East  (formerly South East Regional Arts Board)
Rationale - and why it is still important!

Awareness of the importance of ethnic diversity in communities requires that traditional English roots be placed on a secure footing amongst the other traditions. The English forms have influenced - and been influenced by - many others over the last millennium. This interaction and evolution is to be encouraged.

There is a dramatic gap in the provision of dance education in England, whereby dance traditions that evolved here over centuries are rarely touched upon in most dance courses. This project has an innovative brief to take traditional dance into Universities as well as involving students directly with active Traditional Dance groups.

English folk dance has a very bad public image - being perceived as taught to young children, maintained by old people and performed by the seriously sad. The Media either patronizes or ridicules Traditional Dance, particularly Morris dancing. Such perceptions can only be countered by demonstrating the richness of this material as an exciting and relevant art form.

A one year Pilot project (1997-8) was able to demonstrate viability on a practical level but the need to change perceptions and involve students necessarily requires an extended project. Sampler workshops and demonstrations introduce students to the form, while student projects and performance involvement develop a deeper familiarity with its vocabulary.

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Aims and Objectives

StepBack addresses two closely related challenges for Traditional Dance - Education and Access.

Education is much more than provision of knowledge. Inspiring students and creating a life interest in a subject that has a bad public image requires demonstration of quality performance work that belies that image. The access element creates and promotes such performances with direct student involvement.

  • Create Arts Professionals familiar with the vocabulary of Traditional dance
  • Motivate students to become interested in Traditional dance and music
  • Provide relevant teaching and support resource material to Dance and  Performing Arts students in the South East
  • Provide course-related project opportunities working closely with traditional groups
  • Establish the prototype for a framework in which such studies become a part of the university system

Access - Specific objectives:

  • Influence public attitudes to English Traditional dance
  • Create new audiences
  • Inspire a new generation
Influencing public perceptions is tied directly to presentation of new work, developed from the Pilot shows with student involvement.
Each tradition has many unwritten rules of form, and respecting the tradition while breaking these rules is an essential part of the transition from street to stage. We start from our deep immersion in the old dances and build new material from it, taking it further each piece.

This process of innovation, directly involving placement students, continued throughout the project, and was one of the many delights of this work.

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