Last weekend, I had the honor and privilege to attend the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) Annual Conference in Washington DC. This year’s theme was SPEAKING WITH OUR FEET: Advocating, Analyzing, and Advancing Dance Education. The conference brought dance educators from across the nation, and provided the opportunity to strategize, share stories to advance the field of dance education in our schools, the community, and the country.
I appreciated the the opportunity to come together with so many individuals from different educational settings from various parts of the country, and come up with ways to improve learning and instruction in dance as a field.
In one of the sessions I attended, led by Jeff Poulin- Arts Education Program Manager for Americans for the Arts and Stephanie Milling- Professor at the University of South Carolina, talked about advocacy for and in dance education.
Jeff talked about a great resourced that the Americans for the Arts has put together called the Arts Education Field Guide. If you are not familiar it is very interesting and useful in that it outlines who are the major players of the game when it comes to influencing arts and cultural policy, what are their roles, and what ways they support arts education. It provides information about each tier from the federal, state, and local levels. If you haven’t read through it, I highly recommend doing so. You are view the document in its entirety here.
In the Spheres of Influence, it is a visual of concentric circles that shows the relationship between the various stakeholders in arts education. Here you can see who is directly affected by your influence, who can you directly influence to promote change, and who can you partner with who may be a new ally you never thought to work with.
I personally find this document useful in terms figuring out who my audience for change may be (who am I advocating to and who am I advocating on behalf of).
Stephanie talked about being informed advocates in the dance education field. We need to stay up to date on key legislation and funding issues affecting arts education, have an understanding of how the legislative process works, know who you are advocating to (elected officials, school administration, a funder), and a strong foundation and knowledge of what you are advocating for.
At the end of the day it comes back to why we do what we do. If you can’t answer that, then what are you doing? Come up with a manifesto or mission statement on your beliefs of and on dance education. It is also important to backup your claims with supporting research. Research helps add validation to the story that supports your “ask” that requests specific action.
One of my big takeaways from the conference is that as a member of the dance education field, it is an area that is often marginalized and left out of the table. Therefore, we all have a professional responsibility to advocate. I want to be able to use the many platforms that I am a part of and use them to advance the field. Whether it is through writing, dancing/performing, or having meaningful conversations with various stakeholders. I want to be a resource for the field. I hope that you will join me on this journey to advocate, analyze, and advance dance education.