“The drive to create a more diverse dance curriculum and the aim to harness digital capabilities to prepare graduates for a post-Covid world means the way we teach dance needs to radically change, in order to better prepare graduates for the cultural landscape in which contemporary independent dance artists forge their career and which many of them go on to shape.” says Clare Connor, Chief Executive of The Place.
In October, The Place announced a closer relationship with UAL University of the Arts London as the new validating authority for its undergraduate and postgraduate courses at London Contemporary Dance School. This new partnership with UAL initiates a significant shift in the programme and pedagogy for LCDS, towards the Arts School approach of a more individual, independent exploration of creativity.
Significant efforts are being developed to decolonise the dance curriculum, broadening the range of dance practices, processes and ways of creating knowledge the students encounter, to include those that derive from the Global South (West African dance practices, hip hop and South Asian dance practices) to reflect the world we live in and make LCDS inclusive and accessible to people from a variety of dance backgrounds and experiences.
A new admission process has been developed to be more inclusive, allowing applicants to show their individuality and potential to engage with movement and conceptual ideas. The new free of charge video and workshop-based admissions process has been created to minimise bias and open up the space for all bodies, backgrounds and experiences, considering student’s potential rather than existing skills, while also giving the applicants a voice in how they choose to present themselves.
LCDS’ award-winning health care team under the leadership of Head of Dance Science Kim Hutt have developed a training programme based on periodisation, to build skills and experience to sustain long-term careers. Dance science-based research uses the principles of elite sport training to support the physical and mental health and wellbeing of students, specifically around assessments points in the academic year that can increase stress, anxiety, body image issues and psychological pressure.
A major paradigm shift in the way of assessing dance is putting the student at the centre of their own learning. An assessment portfolio integrating elements of different classes and different media will give students the opportunity to offer their own reflections on the development of their practice alongside a documentation of images and video-based work, offering students a choice of how they wish to present their work for assessment. Expertise gained from a year of facilitating digital teaching and learning will inform future blended and online study pathways for students worldwide.
The new programme will prepare students for a career as independent dance artists, performers and makers within the reality of the cultural landscape they will be part of and shape. The demands on dance artists are varied and increasingly value creativity and playfulness when approaching creative processes, along with a readiness to engage with new approaches and concepts.
The radical changes to the programme will assure that LCDS students are best prepared for a career as independent dance artists and have the confidence to offer their creativity and artistry in multiple ways and positions within the dance sector and beyond.
Jayne Knowles, Interim Dean of Performance Arts and Foundation Camberwell, Chelsea, Wimbledon University of the Arts London, Chair of the UAL validating Panel says:
We commend The Place on the ambition to significantly transform courses and push boundaries, the outward facing nature and distinctiveness of the course and the effort made to decolonise dance and not to favour certain body types, making a space where all students can thrive at degree level.
Freddie Opoku-Addaie, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Dance Umbrella UK says
As an alumni of LCDS I recognise first-hand the importance of a creative education and the need to develop a curriculum that is diverse and better reflects the reality we live in. The world of movement languages is wide and varied, and all of these different dance techniques are of equal importance and value. I had the invaluable opportunity to be an exchange student at California Institute of Arts whilst at LCDS, which gave me an insight into the wider explorative practice so needed in our ‘contemporary’ world now. This collaboration opens up cross-overs and blends to create new and exciting dance practices of the future. In this way, I am so excited to know that LCDS is developing a new generation of independent contemporary dance artists.
Hofesh Shechter, internationally renowned choreographer and Artistic Director of Hofesh Shechter Company says
Contemporary dance to me is about free exploration. Then, most importantly, about what an artist brings into that space - an openness, a sense of curiosity, a willingness to make bold choices from within and not be fearful of taking risks - bringing their own perspective. This space must be available to anyone that wishes to take it and our art form will only grow when content is coming from diverse perspectives. Recognising that diversity of perspectives is the single most enriching element in art, that it is, in fact, what art is, and can provide inspiration and liberation for our generation of artists while giving a platform for multiple or endless views to arise. It is as hopeful and euphoric a thought as I can imagine.