So you think you know about dance?

by Jini Stolk

I’ve always understood dance as a human instinct, a way to express happiness, sexuality or other emotions through movement. When you add in the dancer’s gifts of musicality, grace, strength, balance, speed and courage – what’s not to like?

A new survey – part of Dance Across Canada, a major research project funded by the Canada Council with the Ontario Arts Council – reaffirms that Canadians love to dance, both professionally and for the pure joy of it. Over 8,100 responders from across the country participate in 190 forms of dance; the large majority are involved in contemporary/modern or ballroom/social dance, although European traditional, folk and ballet are well represented. Most people dance with a group or take classes – dance is a social activity – and respondents describe a lifelong involvement in dance (an average of 23.9 years among dance professionals and 16.9 among leisure participants.) Non-professionals who took the survey report devoting 6.5 hours a week to dance. That’s a lot, considering that Health Canada recommends that adults get 2.5 hours of weekly aerobic activity.

Dancing is fun. Enjoyment is at the top of the list of reasons for leisure dancing; professionals rank artistic expression just a bit higher. People dance because it provides social connections, joy and passion, mental and physical well-being and stimulation, and self-expression. People who participate and feel connected to the world of dance tend to go to live performances (85% of dance professionals attend dance shows – I wonder what the other 15% are doing! – as do 70% of leisure dancers.)

The survey becomes more interesting for me when it drills down into the lives of professional dancers, who report earning income from dance for an average of 11.7 years, following 9.5 years of training. The average income in the professional dance field is $11,207; teachers earn the most ($14,170), dancers earn the least ($6,715). Obviously, dance professionals supplement their dance income with other employment.

This is why post-professional retraining is so vital to the field, and why an organization like the Dancer Transition Resource Centre is so important. I’m happy to say I know many dancers who are flourishing, post-performance, in medical, computer programming, design and arts administration/fundraising careers, among others.

I would call the #YesIdance survey a small first step in understanding this moving and physically inspiring art form.

In the meantime, those of us who love dance are looking forward to

  • Hub14’s amazing 10th anniversary, being celebrated with a special photo exhibition April 24 – 26. Hub14 is a place for dance/arts incubation, research, creation and performance that is 100% self-sustaining and volunteer-driven, and an inspirational example of entrepreneurial and collaborative community success.
  • The celebrated Eifman Ballet’s return to Toronto on April 23, 24 and 25th at the Sony Centre
  • InDANCE’s premiere of The Book of Sandalwood, their latest full-length work and first Bharatanatyam creation since 2012, on May 16 at the Al Green Theatre in Toronto
  • Welcoming Fall for Dance North, an annual dance festival New Yorkers have been enjoying for more than a decade, to the Sony Centre, hopefully this October. Fall for Dance is the ideal concept for reinvigorating Toronto’s enthusiasm for dance with its affordable ticket prices and eclectic international programming.
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