International Dance Day is a UNESCO-sponsored event held every April 29 to celebrate dance in all its forms around the world. Despite its United Nations association, in Canada the day does not receive nearly the acclaim of "Hockey Day" even though Canada's place in dance is quite unique. We have opened our stages to all forms of dance due to our multicultural population and therefore have produced a richness of diversity seldom seen on other world stages.
By collaborating with the Canadian Network of Dance Presenters (CanDance), the Society for Canadian Dance Studies (CSDS) developed a project in which elected officials in municipal, provincial and federal government were invited to attend a dance performance in March and April accompanied by an CSDS member. We wanted to celebrate International Dance Day by taking our civic leaders to a performance to help educate them about this amazing but often misunderstood and sometimes intimidating art form. By having a dance-knowledgeable host accompany them to a performance, our guests were provided with a rare opportunity to ask questions about the performance they were seeing or about other aspects of dance in Canada. The CSDS membership consists of a diverse range of professionals working in the dance milieu such as dancers, choreographers, presenters, educators, ethnographers, writers, historians, notators, animateurs and publishers.
The Department of Canadian Heritage thought the project was worthy of its financial support; however, finding politicians willing and available to participate proved difficult. Of close to ninety invitations distributed across Canada to officials of municipal, provincial and federal government, four guests attended a performance. Public life is wrought with commitment and our public servants are overrun with invitations; however, there would not have been an invitation like the one from the Society for Canadian Dance Studies as it is the only organization of its kind in Canada. And in the cities of Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal there were so many performance dates in March and April that it is difficult to believe that local and provincial politicians could not manage one dance performance.
Many of the politicians who could not attend commended the initiative and hoped to be invited again. However, there were also some interesting reasons for not attending. One provincial minister responsible for seniors said he did not attend events outside his constituency. If his portfolio involves seniors, then are their issues not a part of his constituency? He had been invited so that the CSDS member now researching the issues concerning senior dance artists could enlighten the minister on those issues and take him to a performance in which senior dance artists were involved. Our public servants must understand that the policies related to culture are not the only ones that affect artists. All socio-economic policy has an impact on artists. The thinking behind this project was to invite ministers whose portfolios have an impact on dance artists such as heritage, culture, seniors, housing, education, finance, labour and women's issues.
This project did receive enthusiastic response from the Canada Council for the Arts. John Hobday, newly appointed director of the Canada Council, was invited and attended a performance in Ottawa. When the Board of Directors of the Canada Council heard of the initiative they also wanted to participate. We were quite far along in the project at that point so there were only a handful of performances left to see in April and unfortunately these dates did not match with existing schedules. The guests who did attend performances found the experience enlightening and helpful in their understanding of this art form.
The Society for Canadian Dance Studies would like to thank Kate Cornell and Sandra Bochner for their assistance with phone calls, Mimi Beck and the Canadian Network of Dance Presenters (CanDance) for their administrative support and enthusiastic cooperation, Megan Andrews and The Dance Current for supplying a list of cross-Canada performance dates, and the Department of Canadian Heritage.
International Dance Day Guests:
Caroline Di Cocco