Imagine a room full of enthusiastic people representing teacher organizations from the private and higher-ed sectors of the dance world, along with dance teachers who work in academic schools. Add to the crowd members of the dance media, dance merchant representatives, and master teachers, all coming together in cooperation and dialogue to speak with a unified voice on dance education and dance-related issues.
It would be really cool if the group believed that all educational sectors are created equal and that dance should be available to all. Together they could determine that best practices and professional responsibility improve our field, and their mission could be to help to raise the bar for all students of dance, regardless of where they take class.
This group could brainstorm about ideas to improve the standards of dance education. It could break down barriers or misconceptions and create concepts to unify dance educators and all the entities that support the art of dance. Based on their experience and expertise, the members could create committees to research and discuss the topics that influence the entire dance education field. Together they could speak with one voice through published statements and white papers made available to educators, dancers and their parents, and dance enthusiasts.
This unified bunch could also offer scholarships to deserving dance educators in an effort to help them continue their own education, which ultimately benefits the students in their care.
Fortunately, such an organization does exist, and it’s called UNITY. In 1995, dance teacher organizations nationwide, which previously had tended to view each other as competitors rather than allies, met to discuss mutual concerns. When they learned that they had similar goals, they realized that working together would benefit the dance community.
In August 1995 the first UNITY meeting was initiated and hosted by Dance Masters of America’s National Executive Committee in New York City. Subsequent meetings took place in Memphis, Boston, and Raleigh, North Carolina, and since 1997 a meeting has been held in New York City each January. Today, in addition, UNITY meets each August via conference call. Total membership in the organizations that have participated in the meetings numbers in the tens of thousands.
At the last meeting I was elected co-chair of the organization, a position I held in 1996 and ’97, and I am so excited to be working once again with a group whose mission is to unite the dance community; it’s right up my alley.
If you are a member of a dance teacher organization, encourage its leaders to check out what UNITY is up to at unitydance.org. We welcome new members who want to be part of a unified voice for dance education. If you’re a dance merchant, master teacher, or otherwise involved in dance, we encourage you to join us in support of solid dance education and to offer you exposure to the leaders of the dance world.
Over the next few months Dance Studio Life will keep you updated on UNITY’s activities and its plans for the January 2012 meeting. I hope to see you there.