Dancing to the UK beat

Claire Bradley from the Council for Dance Education and Training discusses the UK's longstanding reputation for dance education.

Dance in the UK is fast growing in popularity. With the increase of celebrity dance TV programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing, Dancing on Ice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Musical Theatre reality TV shows, there has been a huge surge in interest and in public participation in dance courses and lessons, establishing dance as a national popular hobby.

Dance has become increasingly acceptable and more accessible to the general public inspiring people to participate in a variety of dance activities, whilst at the same time creating a new audience for the wide range of dance related performances on offer. This has resulted in a rise in people attending West End Musical Theatre shows, events and performances around the country, bringing major benefits to the dance industry in the UK as a whole.

Dance is part of the National Curriculum in the UK state education sector and the number of examination courses for or including dance is growing at a phenomenal rate. A number of new government initiatives have helped to strengthen the place of dance in schools and have led to an increase in the provision of extra-curricular dance activities. Currently there is a shortage of qualified dance specialists working in state schools in the UK.

Whilst the general public are enjoying a new found love for dance, the private sector has been providing excellent education and training in specialist vocational training schools and colleges around the country for many years.

The Council for Dance Education and Training is the national standards body of the professional dance industry and it accredits programmes of training in vocational dance schools and validates the qualifications of dance awarding bodies. This means that if you apply to study at one of the sixteen vocational schools currently accredited by CDET, you can be assured of a high quality professional training programme. Alongside the sixteen schools that are already accredited, there are fifteen others moving towards full accreditation within the next two years.

Most vocational schools in the UK offer a three year full-time training programme. Qualifications vary depending on the institution and the specific course chosen. Classes usually start at 8.30am and continue until at least 6pm. Taught sessions are frequently followed by two or three hours of rehearsal for five days a week with additional rehearsals often scheduled for weekends. Many vocational schools now also offer degree programmes which still focus on a professional training but also provide an academic strand in addition to the practical dance sessions. This means that after a strenuous day in the studio there may well be an evening of academic research ahead. Entrance requirements to vocational schools vary and prospective students should consult the prospectuses of CDET’s accredited schools for further information at www.cdet.org.uk

Recently there has been an increase in the numbers of dance degrees on offer in higher education institutions and these are all listed on the UCAS website. UCAS is the organisation providing application services across a wide range of subject areas and modes of study for UK universities and colleges. Currently 477 courses in dance are listed; however these courses are not generally geared towards a professional training for the industry but may instead lead to employment opportunities in some of the many other roles in the creative industries or in teaching. It is important for students to enquire as to how much contact time is provided before enrolling on a degree in dance.

Dance industry professionals in the UK are passionate about their work and strive continuously to ensure that dance is widely accessible and of the very highest quality throughout the UK. Without question the UK is home to some of the most exciting, innovative and high quality dance in the world, and it is therefore a most stimulating and inspiring place to choose to study.

Written by Claire Bradley
Council for Dance Education and Training