A participatory dance artist

is someone who facilitates dance opportunities in one or more community contexts, such as youth groups, nurseries, care homes for the elderly, prisons, hospitals or health care settings, or by working with the general public. This may involve teaching or creating dance work with children, young people or adults who have little or no previous experience of dance.

Most participatory dance artists are self-employed although some find positions with dance companies and other organisations offering dance activities. If you’re self-employed you need to be self-motivated and well organised with some basic business skills in order to develop a career in this field of practice as you may need to set up your own classes or projects.

What you need to do to work towards this role

In addition to having a sound knowledge in at least one dance style you’ll also need:

  • Good communication skills
  • An ability to adapt and respond flexibly to the needs and abilities of others
  • A keen sense of values and consideration towards others
  • The ability to use your initiative in creative ways
  • The ability to plan, develop, deliver and evaluate sessions
  • Good organisational and motivational skills
  • Basic business skills (to identify opportunities, promote your sessions etc)
  • The ability to work in partnership with others (such as carers, hospital staff etc)

There is no prescribed route or formal qualifications needed to develop a career that focuses on participatory dance: dance artists working in this part of the dance industry have not necessarily had access to specialised education at undergraduate level but have created their own pathways which may have included apprenticeships, placements with companies, mentoring,  dance teacher training or participation in continuing professional development opportunities.

Next steps

Take part in as wide a range of dance opportunities as you can so you build up your own  diversity of dance experience. Check out the People Dancing website www.communitydance.org.uk to learn more about the range of dance initiatives happening around the UK and ask local practitioners or companies if you can visit or observe their sessions. This will give you a clearer idea about whether this is the sort of dance work you want to pursue.

Think about the sorts of people you would like to work with and identify for yourself why you want to work with these groups. Talk to other participatory dance artists or read their blogs to gain an understanding not only of what they do but why they do it. Reflect on your own skills and try to identify which skills you would need to develop to work in community settings.

Two white females smiling cross legged, on the left, a disabled dancer in a pink t-shirt, on the right, the group leader raising her arm wearing a teal t-shirt

Who do participatory dance artists work with?

A very broad range of people! This may include dance session participants of any age, physical or mental ability; those with long-term health conditions (such as Parkinson’s); people with no previous experience of dance or those with extensive dance experience; intergenerational groups. In addition to the session participants you may also need to develop working relationships with friends or carers of those coming to your sessions; volunteers; institution managers (eg care home providers, nursery providers); other dance artists or teachers; dance companies.