Canada Dance Mapping Study: Literature Review

A component of the Canada Dance Mapping Study – which seeks to provide a comprehensive profile of the breadth and dance activity across Canada – this literature review examines a number of research sources regarding the state of dance in Canada, including professional, non-professional, and social dance. The report also identifies gaps in the research literature regarding dance. In fact, the report indicates that there is a “lack of literature and documentation that captures the full scope and breadth of dance”. In particular, the report notes that the non-professional dance area is poorly covered by existing research.

The literature review is organized around six key themes: dance policy, economics, ecology, social aspects, digital technologies, and artistic expression. Regarding dance policy, the report outlines cultural policy orientations at the federal and provincial levels, including copyright legislation, the impact of digital technologies, “streamlining of funding support”, emphasis on quality of life, arts education, professional development, and “the importance of foreign markets for artists and arts organizations”. The report also notes that there has been a “historical lack of access to programs by culturally diverse artists”.

Regarding the economic situation of dance, the report indicates that there has been a “globalization of the dance economy”. In Canada, the report points out that “there are no specific studies that provide an analysis of the contribution of the dance field to the creative and general economy”. The report highlights the “lack of growth in public funding to the professional dance sector” in a context of a “doubling of the number of companies funded” by public funders. The literature review indicates that, despite increases in earned and private sector support, this situation has led to a lack of stability, with dance organizations struggling “to plan ahead, maintain quality, and attract and retain talented staff”.

The dance ecology is comprised of more than 100 professional companies in Canada, although this number probably excludes “many emerging and ‘micro’ companies” as well as some new dance styles and some companies expressing diverse and Aboriginal cultures. The number of professional dancers is estimated to be over 7,300, and they have, on average, over eight years of professional training. Despite this level of training, dancers typically have “very low wages and primarily contract work or self-employment”. The literature review notes that the dance infrastructure (defined to include facilities, personnel, and other systems supporting professional dance) “is the least developed of all the performing arts”.

According to the study, the social aspect of dance is not well documented, although there do “appear to be many avenues for Canadians to engage with dance socially”, including opportunities to take lessons, attend presentations, and participate in competitions. One of the areas where a report does exist relates to Aboriginal dance participation, where the report cites “a large number of dance groups and great uptake by powwows and in the schools”.

The literature review indicates that “new digital technologies have had an enormous impact on dance in Canada”, with many artists integrating video and animation into dance creation. Overall, “Canadian dance artists are recognized pioneers in the development and integration of interactive computer applications to dance making”. Dance is accessible on television competitions and via digital distribution of dance videos.

Regarding artistic expression, the report cites the wide range of dance practices in Canada, but research sources reviewed in the report indicate that there is a “lack of resources to sustain innovation for the benefit of Canadian and international audiences”. Key factors in the development of dance expression include “opportunities for risk-taking and creative renewal”, critical discourse, access to foreign markets, “opportunities for touring and cultural exchanges”, as well as the further integration of digital technologies into dance works.

Summary: 

A component of the Canada Dance Mapping Study – which seeks to provide a comprehensive profile of the breadth and dance activity across Canada – this literature review examines a number of research sources regarding the state of dance in Canada, including professional, non-professional, and social dance. The literature review is organized around six key themes: dance policy, economics, ecology, social aspects, digital technologies, and artistic expression.