Constructive steps towards the future

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 May, 2006, 12:00am

SUSAN STREET was dean of the School of Dance at the Academy for Performing Arts when the Hong Kong Arts Development Council provided funding for the Hong Kong Dance Festival.

Not long after, however, she had to leave Hong Kong to take up a position in Australia, as executive dean of the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology.

But Professor Street very much wished to continue to be involved in the dance festival, and so she was happy to get a part in the programme as convenor of the International Dance Education Conference, scheduled for June 14-17.

She was also responsible for coming up with the festival's three main themes: imagine, capture and project.

'I thought in terms of what success looks like,' she said. 'You start by dreaming. We imagine and we capture opportunities. And our third step is to project.'

The conference is titled 'Imagining the future: dance education in the 21st century'. Dance academics from around the world will be presenting papers and discussing topics ranging from dance theory and country analysis to how technology is changing dance.

'A lot of these conferences talk about how to preserve the art of dance, but we want to look at what the next step is,' she said. 'There is an emerging picture of valuing creativity as a broader government agenda, how to make arts more effective and how social messages can be conveyed through the arts.'

Professor Street cited The Wow Factor by Anne Bamford, which discusses the global impact of the arts on education.

The research compendium, supported by Unesco, the International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies and the Australia Council, looks at the difference between 'education in the arts' and 'education through the arts'. It also identifies the educational, cultural and social benefits of an arts education.

Other programmes in the conference include talks on how the arts can help young people learn about the world and give older people a mental stimulus. 'The conference tries to look at opportunities - what we need to do to be seen by society as having a valuable place,' Professor Street said.

Traditionally, artists are not very good at showing their worth.

'If a government had just $1 million, it would likely give it to scientists if they say they can find a way to cure cancer.'

Professor Street would like to see that situation change. She firmly believes the arts are important in a world that is becoming 'increasingly culturally neutral'.

'You can board any plane, be blindfolded and fly anywhere and you will see Louis Vuitton and Cartier, and you can eat at McDonald's. The arts is a way to maintain and develop culture.'

The conference might also serve as a catalyst for new initiatives.

'Through these events, people get together and network, and they might decide to put in a grant application. They can test their ideas with colleagues and talk about issues in the world.

'You rarely get a revolution after a conference, but small news makes a difference,' Professor Street said.

International DANCE Education Conference

Imagining the future: dance education in the 21st century

Price $120 / session (tickets by advance booking)