Re-imagining Service Organizations : Decolonizing Canadian Dance

Year One Report : Strategic Partnerships in Dance

Year Two Report: Landslide: Innovations in Service for Dance in Canada | Executive Summary

Statement of Intent

The Canadian Dance Assembly has initiated a multi-year investigation to re-imagine service for the dance sector and an organizing structure to deliver on that service. The intention is to transform service for dance to be radically open, inclusive, and more reflective of Canada’s identity. CDA’s initiative aims to identify areas of duplication, gaps in service while creating new opportunities for underserved communities and evolving with the current social and political landscape in order to truly serve our national sector.


  • We will honor the history of the sector while recognizing that history is only a meaningful context for interpretation for those already included in the professional dance community
  • We will organize around a postcolonial understanding of culture and service that questions and reinvents the way dance is viewed and framed
  • We will honour Indigenous voices and values throughout the process and ¼ of invited participants will be Indigenous
  • We will question demarcations and categories that define who and where to act – We will focus less on new efficiencies and more on new opportunities

Process :

The aim of the process is to initiate long-term, sustainable learning and renewal processes to make the dance ecology more viable, representative, and successful through the reimagining and reinterpretation of national service for dance.

A six-month process will culminate in a two-day retreat in Toronto, Ontario facilitated by Intervene. The calls of duplication and gaps in service must be addressed – because the status quo is simply not working. A fundamental restructuring of service for dance will be required. Consolidation is likely.

Many questions will be addressed at the retreat

  1. Should the CDA continue to exist or what does a national service organization for dance look like?
  2. How can we move beyond scarcity to a place of strength?
  3. What would partnership look like?
  4. How do we best serve the needs of individuals vs. organizations?

We need strong national service for dance that strengthens our community, facilitates collaboration, acts as a cultural connector and embraces tolerance, difference and excellence.

This project is supported by:

The Data

Last year, the Canadian Dance Assembly spearheaded a difficult conversation amongst dance service organizations about partnerships. CDA invited Caroline Miller, formerly of Dance UK, to talk to leaders in the sector about the One Dance UK merger (to read the full report from Year One, click here). This conversation identified a desire to continue exploring this possibility, as well as the need for research. As a result, CDA is pleased to announce the research team of James Doeser and Melissa Wong, who will provide evidence to the participating organizations in order for their boards to make informed decisions. James and Melissa are writing a blog series over the course of their research to keep the Canadian dance sector fully informed. This is their first blog post. ~ Kate Cornell

1st Blog Post from Melissa and James

We are delighted to have been appointed as research consultants to support the Canadian Dance Assembly and its partner organizations in the Decolonizing Canadian Dance project.

Our task is simple: to seed the discussions with relevant research to inform decision-making about opportunities for collaboration among Canadian dance service organizations. Through our work, they will be able to move ahead in whatever new configuration they choose with the confidence that all parties have diligently and carefully considered the evidence that’s out there.

Our first order of business is to review the existing reports and data to get an understanding of the context for this process: How did the current set of dance service organizations emerge? How have they supported the sector over the years? How has the dance sector itself changed over the years, and what might that mean for the future of dance service organizations?

There has been extensive work undertaken through the Canada Dance Mapping Study, and we’ll be looking for ways to bring it up to date and consider what it means in practice for dance service organizations. We’ll also be crunching the numbers on the profile and activity of the existing dance service organisations.

Armed with this knowledge, our contribution is to bring an objective external perspective to this process. One of our most important tasks is to capture the sentiment within the dance sector. That is, we believe that the best way forward is to understand what people like you—artists, professionals, and organizational representatives—want and expect from dance service organizations.

Later this year, we’ll be circulating a short survey and arranging conversations with key players in the dance sector across Canada. We want to know your experiences of the current dance service ecosystem and how these organizations could better serve your needs. This is your opportunity to shape the future of these organizations, and completing this survey will ensure that your voice is heard.

Like all organizations, dance service organizations need to respond to changes in their sector and the needs of the people within it. At the invitation of the CDA, we are here to support this process through the application of research and data analysis. We’re excited to start this journey, we hope you’ll join us along the way.

-James Doeser and Melissa Wong

Continue Reading Follow Up Blog Posts:

James and Melissa’s 2nd Blog Post – July 2017

James and Melissa’s 3rd Blog Post – September 2017


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