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Behind the Curtain Blog

NDEO's "Behind the Curtain" Blog features articles written by NDEO members about dance and dance education topics as well as periodic updates on NDEO programs and services. This is a FREE resource available to ALL.

11Oct

Coalition Makes Dance Advocacy More Effective in Massachusetts

NDEO’s Guest Blog Series features posts written by our members about their experiences in the fields of dance and dance education. We continue this series with a post by Nancy H. Moses, Professor Emerita, Bridgewater State University. Guest posts reflect the experiences, opinions, and viewpoints of the author and are printed here with their permission. NDEO does not endorse any business, product, or service mentioned in guest blog posts. If you are interested in learning more about the guest blogger program or submitting an article for consideration, please click here.

What do MADEO, MMEA, MAEA and METG have in Common? This fruit salad of initials is a group of Massachusetts Professional Arts Education Organizations; they are all concerned with Advocacy; and they are all a part of a collective impact coalition called Arts for All in Massachusetts gathered together with other organizations by a group called Arts|Learning. Arts for All was created partly in response to the realization that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) was getting much of the attention and funding and STEAM, the movement to add an A for ARTS to the equation was running out of, well, steam. Enter the Arts for All coalition to advocate for the arts in good times and bad. Little did we know that a crisis called COVID was looming around the corner. We are now in the process of recovering, and I think we are in a good place with the help of the Arts for All coalition.

Dance Education in Massachusetts is continuing to progress—even after the blimp of the pandemic. Private studios are recovering, and classes are continuing at a healthy rate. Afterschool programs and recreational offerings are continuing because the need is constant in our Commonwealth. Private schools, which have always been strong in the arts and strong in dance, have resumed their good programs.

We are almost back to where we were before the crisis, but we can’t pop the champagne too quickly, because the number of quality dance education programs in our public schools was comparatively low before the pandemic. The need for advocacy for dance education in the public schools remains constant.

And that’s where the rubber hits the road. If we really believe in quality sequential dance that educates in creating, performing, responding and connecting in ages K through Grey, in the interests of access and equity, we must provide these experiences in our public schools.

But dance advocacy in Massachusetts is a lonely business. There are few teachers in the public schools, and they are often isolated with few dance colleagues around them. It isn’t uncommon to have a teacher be the only movement specialist in the building, let alone the school system. It is hard to have your voice heard in a crisis when you are a lone voice.

Fortunately or not, administrators tend to lump all the arts together. Dance, Theater, Music, Visual Arts and Media Arts are often special subjects that are often requesting unusual resources and exceptional attention from out of the normal classroom requirements. Our Department of Elementary and Secondary Education addresses them all together in an “Arts Framework” and discusses “The Arts” when it refers to the five disciplines.

In Massachusetts, we decided to use this tendency to combine us all into one group in our advocacy efforts. Instead of each of our professional organizations dealing with our own discipline’s problems, we decided to form a coalition of our professional organizations, called Arts for All. With the help and guidance of Arts|Learning, which advocates for all the arts, we combined Massachusetts Dance Education Organization (MADEO), Massachusetts Music Educators Association (MMEA), Massachusetts Art Education Association (MAEA), and the Massachusetts Educational Theater Guild (METG) and other organizations to form a collective impact group to address the legislative and educational policies that were influencing the teaching of our subjects in the schools.

The impact of our combined logos on our communications had a multiplying effect on our voices, and we truly made a difference in the policies that were governing the teaching of the arts in our schools. While our specific needs were unique to our disciplines, we found that the arts were being attacked together in areas of space, teacher time, focus and resources during the pandemic, so it was very much to our purpose to combine our efforts and address those issues together.

Since the visual art and music teachers far out-number the dance and theater teachers, dance and drama benefited considerably from this coalition. But the coalition benefited considerably from the addition of dance and theater voices and the inclusion of our disciplines, showing the diversity of the voices at the table.

The track record for the Arts for All coalition was impressive even before COVID. Its collective voice was able to influence the inclusion of the arts data in the public schools’ annual “report card” on the Department of Education Website. We were also instrumental in bringing about the revision of the state Arts Curriculum Frameworks to be in alignment with the National Core Arts Standards. Our voice brought about the funding and hiring of a full-time arts content specialist at the Education Department, along with the resurrection of the Arts Education Advisory Council that had been dormant for many years.

But when crises hit, that is when Arts for All really has had the opportunity to shine. We now have a collective impact coalition ready to activate at the moment of a crisis. We have our e-mail blasts ready and waiting to help out in the next call to action, and we are all ready to help each other in the next cause.

So how can you develop your own Arts for All Coalition to be ready for when the next crisis hits? Here are some steps to follow to form your own Arts for All coalition:

Step 1: Identify your potential partners: What organizations are your natural allies?

Step 2: Identify and contact the leadership to suggest an alliance of collective impact for emergency use.

Step 3: Identify advocacy representation from each organization to form a communication network among the groups.

Step 4: Establish a leader/convener for times of crisis to organize the group and establish plans of action.

Step 5: Activate the Coalition when needed for Emergency Action!

Good luck in coordinating your collective impact organization. We are so powerful when we gather with many voices, and we can be heard more clearly when we speak together.

Dr. Nancy Moses is Professor Emerita of Bridgewater State University Dance after serving for 33 years, developing and nurturing dance at the institution. Taking a scattered group of dance classes in Physical Education and Theater, she crafted an academic program that has evolved into a Dance Major. Through the years she was able to create a curriculum that led to licensure for teaching dance in the public schools, a service that no other public institution in Massachusetts has provided. The curriculum was created with a respect for the diversity of the art form with classes in Jazz Dance and Tap Dance sharing the requirements with Modern Dance and Ballet with electives of African Dance, Hip Hop and Bharatanatyam. As a life-long advocate of dance education, Dr. Moses has promoted dance through many professional organizations where she has served as officer and on multiple boards She has been a member of the National Dance Education Organization, having served as Board Recording Secretary, and was the founding President of the Massachusetts state affiliate, MADEO. She now serves all arts education disciplines as Executive Director of the arts education advocacy non-profit organization, Arts|Learning.

Headshot of Nancy Moses by Brad Moses

 

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