Dance as a Strategy for Social Inclusion
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Published: Mon, 12 Feb 2018
All societies have some sort of division amongst themselves, whether based on race, religion, socioeconomic status, or some other criteria. Typically, those in the dominant group control the opportunities of those in other groups, more so in some communities than others (Levitas 1998). In overly simplistic terms, the degree to which individuals or non-dominant groups may and choose to join in the opportunities of the dominant society is called inclusion. The degree to which they are prevented or decline from joining in these opportunities is called exclusion. The terms social inclusion and its opposite, social exclusion, came into use in the 1970s in France, and have since been adopted by many countries in the EU (Reeves 2002).
This study seeks to first define social inclusion and identify effective evaluation of social inclusion policy and programming. Alook at the historic role of dance as a means of social inclusion and exclusion is examined, with discussion of the roles of professional dance, dance instruction and performance, and social dance ininclusion. The study defines the requirements of dance projects intended as social inclusion tools to offer access, provision, accommodation, and empowerment. The results from such a program should include enhanced personal development, increased self-determination,and improved social unity. It is important to also consider the costto individuals participating in social inclusion activities, particularly how their changing thoughts, attitudes and goals affecttheir relationships with family and friends.
The study concludes with six examples of well-run social inclusiondance programmes, and a plan for implementing a dance programme with a goal of increased social inclusion.
In the examination of social inclusion or the effectiveness of aspecific tool in social inclusion, it is necessary to further definethe term. There is variation in the academic and political communitiesas to the focus and scope, not to mention purpose, of socialinclusion. Many disagree on the exact definition of inclusion andexclusion and appropriate models to describe their effect onindividuals and the community.
For example, the United Nations holds that social inclusion “must bebased on respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, cultural and religious diversity, social justice and the special needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, democratic participation andthe rule of law” (Britton and Casebourne, 2005). The European Social Fund defines social inclusion as “the development of capacity andopportunity to play a full role, not only in economic terms, but also in social, psychological and political terms” (Britton and Casebourne,2005).
“Social inclusion is achieved when individuals or areas do not sufferfrom the negative effects of unemployment, poor skills, low income,poor housing, crime, bad health, family problems, limited to access toservices and rurality, e.g. remoteness, sparsity, isolation and highcosts,” according to the UK government (CESI 2005). The Laidlaw Foundation of Canada states, “social inclusion is about making surethat all children and adults are able to participate as valued, respected and contributing members of society,” while T.H. Marshall, inCitizenship and Social Class, bases the idea of social inclusion on“the right to share to the full in the social heritage and to live thelife of a civilized being according to the standards prevailing insociety (Donnelly and Coakley, 2002; Marshall, 1950).
There are even more definitions of social inclusion not listed here.However, some common elements included in most definitions aresubjective elements, such as feeling part of the community, respectedand valued, and physical elements, such as services within a reasonableproximity, or a certain level of material resources (CESI 2005).
This study contends that social inclusion requires:
• Access – allowing all members of a society entrance to and full participation in its opportunities
• Provision – providing a mechanism for removing barriers betweenpeople groups in a society, including economic, language, and proximitybarriers
• Accommodation – respecting and valuing the differences of itsmembers, whether physical, racial, economic, cultural, or otherwise
• Empowerment – encouraging individuals and people groups within asociety to reach their full potential, as they define it, and fosteringtheir participation at all power levels
Peter Donnelley and Jay Coakley support the above, in their report tothe Laidlaw Foundation, identifying five “cornerstones” of socialinclusion. First, all members of society must be recognized as having value. Individual differences must be respected, and necessary services provided for the entire community. Second, everyone has aright to development opportunities. This is most clearly seen inchildren; for example, recreation programs must be handicappedaccessible to allow for full participation. Third, non-dominantindividuals and groups should be involved in decisions effectingsociety in general and themselves in particular. An application of this would be senior citizens who suggest or plan their own activities,rather than simply participate in those created by paid communitystaff. Fourth, proximity is necessary for successful inclusion overtime. If the dominant group lives, works and plays in a differentlocation or one removed from m arginalised groups, social inclusionactivities will be short-lived at best. Finally, inclusion requires the material resources necessary to truly participate (Donnelly andCoakley, 2002). A teen football player that is unable to afford theproper shoes will never be completely part of the team.
Accordingly, successful social inclusion activity results in:
•Personal development – including self-esteem issues, skill attainment,creativity, and increased likelihood to participate in otheropportunities.
• Self-Determination – in both decision-making and self-expression,for individuals and the community as a whole, with participants takinggreater responsibility over time for both the inclusion project andtheir own personal needs.
• Social unity – improving relationships between members of the community and uniting people groups around common goals.
The effectiveness of social inclusion activities and the achievement ofthe above results are often controlled by the political or leadershipmindset prevalent in the programme. It is important to note,therefore, that the above differ from the definitions set forth by theUK government. The government’s aims include “improved educationalachievement, increased employment prospects, improved health, reduced crime, and improved physical environment” (CESI 2005). Note that theserelate directly to economic concerns, with little consideration forpersonal development beyond the development as a worker, no mention ofself-determination at all, and no mention of social unity or cohesionbeyond a reduction in crime.
Some local governments also take a strong economic focus. The Lancashire County Council defined social inclusion as something that“is to be achieved by involving the poorest of citizens so that theyexperience a rise in living standards, from which they are excluded atpresent due to a host of interrelated problems” (CESI 2005).
This research supports the argument that social inclusion, while having a significant economic component, also involves the personal actionsand attitudes of individuals and people groups in a society. It is the opinion of this study, supported by numerous others, that the outlookand ownership in society of marginalised groups must first change forany true inclusion to take place.
Ruth Levitas, in her book The Inclusive Society? Social Exclusion and New Labour, encapsulates the three primary models for addressing social inclusion. The first and most politically left model is there distributionist discourse, or RED. This model holds lack of materialresources to be the primary cause of exclusion. This leads to a callfor forced redistribution of material resources to achieve social inclusion. The amount of redistribution required for inclusion,however, particularly within a democratic or socialist society, isusually too much for the dominant group to bear. This channels deprived individuals and groups to reliance on “government handouts” and, ultimately, poverty in comparison to the dominant group. Thesociety practicing redistribution attempts to balance the needs of itsmarginalised citizens with the desires of those in power. This is adangerous game, as the resulting incomplete redistribution can lead tosoc ial unrest and economic difficulties for society as a whole(Levitas 1998).
The second model, the social integrationist discourse (SID), is the most centrist given today’s political climate. This model of inclusion focuses on equal access, opportunity, andparticipation in the labour market. The idea is that if marginalised people are given equal access to and participate equally in jobs and job training, they will become part of the greater society. Paid employment raises the standard of living or material resources, which allows them to participate in a wider range of society’s activities.Over time they integrate into the established society. The model presents the concept of community participation, or unpaid work, forthose unable to hold a paying position. This might apply to personswith severe handicaps, substance abuse issues, mental illness, or whoare the primary caregivers of young children or elderly parents. These persons should be encouraged to undertake volunteer opportunities inthe community, and thereby partici pate in society (Levitas 1998).
There are also obvious difficulties with this model. First, it ignoresthe many barriers that marginalised people face when seeking paidemployment, including language and cultural issues, and childcare forsingle parents. These can take many years to overcome, if they areovercome at all (Cook, K. 2004). The model also assumes the availability of jobs and job training, not a reality in our presentlabour market. With the concept of community participation, it isunclear how or where such unpaid work would take place, given thatthese are people who are “unwanted” by the paid employment sector.
The third model, the moral underclass discourse (MUD), is the most politically right model. This assumes that marginalised people are not included in society because they choose not to participate (Levitas1998). According to this model, a young person from a deprived neighbourhood chooses to be poor and to pass by the job training or educational opportunities afforded to him by society. For social inclusion to be successful, these individuals and people groups mustchoose to participate in society. Proponents of this model oftenencourage punishment of some type to individuals who do not comply with programmes aimed at helping them, and rewards to those who comply.
The moral underclass discourse overlooks the complexity of manymarginalised people’s situations. It fails to consider the pressureindividuals face from their culture groups, lack of role models andself-esteem issues, and personal resources to overcome initial barriersto societal participation. The model further fails to identify causesof non-participation.
Any social inclusion activity should identify and target deprivedcommunities or people groups. In addition, an effective long-termprogramme will seek to address the causes of this deprivation, not justthe results of it. Effective solutions will value the input of thosefrom the deprived community and look at the situation from a holisticperspective (Britton and Casebourne 2005). This addressing of causesand empowering of marginalised peoples is not provided for in the moralunderclass discourse.
The government currently pursues policy based on the socialintegrationist model, focusing on providing educational opportunitiesto children to prepare them for later job training, and vocationalopportunities to adults (Reeves 2002). Despite its flaws, it seems themost feasible means of delivery of social inclusion. SID supports theidea that effective inclusion goes beyond simple access issues.Non-dominant groups must be allowed to strive for their full potentialwithin society, raising their standards of participation and acceptanceuntil holistic involvement is achieved. Inclusion, as seen throughthis model, is “about closing physical, social, and economic distancesseparating people, rather than only eliminating boundaries or barriersbetween us and them” (Donnelly and Coakley 2002). While it is possiblefor individuals or groups to be included in some arenas and excluded inothers, this research assumes that inclusion in any for m contributesto inclusion holistically.
True inclusion, however, goes beyond allowing those in non-dominantgroups to simply participate in the activities of the dominantsociety. They must choose to fully engage with the dominant group, andhave opportunity grow and develop to their full potential, andultimately have equal input into the decisions and actions of thesociety as a whole. Both the dominant group and the marginalisedgroups or individuals must work together for social inclusion tooccur.
There are three levels of participation in inclusive situations betweenthe dominant group in a society and marginalised individuals andgroups: assimilation, accommodation, and separation. The type ofinteraction occurring is determined by the amount of change anindividual will undergo to fit into the dominant group or groups in asociety, and the willingness of the society to accept individuals orgroups with characteristics, means, or culture different from their own.
Assimilation occurs when the dominant society chooses to allownon-dominant individuals and groups to adopt its activities, values,and culture, and non-dominant participants choose to adopt suchthings. Groups immigrating to North America historically valuedassimilation, and often neglected teaching their children the culture,traditions, and language of their native land. There was a great valueplaced on these second-generation immigrant children consideringthemselves “Canadian” or “American.” This “melting pot” culturalmelding allowed immigrant children to quickly assimilate into thebroader culture, although often at the cost of many of their own uniqueattributes and traditions (Gamble and Gamble 2005).
A more current example would be an immigrant Muslim woman whoenrolled in university. If this woman chose to adopt the dominantuniversity culture, she might abandon traditional head covering for ahat or hooded jumper. While continuing to dress modestly, she wouldwear clothing that did not distinguish her from her peers. Herinteractions would be in English. She might join clubs and participatein activities, study groups, and the like in a manner similar tonon-Muslim students, perhaps even dating in a manner typical ofuniversity women. If the other students, in general, accepted heractions, she would assimilate to their culture.
If the same woman sought accommodation, rather than assimilation, shewould participate in the academic portions of university, but not tryto be like the other students. She would continue to wear whateverclothing she had worn prior to entering school.
While required to speak English in the classroom, she would use hernative language often. She would abide by her religious guidelines asfar as interactions and activities were concerned. In short, she wouldbe a Muslim woman in a non-Muslim, British institution of highereducation. The university community would choose to accept her,cultural differences and all, or separate from her.
Sometimes, however, inclusion is not achieved because the marginalisedgroups choose not to participate in society. This is calledseparation, and in this case the Muslim woman would not attenduniversity at all, choosing instead to stay within a community ofothers from her native country who share her religious beliefs. Shewould not make any effort to learn English or interact with thedominant society around her. The dominant society rarely makes aneffort to include individuals or groups choosing to self-separate, andsometimes encourages separation (Gamble and Gamble 2005).
Successful inclusion, therefore, requires a desire or willingness onthe parts of both the dominant society and the marginalised individualor group to join together in community. Society must accept theactions of the assimilating or accommodating person, and the personmust accept the boundaries and norms of society.
Further defining social inclusion assumes a desire on the part ofmarginalised groups to join with the dominant society in theircommunity through either assimilation or accommodation.
It is important to consider that some persons or groups self-excludebecause of past exclusion, or because of pressure to conform to theculture of their non-dominant group. Not all individuals from deprivedcircumstances are able to take opportunities when presented. Cultural,self-esteem, economic and other issues come into play.
Dance should be considered in its use as a tool for social inclusion byfirst studying existing programmes and their effectiveness. Evaluatingthe successfulness of social inclusion programmes, particularly danceprogrammes, is difficult. Although great strides have been made inrecent years, most documentation of social inclusion success has beenwith activities focusing on other areas of the arts. Dance, as aphysical medium, is more difficult to empirically examine over time.While studies of dance tend toward feel-good stories and individualnarratives, several works of credible research have been conducted inrecent years.
Evaluators also need to consider the type of dance activity they arestudying. For example, a ballroom dance class aimed atcross-generational integration and appreciation has a far differentpurpose than a performance dance programme aimed at increasing theself-confidence and empowerment of disadvantaged youth. Three types ofdance activities are used in reaching social inclusion aims,performance dance, instructional dance (classes designed for skillattainment, recreation, or health more than public performance), andsocial dance. Research has been done primarily on the effectiveness ofthe first two types of dance, as they occur in controlled environmentslending themselves to analysis.
Performance dance gives groups in the local community theopportunity to work and present their art collectively. This not onlybrings together groups from varied ages, cultures, and socioeconomicbackgrounds for a common purpose, it allows the community to view theirefforts, further reinforcing the inclusive nature of their endeavours(Donnelly and Coakley 2002). Often, professional dancers or communitymembers employed in some form of dance perform with the programme group.
Performance dance programmes are typically evaluated by reactions ofparticipants and audience, fiscal results (including support documentedfrom the local community, and quality of performance (Reeves 2002).Participants and audience members are given surveys, indicating theirreaction to the programme and results of their participation. Thosesurveyed are asked about their outlook, goals, and perceptions prior tothe performance dance activity, and after. The number of peopleindicating positive life outcomes and the degree to which they reportpositive life outcomes can then be calculated and compared with similarprogrammes (Matarasso 1997).
An arts programme for youth in Portsmouth brought togetherprofessional artists and local children, from infant to sixth form.They would work together in a workshop setting, then perform locally.One group of children, for example, worked with the Kokum dancecompany. In this programme, data was collected from the children’steachers, rather than the children themselves. Teachers were asked toevaluate specific items regarding each child’s behaviour, attitude, andperformance in the classroom, providing reliable data regarding benefitthe children derived from participation (Matarasso 1997).
As many of these performance projects are funded wholly or in part bypublic funds, fiscal considerations come into play. Were members ofthe community willing to support the project by purchasing tickets?Was the project able to recoup some of its costs, and if so, how much?Francois Matarasso’s 1999 groundbreaking research, Use or Ornament?The social impact of participation in the arts, deals with the growingemphasis on economic contributions of the arts community to the overallfinancial health of communities and the country, and the importance ofthe arts as an export for the British economy. This is sometimes atconflict with the purposes of those initiating and operating danceprojects. However, as funding is required for most inclusionactivities, it remains an evaluative consideration (Matarasso 1997).
Quality evaluations of performance dance activities aimed at socialinclusion are as controversial as reviews of dance performances ingeneral (Reed 1998). Consensus between those familiar with danceperformance, however, can be a useful tool in evaluation (Reeves2002).
Instructional dance is even more focused on the life impact on itsparticipants. These programmes are typically held in dance schoolenvironments, often in connection with the local schools or a communitycentre, and often focus on children. The dance projects undertaken bythe Merseyside Dance Initiative’s Out of Reach programme areinstructional activities leading to performance. Research conducted byMDI on their dance programmes included survey, interviews, videos,photos, and letters, providing both empirical and subjective resultsfor these activities (Peerbhoy, Smith, and Birchall 2002).
It is important to take into consideration the native languages andages of those surveyed in this type of research. Young children andthose for whom English is an additional language can have difficultywith written surveys. For example, Out of Reach, a report of danceinclusion programmes by the Merseyside Dance Initiative, describes howparticipants were surveyed using a Face Scale, showing seven facesgoing from broadly smiling to frowning. They were then asked toidentify the face that expressed how they felt about their life ingeneral. MDI also used a Cantrils Ladder, where participants ratedtheir life satisfaction by choosing a rung on the ladder to representit (Peerbhoy, Smith, and Birchall 2002). By using this surveytechnique before and after participation, MDI was able to quantifyparticipants’ views on their experience in their programmes. Thisallowed them to use the same survey for children and adults, regardlessof language backgrou nd.
The Merseyside Dance Initiative researchers followed the above surveyswith oral interviews, including a series of questions for allparticipants, an additional question set for senior members of thedance programme, and a third set of questions inclusive of the firsttwo for dance leaders. These were open-ended, subjective questions,such as “What impact do you think Out of Reach has had on your group?”and “Out of Reach is a community project – what does that mean to you?”(Peerbhoy, Smith, and Birchall 2002).
Skill attainment is an important item of evaluation, in addition toself-esteem and similar benefits from an instructional dance activity.Skills can be measured by observation on the part of the instructor orclass leader, with data collected at the beginning and end of the classor activity. Again, results can be compared with similar programmes todetermine effectiveness, or used to project the effects of a project tobe implemented.
Instructional Dance is not immune from financial considerations or thepolitical emphasis on jobs and job training in social inclusionprogrammes. The Enterprise and Cultural Committee’s submission fromthe Aberdeen City Council in 2004 included a number of such goals orachievements, including “the training and development of artists,contributing to the cultural and economic vibrancy of an area,”improved economics, “enhancing the image of Scotland both at home andabroad,” and “training for play workers, youth workers, and careworkers to broaden their understanding and experience in utilisingdance as part of their programmes and everyday work.” Instructionaldance programmes, without performance revenues, tend to face even morevolatile financial situations, and are often offered in directcorrelation to funding availability (Aberdeen 2004).
The third type of dance, social dance, is difficult to quantitativelyresearch. Social dance activities are usually offered by localorganisations and governments as recreational opportunities, withsocial inclusion aims a secondary consideration. The Aberdeen CityCouncil’s report, mentioned above, cited 1402 community dance eventsheld in 2003 / 2004 by their citymoves initiative. These eventsincluded festivals and dance events (Aberdeen 2004).
While participants in a formal dance programme can be surveyed beforeand after their activity or class, this is impractical and, for thatmatter, almost impossible at a festival or public social dance type ofevent. Data can be collected on the number of attendees, any acts ofviolence or physical altercations between people groups, and similarstatistics. General observations made also be made about people’sparticipation and recorded, although subjective. Comparisons betweencommunity situations before and after a series of such programmes arealso often used. For example, did the juvenile crime rate andincidences of vandalism drop after the inception of a weekly youthsocial dance?
Children in the community are also affected by participants in socialdance activities. They are quick to notice who attends and observe whoparticipates in what activities at a festival. The participation orlack thereof by certain groups within the community reinforces thechild’s perceptions of appropriate community interaction, laying thegroundwork for either tolerance and acceptance or bigotry and mistrust(Hanna 1983). This is an important component almost impossible tomeasure through research.
Overall, the need for empirical and fact-based research remains strongfor dance activities, particularly those focused on broader goals suchas improving community social cohesion. Additional studies should beencouraged.
Dance has historically reinforced distinctions between people groupsand social classes, particularly social dance. After all, social danceis usually between friends or romantic interests. There is stronginclination at all levels of society to fraternize in such settingswith members of one’s own social group.
In much of Europe, for example, those of the upper levels of societyparticipated in court dances, while those at lower levels of societyparticipated in country-dances. The types of dances one learned andthe way one carried oneself at the festival, dance hall, or ballroom,quickly communicated the social level or class of that individual. Itis hard to imagine, even a hundred years ago, a duke or duchess lopingaround a typical country-dance, or the typical commoner being acceptedat a royal ball.
To some extent dance remains so today, where a dress worn at formalballs of the wealthy can cost in excess of a working persons wages forsix months. The galas and events reported in the newspapers andmagazines are intended for and attended by the wealthy and theirfriends. By the same token, the patrons at a typical hip-hop club in adisadvantaged neighbourhood would exclude a clean-cut, obviouslywealthy man in business attire. There remains hesitancy between groupsto attend social functions on another group’s turf, or in a communitysignificantly different from one’s own.
Many ethnic communities retain dances from their native cultures,accommodating rather than assimilating to the society around them. Ifthese dances are performed or taught to others in the community, thiscultural sharing can have a strong inclusive effect. However, ifnative dances are reserved by their cultural group to only those withinthe group, the practice of such dances becomes exclusive.
Another type of exclusionary dance programme remains popular today.A number of communities offer dance activities for disadvantaged youth,or those recently released from incarceration, or a similarmarginalised group. By offering services only to one specific group,geographical area, or income level, these programmes may actually detersocial inclusion (Reeves 2002). Deprived neighbourhoods often lack thephysical facilities or funding necessary for dance activities, andindividuals from outside the community may be reluctant to venture in,fearing crime or similar deterrents. Therefore, while these activitiesare obviously designed to serve a specific population and often are ofpositive benefit, they neither allow access to all members of societynor remove barriers between people groups, and therefore cannot beconsidered truly inclusive.
Dance also experiences a higher rate of self-exclusion than some otherart activities. Men are often wary about participating in a danceactivity, as dance is still considered unmanly in some cultural sets.Also, the physical expression necessary in dance is considered immodestor inappropriate by some cultural groups (Reed 1998). Matarassodescribes an art panel activity, the Mughal Tent Project, where womencreate embroidered art panels for public display (Matarasso 1997). Theprogramme serves primarily Muslim women residing in the Leicesterarea. Although there was initial resistance from some husbands,eventually most became supportive of their wives efforts, even watchingthe children so their wives could complete their art. It is unlikelythese husbands would be equally supporting if their wives wereparticipating in a public dance performance (Matarasso 1997)).
New Life and Hope, a community centre serving a deprived area with ahigh number of recent immigrants in the Bronx, NY, USA, noted a similardifficulty with performance dance. Many of the people moving into thecommunity were from Middle Eastern areas, predominantly Muslim withsome Hindu. The centre initially offered several art programmes forchildren and adults, including painting, sculpture, music, theatre, anddance. Very few men participated in these activities. Women andchildren were quick to sign up for spots in painting, sculpture, andmusic, somewhat slower to engage in theatre opportunities, and onlyyounger female children enrolled in any dance offerings (Ortiz 2005).
Significant promotion of the adult dance programme and changes to makeit more culturally sensitive, including dropping dress requirements,were not able to increase enrolments. Women attending other coursesoffered, when questioned why they did not participate in danceactivities, often cited disapproval from their families. It is unclearwhether discontinuing the public performance portion of the danceprogramme (all participants put on a programme for the public at theend of the course) would have made it more palatable to thispopulation, as it was apparently not implemented. Dance wasdiscontinued from the centre’s offerings after two years due to lack ofinterest (Ortiz 2005).
Dance also has historical significance as a means of inclusion within acommunity. From the earliest tribal communities, dance has been a waythe group comes together and reaffirms its unity. Primitive culturesoften use dance as a means to build social cohesion, including adoptingnon-native individuals into their group and marking rites of passage,such as children coming of age or entering into marriage-typerelationships (Kaeppler 1978).
Certain dances themselves have aided in social inclusion at severaltimes in the past. For example, in the early 1900s in the UnitedStates, African Americans introduced a dance called the Shimmy to thelocal Chicago nightclub scene. The dance began to be p
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