What the Hell is an NDA?

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Neil Nisbet

Is the most frequent question that we are asked. What are they? Where are they? Why are they? Many of you have pleaded. Our overseas readers are especially confused as to the nature of this most British of organisations. So here we provide answers to some of the most asked questions we receive about these mysterious entities.

First the easy one. What are they all called?

Dance City, Dance East, Dance 4, Dance Northwest, DanceXchange, ThePlace, Swindon Dance, South East Dance and Yorkshire Dance, all based in England. You will of course have noticed that all but one of the NDA’s has the word ‘Dance’ in their title just in case you get confused. Scotland has one NDA which is DanceBase but they are not associated with the English NDA’s.

So what are they then?

Well, they are nine separate organisations around England and one in Scotland that provide various services related to dance in all its forms to both the general public and professional dancers. Each NDA in England covers a specific area of the country that is usually the same area of coverage as the arts board that provides them with part of their funding. They provide services ranging from the fairly simple task of holding regular classes for the community they serve to the more complex job of commissioning and presenting professional work in theatres and supporting professional dance artists. Each NDA has a different set of priorities and the balance of professional and community support will vary for each one.

So NDA's are a good thing then?

Generally speaking yes they are. They provide a point of contact between community types and professional types.

Why are they called National Dance Agencies?

The title is a little confusing since each one covers a specific area of the country. However, all of the NDA’s in England are part of ANDA [Association of National Dance Agencies]. If you read through their very dry website you will discover that the NDA’s aspire to the following, somewhat impenetrable ideal;

“ANDA brings together NDAs - focal points of the dance infrastructure - from across England, allowing for the development of a vibrant and diverse range of dance activities with a cohesive national significance.”

DanceBase is the only genuine National Dance Agency, (taking the phrase literally that is), as they are pretty much one of a kind in Scotland.

Who pays for all this?

Funding for NDA’s in England will come from the Arts Council of England and the Regional Arts Boards. In Scotland, Dance Base receives funding from the Scottish Arts Council. Additional funding also comes from local councils and sponsorship.

Are they all the same?

Each NDA has its own artistic director and the priorities of each differ from organisation to organisation. Some of the NDA’s have access to more staff, facilities and financing than others depending on the size of the area that they serve. This doesn’t necessarily mean that bigger is better though. DanceXchange in Birmingham and the Place in London have just undergone major redevelopment to provide them with new facilities as has DanceBase in Edinburgh. Dance City in Newcastle is planning a major redevelopment with the construction of a brand new facility in 2004(ish) as are Dance East although the timescale for their redevelopment is unclear.

Will they help me?

If you want information or assistance with anything to do with dance then they certainly will help you. NDA’s can provide information about classes, training, workshops, more classes, performances, residencies, dance events, festivals and just in case you need it, even more classes and pretty much anything else dance related in the area they cover. They may not provide this information through their respective websites very well but if you give them a call or drop them an email they will provide the information that you seek. They can also provide access to rehearsal space if they have any available. Most of the time NDA’s will provide space either free or well below commercial rates depending on the type of work you want to do in the studio.

Do they provide funding?

In general NDA’s do not provide funding in the same way as an Arts Board or the Arts Council would. Meaning; you don’t fill in a form and wait 6 weeks for them to say yes or no. Some NDA’s will commission companies or choreographers to create new works within their region usually in conjunction with an education programme. They may also produce, from time to time, events, festivals or platforms that choreographers, new companies and dancers can apply to participate in.

Are they on the web?

Yes! All of the NDA’s have websites but it was very difficult to determine when they were last updated with any current information. The most concrete date we could find was in September. Mostly the NDA websites provide very general information about their mission statement, classes for the most current term and contact details. All of the NDA’s have contact email addresses that work. At the time of writing Swindon Dance’s website was not responding and this has been the case for several weeks now. The Yorkshire Dance website is being re-developed, we know this because it says so when you get there.

Can I just walk in off the street and ask questions?

Depending on what you’re after you certainly can. Don’t just drop in and expect to be able to have a chat with the Artistic Director though. If you do want to speak to the AD then call up first and make an appointment.

How do I get a job in one?

Jobs are advertised like any other organisation so keep an eye on the press or give them a call and ask if they have any job openings. Most NDA’s have the following staff positions, Artistic Director, General Manager, Finance Director, Community Officer [or Education Officer], PA’s, Administration and Reception staff. Most dancers and teachers are employed on a short term contract basis. The pay for this type of contract work is not something you can retire on. It is usually in the range of £18-£25 per hour depending on the location of the NDA and the work you will be doing. Most NDA’s will employ professional dancers to teach all of their community classes. Job vacancies for teaching community classes are generally not publicised in the press.

If you say “NDA” once more I shall scream!

Ok point taken.

Visit the ANDA website and you can obtain all the contact details and the website addresses of all the English NDA's

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