Economic Impact of Dance in Ireland

In this article, I will attempt to outline the economic issue of the dance industry in Ireland. There has been a huge increase in demand for dance in recent years in Ireland. This has resulted in many aspiring dancers attempting to be successful in the industry, which is not easy. Unfortunately, in Ireland, we lack the funding and resources to provide adequate training and education for those who wish to work in the competitive industry of dance. As a dancer myself, I have faced the struggle of trying to find sufficient training in order to advance my training of dance.

This can often be difficult if one is living in a remote area. Many people drive up and down the country in attempt to avail of the best dance training obtainable. Unfortunately for Irish dancers, although the demand for advanced training in the art of dance is extremely high, the supply is exceedingly low. This results in many aspiring dancers leaving Ireland to avail of the high quality professional training needed to succeed in the industry.

Not only do we in Ireland lack the professional training needed to become a full time dancer, but we also have very few professional companies in which dancers can be employed. Because of this, there is little to entice dancers to come to Ireland as there are very few employment opportunities to avail of.

Many people are not aware of the costs associated with training as a dancer. Dance is unlike sports such as GAA, Soccer or Hockey.

These sports are often supported by fundraisers, sponsorships and funding. However, with dance, this is not the case. Dance classes can be very expensive and costs can add up quickly. On average, a single dance class can cost €150 – €200 per term. If you are looking to train professionally in the future, or even simply enjoy dance as a hobby, you will more than likely take more than one class. For example, a lot of aspiring dancers will train in Ballet two or three times a week and then train additionally in styles such as Jazz, Contemporary, and Hip Hop. This is due to the versatility required to be a professional dancer in most companies. If you are interested in pursuing dance you will more than likely be paying over €1000 a year for classes alone. Once you reach your teenage years you will often require additional private tuition which would cost an average of €50 per hour. This contrasts strongly to GAA for example which can cost as little as €20 per year for membership. This is because the GAA is highly supported both locally and nationally. For example, the Gaelic Athletic Association has invested approximately €2.6 billion over the past 50 years to improve infrastructure both nationally and locally. Unfortunately, the economic issue associated with the dance industry in Ireland is that there is a sever lack of funding and support. There are no large sponsorship deals or national fundraisers, unlike more popular activities including Soccer, Tennis or even Swimming. Dance is an art that unfortunately lacks national support financially, which is vital for providing adequate training.

A lot of people do not realise the additional costs associated with Dance. Soccer teams, for example, often provide team members with gear for training and matches. However, in dance, due to the lack of funding and support, this is not possible for most schools. A pair of pointe shoes in Ballet for example will cost anything from €50 – €150 and in some cases will only last a week, if training at a professional level, along with a multitude of other necessary items such as Jazz shoes, dance tights, leotards and much more, none of which come cheap. Even costumes for a show could set parents back another €300 if their child is training in ballet. In contrast to this, usually if training at a professional level in soccer, a player will be sponsored or their gear will be payed for. This, of course, saves a huge amount of money. All of these financial factors result in dance being a less popular choice for parents when choosing their children’s extra-curricular activities at a young age.

Another issue associated with the dance industry in Ireland is the sizeable lack of professional training and education for dance. Dancers in Ireland are forced to leave the country in order to have the ability to pursue the professional training required to work in the industry. With many young dancers traveling to England to pursue their careers, this often results in exorbitant costs. The average tuition fees for full-time professional training in England ranges from £10,000 – £30,000 on average per year. The courses range from two to four years and Irish students have the additional cost of accommodation and travel. A career in dance for Irish people would be much more accessible if we had an adequate education system in place. Ideally, dance should be taught to students in a primary and secondary school as part of their physical education. This would be essential to make dance a potential career option for young dancers, as an early start is vital. The training received particularly from the ages of 12 to 18 is crucial in the physical development of a dancer. It is imperative that aspiring dancers begin training at an early age. This is due to the appropriate body development and disciplined training required to prepare oneself for a successful career in the dance industry. In the UK, for example, dance is a compulsory part of the Physical Education curriculum in primary schools. This is then followed by the option of studying dance as a subject at the secondary school level, with the option of dance as a subject for both the GCSE’s and the A-Level Examinations.

However, the comparable examinations in Ireland, which are the Junior Cert and the Leaving Cert, lack this option of dance as a subject choice for secondary school students. This is detrimental to the development of young dancers in Ireland and diminishes the possibility of pursuing a full-time career in the industry of dance. This inadequate education system regarding dance is due to the lack of Government funding and support from the Arts Council in Ireland. There is also a huge lack of Private Investment Received for dance in the Arts sector. According to the Private Investment Report: 2016, published by the arts council, figures showing the Total Private Investment received in 2014 highlights the scarcity of support towards dance as an art.

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