“Creating in the Community”


Introductory text for the Working Group “Creating in the Community” by Cecilia Macfarlane

Cecilia Macfarlane is the initiator and moderator of this Working Group. She is the founding director of Oxford Youth Dance, DugOut Adult Community Dance and Crossover Intergenerational Dance Company and co-founding director of Oxford Youth Dance Company.


Dance has the power to make links between the street and the stage, between the community and professional dancer. If we celebrate difference, the uniqueness of the individual, we can make dance that is for and by and of the people.


Dance, although predominately a silent art form, has the potential to communicate with everyone. It uses the body to illustrate ideas and to express emotions and beliefs, to demonstrate difference and to inspire both performers and spectators alike. As an art form it is both accessible, in that anyone can understand it as there is no language barrier, and inaccessible, in that it is often presumed that being a dancer is only for the chosen few.

It is wonderful to watch highly trained dancers perform but this can also be alienating as spectators can only be  ‘voyeurs’ of this event, not able to relate to it as it is somehow removed from them – it is a spectacle. However dance can also be enabling to watch and inspire and empower the watcher to become aware of his/her body. There is the potential that the spectator will become the performer as a result of seeing the dance.

Community dance * offers everyone regardless of age, size, ability, the opportunity to dance and to acknowledge each person’s unique ability. The fact that everyone is different and therefore moves differently can be celebrated. It is this participation in dance in the community that then leads the empowered dancer to watch performances possibly for the first time. This dancer is able to recognize and understand how it feels to dance, how dances are made and will immediately have a language that can relate to dance performance. There are strands in this work that link the ‘dancer in the community’ to professional dance performance. Often the community dance group will perform themselves in theatres and festivals both inside and outside. This then generates another link to another group of spectators who can see themselves in these performers and realize that they too can choose to dance if they want to. Sometimes these community dance groups will share the stage with the professional dance performance perhaps as an opening number or indeed as an integral part of the piece. And sometimes both professional and community dancers make a work together with a shared choreographer and perform together equally. Another link is when the audience is invited spontaneously to join the dance this happens particularly in street performances and site specific events.

As we become more sedentary with more communication through electronic form there is a danger that we will stop communicating physically, that we will forget how to move. I celebrate the fact that, although dance can exist electronically, it is first and foremost a physical art form that needs to be seen and experienced live and that this is essential for a healthy and fully functioning existence.

* Community Dance – in this text I am referring to contemporary and creative dance in the community. Not all dance in the community is inclusive of age, size, difference.

Cecilia Macfarlane 22/04/10

16 Portland Road, Summertown, Oxford, OX2 7EY 01865 515576 ceciliamacfarlane@talk21.com

Mini-CV 2010

Cecilia Macfarlane trained as a teacher at the Royal Academy of Dance and as a dancer at the London School of Contemporary Dance. She is an Oxford based independent dance artist with a national and international reputation for her work in the community.  She is the founding director of Oxford Youth Dance, DugOut Adult Community Dance and Crossover Intergenerational Dance Company and co-founding director of Oxford Youth Dance Company.  She was a Senior Lecturer in Arts in the Community at Coventry University for   nine years. Her work is based on her passionate belief that dance is for everyone; she celebrates the uniqueness and individuality of each dancer.  As a performer Cecilia is continually curious about expression, how movement can communicate so powerfully to others without the need for words. Her work is very influenced by her studies with Joan Skinner, Helen Poynor, Deborah Hay and most recently Anna Halprin.


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