Evolution of the ADi Open Education Concept

The AUSTRALIAN DANCE iNSTITUTE evolved from Australian Dance Vision, which was founded by Sydney dance teacher Penny Lancaster. Penny was one of the first Australians to receive the RAD Dance Teaching Diploma in the early 1980s. She began her classical ballet training at age three and continued her professional training at the Scully Borovansky School in Sydney. . She combined dance teaching with a career After a career in theatre, film, television and advertising, Penny opened her own dance academy.

After running her dance school for more than 25 years, Penny recognised the need for a more objective dance assessment program that was Australian owned and developed. This allowed students to progress at their own pace within a holistic dance education program encompassing knowledge in addition to technical dance skills. In the 1990s, Penny worked with the Board of Studies in NSW in writing and assessing the HSC Classical Ballet syllabus. During that time she observed that students would benefit and enjoy learning about dance history, body science, choreography and career education from a young age. This would create an awareness of the realities of a dance career, serve as a preventative measure against eating disorders and give positive outcomes and life skills. These are significant elements that were not always present in the drive for elite talent to the exclusion of other education.

Penny established Ballet d’Action and subsequently Australian Dance Vision to address these observations and concerns through performance, improved examination criteria and body/nutrition/personal awareness.

1. Performance experience. The Ballet d'Action (formed 1989) youth dance company was established to provide theatre experience for young dancers, choreographers, composers and theatre designers. Now in recess, Ballet d’Action performed 22 new original dance works over ten years. During this time Ballet d’Action employed Australian keynote choreographers (Natalie Weir, Chrissie Koltia, Garth Welch and Norman Hall) musicians (Deborah de Graaff, Anthony Partos) and designers (John Rayment), and gave young Australians from nine to 25 years of age experience as  “professional” dancers.

2. Better objective examination criteria. Australian Dance Vision (formed 1989)  introduced a groundbreaking approach to dance examinations. In consultation with a panel of experienced teachers and examiners in each dance style, ADV established explicit learning outcomes and assessment criteria, (now called competencies in "eduspeak"), along with published assessment criteria which could be accessed by teachers, examiners, students and parents.

3. New approach to "built-in" body science & life skills. Mindful of the need to help young people avoid the pitfalls of eating disorders, particularly in dance, Penny designed and coordinated all of the ADV syllabuses from kinder through to advanced levels to include dance history, body science, nutrition, performance skills, career information and creativity. This approach enabled students to build on their knowledge year-by-year culminating in vocation qualifications at the higher levels. This  evolutionary concept is now refected in national standards which has changed the way dance education is delivered in Australia.

The Pioneers - first private RTO for young students of dance

In the mid 1990s, ADV directors recognised the potential for Government to introduce dance teaching standards and possibly the registration of dance teachers. By 1998 ADV's reworked syllabuses with objective assessment criteria were a good match with emerging vocational training methodology and were accredited by VETAB (NSW) for delivery around Australia as Certificates I-IV in Dance Performance Studies. That is, they had been mapped against the Australian Qualification Training Framework (AQTF)  devised by government for other (non-dance) vocational qualifications. At that time, it was the first and sole government accredited dance program designed for young studio based students.

In 1999, ADV's new teacher training course Certificate IV in Dance Teaching (now Certificate IV in Dance Teaching & Management CUA 40313} became accredited and again helped to form the basis of the teacher training qualifications in the CUA11/13 Live Performance Training package, now embodied in the CUA13 Creative Arts and Culture Training Package.

In the same year, ADV was accepted by VETAB (NSW) as a fully-fledged accredited Registered Training organisation (RTO). More recently in 2010 VETAB (NSW) supported the streamlining of the RTO operations within ADV to be spun off as a separate company, the AUSTRALIAN DANCE iNSTITUTE Pty Ltd.

The formation of ADi provides recognition of other dance societies technical examination work mapped to ADi Units of competency. This permits dance societies ito participate in the VET system while keeping their own unique technical content. This elevates dance teaching in Australia to world’s best practice in vocational education, which is a now generation ahead of offshore sources.

ADi is recognised as the leading industry RTO for dance training. We offer young students the opportunity to obtain vocational certificates in classical, jazz, tap and contemporary styles.

Australian dance standards - Origins and Beyond

In 2010 ADV and CSTD were invited by government to join the IBSA National Project Review Group to advise on the formulation of the CUA11 package. IBSA was the Industry Skills Council [now PriceWaterhouse Cooper] charged with dance industry vocation qualifications.. Sharing a strong common interest in supporting their members and students, ADV and CSTD societies found significant common ground and complementary skills in contributing to the project with Penny Lancaster and Diane Gepp being the only two representatives of Australian dance teaching societies directly represented on this unique panel.

In 2012 CSTD and ADi formed a  partnership to run ADi as an RTO for all dancers in an open educational system targeting the needs of the next generation of young dancers and teachers. This partnership resulted in CSTD's adoption of the "ADi Vocational System" and their major contribution in joining with ADV and ADi in investing in, and promoting, the Australian Dance institute.

As an ADi corporate partner with ADV, CSTD and other stakeholders share the responsibility for the continuing "vision" in creating an open education approach for young dancers. To date this philosophy has fostered the creation of syllabuses for classical ballet, jazz, tap and contemporary styles.

Unlike TAFE and other educational institutions who touch on the lives of dance students for a short time, dance societies, via their membership provide a continuum of nurturing and contact from pre-school ages through early development, primary and secondary school, tertiary and higher education and beyond into performance and/ or teaching. Many teachers complete their life skills contribution through mentoring and board membership of their societies, thus completing the life-cycle that has been at the core of the provenance of Australian dance societies for the last 85+ years. ADi provides support to dance educators through professional development workshops, industry seminars and our newsletters. In turn, teachers support students by playing an important role in the assessment process. Teachers' input is embedded in formal assessment, allowing for variations in assessment temperament, sickness or disability (non discrimination and equal assess). Teachers also have input into ADi via their dance societies for continuous improvement embodied in ADi's  industry consultation/workshops, professional development. ADi directors and staff are active members of professional industry bodies such as IADMS, ACPET and attend professional development conferences conducted by ASQA, Inspire etc

ADi continues to work at all levels of government to ensure that the outcomes of standards in dance benefits the next generation of students of dance, whether in private or public schools or private dance studios, engaged in full or part time study at all ages. After all, they are the ultimate stakeholders as various bodies purport to represent their interests but are often purely self-serving!