Evolution of the ADi Certification System

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. Penny started teaching ballet from the age of 18. She combined dance teaching with a career in theatre, film, television and advertising.

After running her dance school for more than 25 years, Penny recognised the need for a more objective dance assessment programme that was Australian owned and developed, which allowed students to progress at their own pace within a holistic dance education programme and encompassed both knowledge and 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, 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/memtal 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 20 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 1992)  introduced a groundbreaking approach to dance examination. 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 all of the ADV syllabuses from Kinder right through to Advanced 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 and culminating in vocation qualifications at the higher levels. This shift from teaching dance technique only to a holistic syllabus that also included history and anatomy and new exam techniques being an evoutionalry process, is now refected in national standards which will change the way dance is taught in Australia.

The Pioneers - first private RTO for 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) and devised by Government for other vocational qualifications. At that time, it was the first and sole government accredited dance program designed for young students.

In 1999, ADV's new teacher training course Certificate IV in Dance Teaching (now Certificate IV in Dance Teaching & Management CUAQ 40313) became accredited and again helped to form the basis of the teacher training qualifications in the CUA11/13 Live Performance 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 provided other dance societies access to RTO operations for ADi Certification. This allowed resource costs for compliance with new regulations and regulators to be shared. several dance societies in Australia use ADi’s training and accreditation 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.

With a proven track record of over 15 years, ADi’s Student Qualifications were provided to government to assist in the formulation of the new CUA11 Live Performing Arts Training Package released in Oct 2011.

ADi is recognised as the leading industry RTO for dance training and accreditation. We offer young students the opportunity to obtain vocational certificates in Classical, Jazz and Tap via our pre-professional studio based training courses.

The current Student Qualifications, having a proven track record for over 15 years, were provided to government to assist in the formulation of the  CUA11 (now CUA13) Live Performing Arts and Entertainment Training Package now updated and released in 2013. ADi is delighted to continue to offer young students the opportunity to obtain vocational certificates in Classical, Jazz, Tap  Contemporary via our pre-professional mixed delivery training courses.

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 is the Industry Skills Council charged with dance industry vocation qualifications and the IBSA NPRG (National Project Review Group) was charged with oversight and governance of the project. Sharing a strong common interest in supporting their members and students, ADV and CSTD found significant common ground and complementary skills in contributing to the project with Penny Lancaster and Dianne Gepp being the only two representatives of Austraslian dance teaching societies directly represented on this unique panel.

In 2012 CSTD and ADV 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 endorsement of the "ADi Certification System" and their major contribution in joining with ADV 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 and tap with other style/ genres under development at both teacher and student levels. Some of this curriculum is reflected in the new standards by way of ADV/ADi's earlier contributions.

These syllabuses are additionally endorsed by the Australian Dance institute (ADi) as leading to accredited certificates for both teachers and students. Depending on state education department rulings, nominated accredited certificates have been approved as endorsed for VET In Schools for school certificates. Similar acknowledgment will follow for the new CUA11/13 vocational dance qualifications, once ACARA's dance in schools curriculum is rolled out to accepting education departments from 2013 onwards. ADi's objective assessment standards and related handbooks form a unique assessment method for students and teachers. This assessment process is flexible, creative and produces a safe learning environment with positive outcomes. Each student is assessed against established and educationally based competencies, elements and performance criteria. However, this process is more than just a dance training regime. It addresses the dancer holistically. Young dancers are taught elements of body science, nutrition and personal awareness as well as dance history, musicality and are encouraged to improvise and choreograph. The students are assessed in a non-threatening environment and the income generated through ADi and its Australian based not-for-profit partners remains in Australia, contributing to both cultural life and employment in local communities. ADi aims to groom potential dancers, but also creative individuals, choreographers, teachers, dance administrators and articulate, intelligent dance audience members.

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 80+ 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  National Education Committee (NEC) deliberations, whose membership is drawn from experienced dance teachers and assessors.

Note: On July 1, 2011, VETAB (NSW) was replaced by the new national vocational industry regulator Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) when State Governments COAG upwardly delegated their rights to manage tertiary education to Central Government. Attempts to provide similar uniformity for secondary schools was not as successfull with ACARA and "myschool" with the old regimes remining with each Sate.

ADi will continue 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!