In 2003 UNESCO established the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH), which became operational in 2008. The performing arts (including dance and other movement systems such as martial arts, ritual practices, and games) are central to its preservation politics. By ratifying the convention, countries (178 as at 11-05-2018) agree to make inventories of their national ICH, a process, which would be greatly helped by well educated and specialised experts of the type Choreomundus aims to produce.
Although the number of higher education programmes concentrating on dance is growing internationally, the majority of these engage with the artistic and theatrical dimensions of dance. In view of this, programmes focusing on Dance Heritage within a cross-cultural perspective are needed. UNESCO highlights measures such as documentation, transmission and broader educational and social projects as being central to its aims, clearly requiring experts with highly specialised training.
Cecile Duvelle, former Chief of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Section, states: “….. the work for the Convention is multifaceted and complex, and many of the points above call for expertise on at least masters level. Contrary to well-established cultural fields like fine arts, archaeology and art history, there is a lack of critical mass of specialised experts in the field of intangible cultural heritage worldwide, which is a handicap for a smooth and effective implementation of the 2003 Convention. General education on intangible cultural heritage does not seem to be well developed in particular in such cases where the theme is dance. To work with education, to construct educational programs and training programs and for scientific research, professional experts in fields such as dance will be needed. Such experts are needed not only in the UNESCO system, but also in State administration and education and in the numerous NGO’s engaged in safeguarding activities in States all around the world.”
Non-governmental organisations in Europe and 3rd-countries which advise UNESCO in working with the Convention call for appropriately qualified staff, as do government departments and state institutions dealing with culture, tourism and heritage. Choreomundus was the first Erasmus Mundus Master’s programme focusing especially on dance as ICH.
The programme will contribute not only to the field of Dance Studies but also to the now well-established discipline of Heritage Studies. Current programmes in the latter are concerned mostly with the tangible heritage of monuments and landscapes, with little attention paid to the specific methodologies needed to analyse and systematize intangible cultural practices. Choreomundus innovates by focusing on these methodologies, which include not only fieldwork skills but also a sound grounding in formal analyses of movement and dance.
Choreomundus thus responds to needs for professionalization, arising from the UNESCO convention in a large number of countries around the world, in the state cultural sectors and cultural industries, as well as to the commitment to lifelong learning, central to the policies of European academic institutions. Choreomundus graduates will also gain transferrable skills arising from their employability and receive the necessary preparation for doctoral research. The programme has been designed to provide all students with a common scientific training to equip them with the intellectual tools to analyse dance cross-culturally and to deal with issues concerning dance as ICH in diverse professional contexts. These include the above-mentioned state cultural sector and cultural industries, but also the tourist industries, and the tertiary educational sector which requires highly trained graduates to fulfil academic positions especially outside of Europe.