Frequently Asked Questions

1: Why do a Canadian Dance Mapping Study?
We want to better understand dance in Canada. It’s that simple. We want to capture the big picture: who dances, where they dance and why. The goal is to enhance our understanding of the dance field’s contribution to the arts and the public’s appreciation of and support for dance in Canada. Although similar studies have been done in England and France, it had never been done in Canada. Given that Canada is much larger, it’s a mammoth task, but we’re up for the challenge. 

2: What is the context for this study?
Dance in Canada is changing. Dance today is influenced by social, generational, linguistic, cultural and demographic changes in the nation. Dance makers are transforming their artistic practice to create and perform their work on stages, in the streets, and using new technologies. The Internet and popular media are major vehicles of dissemination. The art form’s relationship to its audience is more and more mediated through new formats. More people are dancing, more youth are drawn into dance through popular culture and more dancing interconnects with the educational, social and health care sectors. It is time to investigate dance in its multifaceted influences on the lives of Canadians.

3: What is meant by a 'map' of dance?
A dance map, like a geographic map, should draw a picture of dance in Canada, indicating 'what' is happening and 'where'. Our map will also add 'who' – how many Canadian lives are touched by dance in some way – including dancers, choreographers, dance teachers, presenters, dance students, support staff and volunteers, and dance audiences. The map will identify, quantify and describe the ecology, economy and environment of dance in Canada.

4: How do you define the field of dance for this map?
Dance is being considered in the broadest context to include not only the professional sector, but also commercial, amateur, competitive, social, and participatory dance, plus dance that is part of a traditional or spiritual practice, and points of crossover between dance and other fields, such as education, justice, health care, and sports.

5: Will the study produce a dance plan for Canada?
No. The study is not a strategic plan for dance nor is it advocacy work or a needs analysis. However, the results of the study should provide the data and knowledge to later be used for these purposes.

6: Who is leading the study?
The study is commissioned and funded by the Canada Council for the Arts with an additional financial contribution from the Ontario Arts Council (OAC). Both councils’ research and dance program offices are providing staff resources in support of this study. The study is being done in collaboration with the dance field, as well as other federal, provincial, territorial and municipal arts funders. The Steering Committee comprises representatives from the dance field and funder organizations.

7: Why is non-professional dance being studied when the Council only funds professional dance?
A key component Council’s mandate includes promoting the arts. It also includes understanding the complete ecosystem of a particular art form. In the case of dance, no one knows or holds this full picture of what dance in Canada looks like. As public arts funders, the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council are well placed to bring the diverse players together to engage the entire country in a conversation about dance, and sharing this information back to the dance community and arts enthusiasts – to promote dance in Canada. 

8: Will findings from the Study influence Canada Council's policies and programs?
Granting programs for professional dance artists and organizations at Canada Council are always evolving to reflect the needs of the community. The Study’s purpose is not to review our grant programs; it is to better understand the volume and variety of dance and its value to Canadians. Findings will be posted on the Canada Dance Mapping Study website and shared widely.

9: What is the difference between the interactive dance map and the Study?
The map is only a part of the entire Study. It is a visual presentation of the data collected through research. The study includes a bibliography of research, literature and data reviews, a public funder’s survey, an inventory of dance associations, and a survey of dancers across the country.

10: Who’s on the map and what are the criteria for being included?
The map, like the Study itself, covers all forms of dance and all contexts in which dance is practiced, including professional, social, recreational, competitive, social, cultural and more. Entries on the map are all organizations of some sort: companies, troupes, venues, festivals, schools, associations, funders, networks, cultural centres, collectives and the like. Any and all dance organizations as described above can be on the map. All entries must have a street address, web site or Facebook page to be included. To get on the map contact Marlene Alt.

11: Will individuals be on the map?
The ‘Yes I Dance’ survey, which is an initiative of the Study, is focused on capturing information about individuals and their dance practices. However, once the results from the survey are completed, individuals will not appear on the map as such but will be represented in aggregate form, to present a picture of participation levels in various dance forms

12: How is this map useful?
The map is meant to draw attention to,

  • volume (the number of people whose lives are touched by dance),
  • reach (where dance happens across the country), and
  • variety (the dozens of different dance forms active in Canada).
The map offers a clear and concise visualization of the diverse dance activity we’re uncovering. 

13: Is the map meant to give visibility to dance organizations?
Yes, and for them to make connections with each other

14: The Study seems to organize dance forms in a variety of ways. What’s the logic behind this?

There are hundreds of different dance forms (which could also be called ‘styles’ or ‘genres’) and many possible ways to categorize them. There is no universally-accepted classification system, so we’ve done some informed improvising.  And our understanding of dance forms has evolved as the Study has progressed. 

We first realized we needed some sort of organizing structure early on, when we created an inventory of member-based dance organizations. At the time the most practical system was one structured by geographical region of the dance form’s origin (or ‘multiple origins’ where a single one didn’t suit).

That system changed as we designed the interface for the dance map. We felt a two-tier structure (of genres and sub-genres) would work best for search purposes. Some of the geographic structure was retained but the system developed beyond that.

For the second release of the dance map (March 2014) we consolidated the two-tier structure into a single list of dance forms. The list  is greatly expanded, with more than 100 dance forms to date, and can easily grow as we discover organizations practicing other forms.

At the same time as we were revising the map we devised a list of dance forms to use in our survey “Yes I Dance”. The strategy there was to enable survey participants to easily identify the dance they practice, as well as offering an inclusive category (for example, Asian dance) when they practice multiple related forms.

As we analyze the survey results and prepare the data for publication on the web site we may again evolve the dance form list to incorporate our new knowledge about the landscape of dance in our country.

Suggestions about our dance forms? Did we miss some? Please contact us with your comments (

15: Can you explain the categories you’ve chosen for the map?

In order to have a manageable number of categories we grouped related functions together. Each category has an icon associated with it.  Organizations can be tagged with multiple categories. Here is what you can find in each.

iconAssociation/network: These are member-based dance organizations. They might be ones that support a wide range of dance forms and modes of practice, such as provincial service organizations, or be very specific to a region or style. In some cases the organizations might refer to themselves as clubs. 

iconDance instruction/training: This category includes any type of school that teaches dance: commercial, pre-professional and recreational schools, universities and colleges. It can equally apply to organizations that are not focused on training but regularly offer dance workshops.

iconDance troupe/company: This category includes professional dance companies/troupes/crews/collectives as well as non-professional ones. The main focus of these organizations includes some form of public presentation. 

iconEvent/festival/competition: This category captures special events, or events that happen annually or on a recurring but infrequent basis. It does not include shows or tours by a single dance company/troupe. It also does not attempt to capture the specific dates of the events and instead links to the event website for that information. For events that are hosted in changing locations we’ve located the organization on the map, as much as possible, in the city where its administration is based.

iconFunder/policy maker/sponsor: This category includes public arts funders at various levels of government (municipal, regional, provincial, federal). It can also include charitable foundations that support dance and private sponsors who might fund dance. Policy makers are government departments or agencies. Note that we have yet to research this area so the map contains only a sampling of the many entities in this category.

iconManagement/professional services: This category includes a collection of companies that offer services to the dance field, for example, companies which offer management or administrative services, financial or accounting services, marketing services, media and multi-media services and the like. These companies often serve other artistic disciplines other than dance.

iconPresenter/promoter: This category captures the organizations, large and small, that help bring dance to the public. Many presenters are also venues, for example, the Canada’s National Arts Centre (Ottawa) and events, such as the Adaka First Nations Cultural Festival (Whitehorse).

iconVenue: This category captures locations that host dance performances, such as community facilities and professional theatres. It also includes dance studios, companies, etc. that make their facilities available to other dance groups. Note that we have yet to research this area so the map contains only a sampling of the many entities in this category.

Leisure dance club iconLeisure dance club/group: This category includes recreational or leisure dance clubs and regular social events where dancing takes place in a participatory fashion. Often beginners are welcome and there is some instruction during the event. Regulars may be participating for social, cultural, recreational, health or various other reasons, and may have strong commitments to and many years of experience in the dance form.

16. How was the Steering Committee selected and what is the Committee’s role?

The Steering Committee includes dance representatives from public arts funders who organized and launched the Canada Dance Mapping Study, as well as representatives from the professional dance community. 

The mandates of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, who are funding the Canada Dance Mapping Study, are to support professional artistic activity. It was, therefore, important that the Steering Committee reflect the professional sector and support the policies and principles of the two Councils. The committee consists of people who have an understanding of different dance genres, are connected to the dance field’s networks across the country, have a generosity of spirit and, most importantly, embrace the purpose of the Study.  We acknowledge that the Steering Committee does not fully represent dance in Canada, nor could it, as such a group would be many times the size and unwieldy.

The intent of the Steering Committee is to act as ambassadors for the Study and help guide the research so that the results will be relevant and useful to the field. Its responsibilities are to advise, counsel, assist, support, moderate, and communicate the Study’s purpose and its realization. Some specific tasks are to:

  • Assist in the recruitment of researchers;
  • Provide guidance and direction for the Study, suggesting data sources and resource people, assisting with terminology and definitions, and determining priorities for filling research gaps and/or requiring deeper examination;
  • Respond to enquiries from researchers and review their draft reports.

For certain meetings and research projects we invite additional people with specialized knowledge in other areas as advisors, to augment the Steering Committee.  In developing the Yes I Dance survey, we invited four people:

  • Dianne Milligan (Halifax) with knowledge about professional and recreational dance in the Atlantic provinces;
  • Renata Souter (Ottawa) with experience in mixed-ability dance and dance for young audiences;
  • Gerri Stemler (Winnipeg) with experience in recreational dance activities; and
  • Lys Stevens (Montreal) with knowledge about social dance as well as a vast array of dance genres. Lys had previously completed research for the Study, compiling an inventory of member-based dance associations and networks.

17: How was the Study funded?
The entire Canada Dance Mapping research study is funded by the Canada Council with additional financial contributions from the Ontario Arts Council. The Study’s projects such as the map and the survey are supported through the Canada Council’s Research department. Research helps to advance the Council’s mandate and is a key activity within its Strengthening Connections strategic plan; research provides a better understanding of the arts ecology.  It also informs decision-makers and demonstrates the impacts of the arts on society, addressing why the arts are so vital to our daily lives. 

18: Why are some dance organizations missing from the map?
Having just launched, the dance map is in its first phase. We’ll add additional organizations and will continue to grow the map over time. To get on the map, contact Marlene Alt.

19: Is there a theoretical approach for the study?
Yes, it is a systems theory approach. This is a non-hierarchical approach that will flatten any silos between ‘professional’ dance and any other forms of practice or participation and will better capture the broad understanding of what it means to dance in this country. In addition the preferred terms we've adopted are ‘field’ or ‘milieu’ to describe the big picture of dance and dancing, and ‘sector’ as subsets within it, such as professional or recreational sectors.

20: Is there a thematic structure?
Yes. In order to tackle a study of this breadth and depth it was decided that structuring the research around themes would be useful. Themes were discussed at the March 2011 Dance Conversation and the following collection agreed upon. This list is not meant to be final or restrictive, merely a guiding framework.

  • Artistic Expressions: diversity of dance styles, genres, techniques; dance influenced by popular culture; dance influenced by the nation‘s history and its peoples
  • Ecology: demographic and geographic profile of dance practices; professional dance training and education; creation, production and dissemination systems; business models and support services; volunteering; leadership; workforce; unions; partnerships; lifecycle of the dance artist; role of touring dance
  • Political: arts and cultural policy at every level
  • Economic: funding patterns; revenues sources, economic impact, capital investment in spaces
  • Social: learning to dance as a recreational activity; participating in dance; watching dance; dance in health and well-being settings; cultural identity; intersection between dance and other sectors of society
  • Technology: dance on film and on television; dance online; technology in creation, production, dissemination, networking and public engagement


The launch of the Canada Dance Mapping Study is the result of many months of discussions with the Canada Council, provincial and territorial funders, and the professional dance milieu.

The proposal to undertake the study was originally presented in spring 2010 by Anne Valois, then Head of the Canada Council’s Dance Section, to more than 30 staff members from Canada's public arts funders at a meeting organized by the Canadian Public Arts Funders (CPAF). It was enthusiastically endorsed there and subsequently at a Canada Council Dance Advisory Committee meeting in June 2010 and at a number of conferences and meetings during the year involving the professional dance milieu.

The study was shepherded through the development phase by staff from the Canada Council, the City of Vancouver, Cultural Services, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, the Saskatchewan Arts Board, the Toronto Arts Council and theOntario Arts Council. Other federal, provincial, territorial and municipal arts funders are also contributing to the study's research.

This study is commissioned and funded by the Canada Council for the Arts with an additional financial contribution from the Ontario Arts Council (OAC). Both councils’ research and dance program offices are providing additional staff resources in support of this study.