TWINNING = WINNING
An intercultural dance project
By Maria Speth
The concept of twinning is about closely interweaving skills and knowledge
between people from different cultures. All participants are equally
involved in a creative process of mutual learning and sharing.
The “Twinning = Winning” project is a contribution to arts education in the
broad sense of the word.
The Twinning Project is concerned with the educational, social and cultural
aspects of dance based on the concept of empowerment for children and
young people in impoverished areas. With these encounters the new
generation will become aware of qualities they have that often are not
cultivated, both individually and as a group.
Context and initiators
During the 2006 Dance and the Child International (daCi) conference in The
Hague, the Netherlands, it was observed that participation was almost
exclusively from ‘well‐to‐do’ countries. As daCi strives for the rights of all
children to experience art (dance) education, the twinning concept was put
forth. The British community art researcher François Matarasso suggested
employing the twinning concept to promote mutual exchange between
present daCi members and other possible participants. People from all over
the world expressed the need for network support in promoting good
education through dance for children and young people. When the concept
Twinning = Winning was presented to the conference a concrete request
for participation was immediately placed by India.
Description of the process
In 2006, following the conference, the Dutch daCi Board took the initiative
to design and implement a twinning project called “Meeting Point,” an
international cooperation between three countries: India, Suriname and
the Netherlands. The focus was on underprivileged children and young
people from the participating countries, to encourage social and cultural
interactions and understandings through dance. The spearheads of the
project were personal development and development within the group.
Within the framework of globalization in three continents, three groups of
children and young people contributed to a multi‐cultural encounter
through their passion for dance.
Children in charge
Before the three groups got together in the Netherlands they all prepared a
choreography based on their own field of interest. As a consequence of this
the three separate dances were quite different. The children were mostly in
charge of their own process and product with encouragement and guidance
from their coaches/teachers. This same policy holds for the further
encounter in the Netherlands.
Activities in Suriname
From this perspective, Dutch dance students went to Suriname to
collaborate with the children in a creative educational process. They were
also involved in supportive exchange with Suriname dance teachers.
Activities in the Netherlands
In 2008 children and young people from all three of the participating
countries came together in a mutual project resulting in a joint dance
presentation during the 2008 Via del Mondo Children’s Festival in Tilburg,
Activities in India
In 2008 two members of the Dutch daCI Board visited Delhi in India, in
order to promote the project and investigate fundraising possibilities for
the Twinning Project there. Visits were paid to the Dutch and Indian
Embassies, to KLM and some Dutch companies, as well as to NGO’s.
Efforts were made to build on a network of Indian dance teachers and legal
documents regarding daCi India were arranged and paid for.
The next step to be taken was to have a following encounter of the
Twinning Project during the 2009 daCi Conference in Jamaica. This failed
due to insufficient funding.
The success of the Twinning project lies in the following points:
1. Children in charge: based on a democratic policy, the children were
the owners of the process and product.
2. Communication: language barriers were not an issue due to the input
3. Gender equity: through dance there was no difference made
between boys and girls.
4. Transferable skills: the importance of creative learning from different
contexts and understandings:
a. Understanding of different behaviour
b. Empathy about understanding different behaviour
c. Curiosity about each others culture, ideas or opinions
d. Safety/security/trust‐willingness to take risks
e. No competition, which lead to communication and co‐
f. Group work, collaborative decision making
g. Stimulation of critical thinking skills
h. The ability of the teachers to take on new challenges in a
change of role from traditional teacher to coach and facilitator.
Next to the lively communication and the individual growing process during
their actual meeting we noticed some other issues that arose.
Working with the dance material
The three pieces the various groups made were quite different because
each group of children picked their own themes to work on.
In order to produce more homogeneity in the next project, we plan to
suggest working from one central theme (e.g. children’s games).
The children and young people developed more and more self‐confidence
during the time they spent in the Netherlands. Being in the spotlight,
receiving so many enthusiastic responses was quite an experience. That
sometimes even resulted in overactive behaviour and the coaches had to
When they returned to their home country the Indian boys told their
parents that they wanted permission for their sisters to join them in their
dance classes as well. This is what they experienced while participating in
the twinning event. The parents refused, as it apparently was not a
common practice for boys and girls to dance together. The boys decided to
go on a hunger strike and within two days they received permission to have
their sisters join them in the dance classes. This was a remarkable step
initiated by these young people.
The older boys in the Indian group took another remarkable step, which
unfortunately had less positive consequences.
Due to their experiences in the Netherlands some of the boys rebelled
against their marriages when they got home. In India it is still quite
common for parents to arrange for their sons/daughters to be married
from the age of 13, although they remain living with their parents until they
are 18 years or older. Cancelling this agreement brings shame on the family
and has huge consequences for the girl when she is abandoned. This was a
serious negative outcome of the exchange.
It is more than just dance
We noticed that the age difference did not really matter in this context.
These young people were all willing and able to communicate with each
other through movement. They were impressed and attracted to the
language of the dances from each other’s countries. However they also
expressed the need to learn the English language as they experienced the
value of exchange, not only through dance.
Consequences of intercultural exchange
All the examples mentioned above mostly had to do with the fact that the
children and young people got in touch with different cultures where they
discovered issues that they were not prepared for. We are not sure how we
should deal with this. On one hand a more thorough preparation before the
exchange, including learning about each other’s cultural values, beliefs and
practices would encourage both for children and young people and their
teachers and coaches to become more aware of the many differences one
faces in another culture.
Too many aims for India
As for the fundraising efforts made in India, we realize that we did not keep
the focus on our main goal; rather we focussed on too many goals at the
same time. Although there was sincere interest from some business
organisations (e.g. KLM) our business plan was too small and not well
balanced. Not being familiar with the Indian way of negotiation was also an
We were not successful in achieving this goal on the fundraising part.
The conclusion afterwards is that due to inadequate efforts our subsidy
request was turned down. Not enough knowledge about fundraising, too
late a start and lack of clarity in our presentation were the main causes.
Conclusion: we need to find the right people to get the financial resources
together on time.
Children in charge versus sustainability
One of the most important lessons we learned from this project is that we
are on the right track. However, to guarantee sustainability we need to pay
attention to teacher education in a parallel process. The ability to analyse
this process and to make the transfer to every day life (back home) is a
responsibility we cannot put on the shoulders of the young people alone.
Therefore we need dance teachers with a shared understanding and belief
who are aware of this responsibility.
It is our conclusion that sustainability needs a two‐track approach in which
the children and young people own the dance and the teachers are able to
facilitate the children’s movement in such a way that they not only find
pleasure in dance, but also become enriched through the dance process
itself. This requires a closer investigation of the teachers’ training
In 2012 the aim is to have another intercultural exchange at the
international daCi /WDA Conference in Taipei. This occasion provides a
unique possibility to meet many peers who, next to all their different
languages, have one language in common: dance. Before the conference
each group in their own environment will discover and create a short dance
work. Children’s games from their own culture will be the source of
During the 2012 conference the challenge of the “Meeting Point” twinning
concept is that children and teachers will meet each other in an educational
and creative process. This will result in a shared dance presentation
generated by their own passion for dance and personal contributions.
Next to the project‐group interaction, the children will also be
communicating and dancing with other children from all over the world
who are attending the conference. In meeting each other in dance
workshops and other activities (such as theater presentations and
excursions) they will experience the strength of dance and cultural
The teachers will be in close contact with each other during the planning
period towards 2012, sharing and exchanging their ideas and visions on
dance education. During the conference they too will be able to exchange
with other participants in educational workshops and lectures.
Long‐term aims of this cultural‐educative twinning project:
• Developing worldwide opportunities for children to develop
themselves as dancers, choreographers and spectators
• Advancing the development and recognition of the importance of
dance for children and young adults
• Developing new methodologies for teaching dance as arts education
in the broad sense of the word
• Facilitating research into pedagogies for personal and social
• Promoting the exchange of knowledge and ideas concerning dance
curricula in [state] school systems, artistic training/education, in
amateur and professional dance education context
• Encouraging governments to recognize dance as an important
learning area in educational contexts as well as in community
• Facilitating research in all aspects of dance for children and young
There is a need for consolidation and further durable development through
international collaboration between all of the named twinning partners. In
order to provide support in achieving the project aims in the participating
countries, it will be important to find organizations and people who share
the above‐mentioned values and views.
What is the value of the Twinning concept for the aims of the 2009 WAAE
Summit (literacy/trans and interculturalism/zero poverty/sustainability)?
Does the Twinning=Winning approach offer perspectives for research and
implementation into pedagogies for personal and social transformation?