National qualifications for the dance industry

In This Article

Innovation & Business Skills Australia (IBSA), in consultation with experts in the dance industry, have created a training package for the dance sector called the Live Performance Training Package. These national qualifications for the dance industry cover dance performance, dance teaching and management, and cross-sector qualifications in community dance and theatre, musical theatre and community culture.

What is a training package?

A Training Package (TP) is an integrated set of nationally endorsed competency standards, assessment guidelines and Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) qualifications for a specific industry, industry sector or enterprise.

Each training package:

  • provides a consistent and reliable set of components for training, recognising and assessing peoples skills, and it may include support materials
  • enables nationally recognised qualifications to be awarded through direct assessment of workplace competencies
  • encourages the development and delivery of flexible training which suits individual and industry requirements
  • encourages learning and assessment in a work-related environment which leads to verifiable workplace outcomes.

Why were national dance qualifications developed?

  1. An increase in demand for training in all styles of dance resulting from the public response to high profile dance competition television shows, as well as to government campaigns related to health and fitness.
  2. The rapid growth in the number of dance courses accredited in states and territories—from only a handful 20 years ago to almost 90 in 2010. Qualifications range from Certificate I through to Advanced Diploma. Issues of concern to both industry and state accrediting authorities included:
    • lack of consistency in terms of course documentation between states/territories
    • no provision for mutual recognition between registered training organisations (RTOs)
    • no clear pathways from vocational education and training (VET) qualifications into Higher Education dance and performing arts programs
    • increased provision of VET in schools dance programs and a strong possibility that dance would be included in the Australian Curriculum for the Arts, leading to an increase in demand for AQF I–III qualifications in dance.
  3. A wider range of employment opportunities for dancers due to an increase in demand for dance and movement skills in the community recreation, cultural heritage, fitness and health industries. National qualifications needed to reflect these employment opportunities.
  4. The lack of national qualifications to address the specific needs of private dance studio teachers who are usually responsible for managing, or providing administrative services in the private dance studio in which they teach. The TAE40110 Certificate IV in Training and Assessment addresses some, but not all of the skills and knowledge required by this sector of the dance industry workforce.

How were the qualifications and skill sets developed?

In August 2009 IBSA developed national dance qualifications and skill sets for inclusion in a Live Performance Training Package. Key features of the project were:

  • establishment of a National Project Reference Group (NPRG) to oversee the management of the project. The NPRG was chaired by Julie Dyson, AM, National Director of the Australian Dance Council – Ausdance Inc., Australia’s professional dance advocacy organisation. 
  • research and analysis of existing curricula and units of competency
  • a training needs analysis and skills profile of the dance industry
  • development of a discussion paper on options for qualifications and skill sets in dance and dance teaching
  • national consultation on the discussion paper
  • development of draft units of competency, qualifications and skill sets which were uploaded for public comment on the IBSA Review and Feedback Register
  • national consultation on the draft units and qualifications
  • refinement of draft materials to incorporate feedback from industry and training providers
  • preparation and circulation of documentation in line with the national process for submitting TPs to the Commonwealth Government’s National Quality Council for endorsement.

What sort of jobs do the qualifications prepare people for?

The qualifications and skill sets cover a range of contexts in which people with dance skills work:

  • performance in a variety of dance styles and at a range of levels, including elite performance
  • choreography
  • community dance, theatre and events (performers and administrators)
  • community cultural development and maintenance (performers and  managers/administrators)
  • musical theatre (performers and cabaret performers/producers)
  • dance teaching and management.

Do the dance qualifications place sufficient emphasis on the development of technique?

The job profile for dancers includes the following core activities:

  • developing and refining technique
  • participating in daily training sessions
  • maintaining peak physical fitness
  • adhering to safe dance practice
  • participating in rehearsals
  • performing before audiences.

In terms of the proportion of time devoted to each activity, by far the largest component is developing and refining technique, which takes place in training sessions, rehearsals and private practice time. Some dancers specialise in a single dance style, e.g. classical ballet, while others perform in a range of styles, e.g. jazz, contemporary, street, Latin.

Key aspects of dance qualifications that reflect this job profile include:

  • A high proportion of units address aspects of developing technique and performance skills. Qualification packaging rules have been designed to ensure that RTOs have to offer a high proportion of these units in their qualifications.
  • The development of technique in a range of specified dance styles is clearly delineated at each certificate level.
  • There are sufficient ‘generic’ dance technique units that can be contextualised to any dance style or adapted for people with disabilities.
  • Packaging rules allow RTOs to structure courses around a single dance style or several dance styles.
  • Safe dance practice is addressed specifically in a suite of units at each certificate level and embedded in every dance technique and performance unit.

Are there specific entry requirements for each qualification?

There are no entry requirements for 6 of the 12 qualifications, so people can gain entry to qualifications on the basis of self-directed learning or training undertaken outside the vocational education and training sector. Pathways statements in each qualification provide guidance to RTOs in relation to the level of skills and knowledge that could be expected of people seeking entry to courses.

In a discipline like dance where progression of skills is paramount, it is important to acknowledge that admission to a course does, realistically, require evidence of competency to the level of the preceding qualification. Therefore the following statement appears in the entry requirements for the Certificates III and IV in Dance, and the Diploma and Advanced Diploma of Dance (Elite Performance):

An audition or other form of evidence where the candidate demonstrates competence in at least one dance style at (preceding qualification) level.

The wording for the Diploma of Musical Theatre is:

An audition or other form of evidence where the candidate demonstrates competence in vocal, dance and/or acting skills at Certificate IV level.

Core units from the CUA40210 Certificate IV in Dance Teaching and Management and one unit related to the teaching of basic dance technique are entry requirements for the CUA50310 Diploma of Dance Teaching and Management. The Diploma is an advanced teaching qualification, and given the importance industry places on safe dance teaching practice, it was decided to specify entry requirements to ensure that people seeking entry to the Diploma have a solid base of skills and knowledge from which to commence their higher level studies.

What is a skill set?

Skill sets are logical groupings of units of competency which meet an identified need or industry outcome. Skill sets are not qualifications, but you will get credit (or Recognition of Prior Learning – RPL) towards national qualifications that contain those units.

The following eight skill sets are included in the Live Performance Training Package:

  • Advanced classical ballet teaching skill set
  • Advanced contemporary dance teaching skill set
  • Advanced cultural dance teaching skill set
  • Advanced dance teaching skill set
  • Advanced jazz dance teaching skill set
  • Advanced tap dance teaching skill set
  • Dance teaching skill set
  • Movement skills training for people with disabilities.

What is a certificate?

These courses are usually delivered by TAFE colleges, community education centres and registered private training providers (RTOs). Certificates I-IV are the basic post-secondary qualifications and prepare candidates for both employment and further education and training. There is no firm duration for these qualifications.

Certificates I-II provide basic vocational skills and knowledge, while Certificates III-IV replace the previous system of trade certificates and provide training in more advanced skills and knowledge. A Certificate IV is generally accepted by universities to be the equivalent of six to twelve months of a Bachelor's degree, and credit towards studies may be granted accordingly.

What is a diploma?

Diplomas, Advanced Diploma and Associate Degrees generally take between two to three years to complete, and are generally considered to be equivalent to one to two years of study at degree level. Diploma and Advanced Diploma are titles given more practical courses, while Associate degree is given to more academic courses.

These courses are usually delivered by universities, TAFE colleges, community education centres and private RTO's (Registered Training Organisations).

What is a degree?

The Bachelor degree is the standard university qualification and is recognised worldwide. Most courses take three to four years to complete.Honours may be awarded on top of a Bachelor degree after an additional year of study or, in the case of four-year degrees, for performance at credit or distinction average level. An Honours degree is denoted by "Hons" in parentheses following the degree abbreviation, for example BA (Hons). These courses are almost exclusively delivered by universities.

A Master's degree usually requires two years of full time study to complete. A Bachelor degree, and sometimes an honours degree, is a prerequisite for admission. Master's level courses are delivered by universities and a limited number of registered providers.

What is a graduate certificate or a graduate diploma?

These qualifications are much like Certificates and Diplomas but must be completed by someone with a Bachelor degree or higher. Certificates typically take six months to complete, while Diplomas take twelve months. Vocational certificates and diplomas tend to be more practically-oriented courses than their academic counterparts.

These courses are usually delivered by universities and private providers.

How do national qualifications affect dance schools that already offer courses or classes?

The national qualifications cover more than dance technique because they have been designed to prepare people to earn a living in the industry. They include skills such as staging a performance, marketing, self-promotion, keeping financial records and so on.

Only Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) can offer national qualifications. Private dance schools that are already RTOs, are able to start offering one or more of the qualifications as soon as they wish.

There is a long tradition of private dance schools and societies in Australia offering excellent dance training in all genres up to and including professional levels. Dance schools and societies that are not RTOs can continue offering what they currently do, or decide to become involved in the new national system at whatever level they believe is appropriate for their clientele.

They may decide to:

  • partner with an RTO to offer qualifications or clusters of units under the auspices of an RTO
  • become an RTO in their own right
  • map their certification levels to units in the national qualifications so that learners seeking entry to national qualifications gain credit based on training they have completed through dance societies. This mapping process is entirely voluntary and can be undertaken at anytime.

The role that Certifications awarded by the various dance societies are acknowledged in the pathways statement in the Certificates I-IV in dance.

Candidates entering this qualification may produce evidence of dance expertise through grades achieved in different dance styles through dance societies that run examinations linked to certification levels. It is recommended that RTOs liaise with relevant dance societies to determine certification level equivalence. Alternatively candidates may have acquired dance skills through self-directed learning.

Do dance studio teachers have to obtain a dance teaching qualification?

No. They can continue to teach in their dance studio as they do now. However, they may wish to have their dance teaching skills recognised by undertaking a recognition of current competency (RCC). This means being assessed by an RTO offering a national dance teaching qualification. Successful teachers will be given the qualification—or recognition for specific units—without having to do the course.

Qualifications that teachers have gained through a state-accredited course in dance teaching and management are still valid. However, teachers with these qualifications may wish to contact their RTO to find out how their qualification maps to the national qualifications. They may find it is directly equivalent,  or that their current qualification can be credited towards a national qualification.

For example, the state-accredited course may be equivalent to 11 of the 14 units required for the Certificate IV in Dance Teaching and Management. If so, it is likely that the RTO will offer a top-up training program to address the other three units.

Can the qualifications be offered in a range of training environments?

Dance training currently occurs in a range of settings—from registered public and private training providers who offer full- and part-time courses, to private dance studios training for specific dance society exam, or accredited courses delivered by an RTO.

All of those settings are possible within the structure of the CUA11 qualifications. RTOs can choose to offer qualifications and skill sets on a full- or part-time basis and to any target group. If a private dance studio wishes to concentrate on developing technique in a particular dance style, they can offer a skill set of relevant units under the auspices of an RTO.

What happens to state-accredited courses now that there is a system of national qualifications?

A state-accredited course remains in the training system until its specified expiry date. If the vocational outcome of that course is the same as an outcome offered through one of the national dance qualifications, the course would not be re-accredited, but the RTO has the option of offering the equivalent national qualification. If an RTO can demonstrate that their course has a significantly different vocational outcome, then it could be accredited.

What often happens is that a state-accredited course contains a mixture of units from national qualifications and some units specifically developed by the RTO. Because RTOs were closely involved in the development of the national qualifications, it is likely that some will choose to make the transition to national qualifications before the expiry date of their state accredited courses.

Do RTOs have to offer all units listed as electives?

No. If a qualification specifies five core units and seven elective units, RTOs decide which elective units among the larger pool of units they want to offer students. They may wish to offer seven fixed elective units or offer a couple of different streams. In that case, they might offer students the opportunity to choose their 7 electives from a pool of 12 units.

Do RTOs lose their individuality in a national system?

No. The qualifications simply provide a framework in which they continue to offer their special brand of training. The units of competence in qualifications specify what needs to taught, not how it should be taught. RTOs continue to use their own copyrighted resource materials, to teach in their own way and to hold their own unique place in the dance teaching market place.

Where do I find information about which RTOs are offering national qualifications?

The Australian government training website

How do I become an RTO?

Visit the Australian Skills Quality Authority website. ASQA is the national regulator for Australia’s vocational education and training sector. ASQA regulates courses and training providers to ensure nationally approved quality standards are met.