In 2003, UNESCO established the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). The performing arts and, in particular dance, are some of the examples described by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage. According to Article 2.3 of the Convention, ‘safeguarding’ means to ensure the long-term viability of intangible heritage within communities and groups. UNESCO highlights transmission and, in particular, through formal and non-formal education as an activity that ensures safeguarding of intangible heritage. By ratifying the convention, countries around the world (136 as at 25 May 2011) agree to take initiatives to ensure safeguarding of intangible heritage.
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.
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. Non-governmental organisations in Europe and other countries which advise UNESCO in working with the Convention call for appropriately qualified staff in dance heritage, as do government departments and state institutions dealing with culture, tourism and heritage.
ICH-Bildung innovates by focusing on educational methodologies for specialised experts in dance heritage around the world. ICH-Bildung will contribute not only to the field of Dance Heritage but also to the design of digital platforms for dance heritage such as digital dance archives. ICH-Bildung thus responds to needs for professionalisation, 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 in United Kingdom and European academic institutions.