Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 17.COM 7.B.10

The Committee

  1. Takes note that Germany has nominated The practice of Modern Dance in Germany (No. 01858) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Modern dance is a form of physical expression distinct from classical ballet. Rather than reproducing predetermined dance positions, the dancers seek a true-to-life expression that reflects emotions and life experiences. The focus lies on solo pieces as well as on co-creation in small groups, and age, social status, origin, physical condition and gender play no role. Modern dance in Germany is practiced and taught by dancers, choreographers and dance educators of different ages and styles. It includes elementary rhythmic movement education as well as dance projects for children and young people at public schools and leisure facilities. Dance communities also offer courses and workshops in dance schools, cultural institutions and adult education and study programmes. A multifaceted practice of cultural activity and self-empowerment, modern dance creates a sense of community, strengthens human ties and is locally rooted. From a social perspective, it is viewed as a source of social cohesion, promoting integration and inclusion, especially of disadvantaged groups, such as people with disabilities and older adults. It also promotes health by contributing to an appreciation of physical and emotional expression.

  1. Recognizes that the Evaluation Body has discussed extensively whether the cultural and artistic expression proposed for inscription on the Representative List corresponds to the definition of intangible cultural heritage as defined in Article 2 of the Convention, and in particular concerning the existence of a specific community or group to which the proposed element provides a sense of identity and continuity and through which the element is transmitted from generation to generation;
  2. Notes therefore that the Evaluation Body was evenly split in its assessment of Criterion R.1, with six members recommending to inscribe the element on the Representative List as they considered the element meets the definition of intangible cultural heritage, and the other six recommending not to inscribe the element as they evaluated that the element did not meet the definition;
  3. Further notes that the Evaluation Body presents two options and recommends that the Committee discuss and reflect on the implications that the decision taken on this file will have on the definition and future interpretation of intangible cultural heritage;
  4. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The element has been practiced for four generations by individuals and groups in Germany. The dance styles and traditions of conveying expressive-creative Modern Dance continue to have an important place in the practice of teaching in Germany. The dancers use their bodies to represent what moves them, and the dance movements reflect feelings and life experiences. The bearers and practitioners include dancers, choreographers and dance educators who are involved in transmitting the knowledge. The practitioners pass on their knowledge and skills to future generations through schools, projects and workshops and share a strong sense of belonging based on the common tradition of Modern Dance. In addition, experienced teachers at universities and training institutes offer the necessary skills and expertise. Choreographers and dance teachers, who are usually dancers themselves, play an important role in transmitting the knowledge of dance styles and aesthetics of the element, which is a multifaceted practice of cultural activity and self-empowerment of the most diverse groups. The element creates a sense of belonging and identity among its practioners and its practice is passed on from generation to generation, strenghtening ties among communities, groups and individuals involved. From the social perspective, the element stands for participation and cohesion, and promotes integration and inclusion, especially among disadvantaged groups such as people with disabilities or senior citizens.

R.2:   At the local level, inscription of the element will promote awareness of how intangible cultural heritage shapes the common and plural identity of urban communities in general. At the national level, the inscription will lead to increased public awareness of intangible cultural heritage and further promote a contemporary concept of living cultural heritage, and result in more extensive cooperation at the national level in the areas of education, research or documentation. At the international level, the inscription will strengthen international cooperation and stimulate heritage projects and activities, and the implementation of further safeguarding measures. As the element facilitates verbal and non-verbal communications, it will promote dialogue on cultural, aesthetic, emotional and social experiences or ideas. Inscription will also strengthen dialogue between community representatives and generate greater awareness of the contemporary dance community in Germany.

R.3:   Communities participated in various safeguarding measures, including documentation activities, training courses, conferences and exhibitions, also by the transmission of skills through digital technologies. The State Party supports the safeguarding through archiving activities, financing projects for practitioners, and participating in dance forums that contribute to the establishment of dance festivals. The file provides a set of proposed measures in a systematic way, through workshops, media, presenting theoretical studies about the element, making it available online, and honouring the pioneers who emigrated. In addition, the file explains the role of communities in planning the safeguarding measures, through oral and written consultations. The community will also participate in the implementation and the continuous development of the proposed safeguarding measures.

R.4:   The file demonstrates that the community, groups and individuals concerned participated in various stages of nomination file preparation processes. In preparing the nomination, regular exchanges took place between the bearers and practitioners, nongovernmental organisations, experts on intangible cultural heritage and government representatives. Furthermore, free, prior and informed consent to the nomination of the element has been expressed by groups and individuals concerned. There are no customary practices that govern access to the cultural expression of Modern Dance, and the knowledge is freely available and accessible to everyone.

R.5:   The element is listed on the Nationwide Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in December 2014. The German Commission for UNESCO is responsible for maintaining the inventory. The proposals for listing the element on the inventory were submitted directly by the communities, groups and individuals concerned in a consultative and participatory process. The inventory is updated every year by a 21-person committee of experts.

  1. Decides to inscribe The practice of Modern Dance in Germany on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Recommends the State Party to emphasize the social function of the element when updating safeguarding plans in order to avoid the decontextualization of the practice and also to ensure the transmission of the collective memory of the community;
  3. Encourages the State Party, when submitting nomination files in the future, to avoid presenting information or statements that may give the impression of origins of an element.