Impact of Covid-19 on Irish Dance Sector: Discussion

I would like to introduce the representatives from the Irish dancing organisations, Ms Carol Carberry and Dr. Orfhlaith Ní Bhriain. I thank them for being with us today; it is very much appreciated. I have a few housekeeping rules I need to go through first, so I ask them to bear with me.

I request that all members sit only in the permitted seats and in front of available microphones to ensure they are heard. It is important as not doing so can cause serious problems for broadcasting, editorial and sound staff. I remind members to please maintain social distance all at times during the meeting. Members are requested to use wipes and hand sanitisers provided to clean the seats and desks shared to supplement regular sanitisation in the breaks between meetings.

I remind members that we will wrap up a little earlier today at 3.30 p.m. for voting in the convention centre and to allow members enough time to get there. Unlike our normal speaking slots and rota, I ask members for a show of hands so that we can fit as many in as possible. I ask members to confine themselves to the two minutes. The clock will be on and I ask them to bear with it by either using the two minutes for a statement or for questions and answers.

I welcome Ms Carol Carberry, chairperson of Comhdháil na Múinteoirí le Rincí Gaelacha, agus Dr. Orfhlaith Ní Bhriain, leas-chathaoirleach Coimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha, and her colleague, Mr. Peter Boylan, who will be joining the meeting remotely. Mr. Boylan is very welcome and I am delighted to have him here with us virtually.

The format of the meeting is that I will invite witnesses to make opening statements, which will be followed by questions from members of the committee. As witnesses are probably aware, the committee will publish the opening statements on the website following the meeting. I ask Ms. Carberry to begin and then we will move on to Dr. Ní Bhriain.

Ms Carol Carberry

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen-----

I apologise but I have an important piece to read in respect of privilege.

I remind members of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against any person outside the House, or an official, either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I would like the witnesses to note that they are protected by absolute privilege in respect of the presentation they make in the committee today. This means they have an absolute defence against any defamation action for anything they might say at the meeting. However, they are expected not to abuse this privilege and it is my duty as Chairman to ensure this privilege is not abused. Therefore, if witnesses' statements are potentially defamatory in relation to identifying a person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative that witnesses comply with such direction.

With all of the housekeeping rules set aside, I ask Ms Carberry to make her opening statement.

Ms Carol Carberry

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. The culture and tradition that is Irish dancing has been thrown into total disarray by the pandemic. The financial loss to teachers and many others connected with the sector can probably be estimated. What cannot be quantified however are the long-term effects on the well-being of our dancers, who are our main concern. The lack of dance classes prevents the students from experiencing a sense of achievement when they learn and perfect a new step or movement and the loss of interaction with their friends leaves many of them feeling sad and lonely. The dancers normally involved in top level competitions are in danger of losing their motivation and confidence. Dancers are missing something important in their lives that they love and enjoy.

Dance has often been described as “the joy of movement” and Irish dance is the chosen hobby of many young children, teenagers and indeed some adults. Children need physical exercise and mental stimulation outside of their academic studies. Irish dance classes are run in a professional manner by highly qualified people and teach not only dance but also discipline and good behaviour and encourage self-worth and self-esteem. Young people are happier when they have structure and continuity in their lives.

As schools have now reopened safely, I am of the opinion that Irish dance classes should be permitted under level 3. I appreciate the many difficult choices facing Government and elected representatives but I ask them to give children, whose chosen hobby is Irish dancing, a chance to pursue their dreams of winning a world championship or perhaps being part of Riverdance or Lord of the Dance.

I thank members for the opportunity to speak to them today about something I am passionate about, that is in my blood and that I have been involved in for most of my life.

I am sure members will have many questions for you but before we get to that point I give Dr. Ní Bhriain the opportunity to make her statement.

Dr. Orfhlaith Ní Bhriain

A Airí agus a Theachtaí Dhála, ár mbuíochas libh as ucht an deis a thabhairt dúinn labhairt libh inniu ar son na múinteoiri in Éirinn atá cláraithe leis an gCoimisiún le Rincí Gaelacha. Irish dance is an art form which demands dedication of mind and body. CLRG has in excess of 2,300 teachers registered worldwide with teachers across all the continents and 518 teachers registered on the island of Ireland.

In the current climate, the very future of Irish dance is in a precarious situation. We want to highlight following on from our recent lobbies numerous formal educational benefits of Irish dance. It is an integral part of the physical education curriculum at primary level and is sometimes taken as a choice subject for the leaving cert applied and for such awards as the Gaisce awards. There is also a Bachelor of Arts in Irish dance at the University of Limerick, as well as MA programmes and the possibility to conduct doctoral studies in dance. Without access to this training many senior cycle students are disadvantaged. Additionally, organisations such as an coimisiún provide educational training to future teachers, examiners and adjudicators of Irish dance. This is done through a grade exams system.

Second, we wish to highlight the various contributions made by the Irish dance industry to Irish society, tourism, and the economy more broadly. For example, a world Oireachtas can bring in in the region of €14 million to the host city. Shows such as Riverdance and Lord of the Dance have also greatly increased our cultural capital and the long-term impact of dancers not being able to train in Ireland will lead to a considerable loss of cultural ownership, influence and impact globally.

Irish dance is vital for children’s physical health and well-being. It offers them the opportunity to build transferable and transversal skills that can serve them in so many areas of their lives. In the current climate, children are having to engage on Internet platforms, thus increasing their screen time. Many inequalities have arisen as a result of this. By running Irish dance classes, we can help to combat these issues and promote healthy lifestyle choices.

I reiterate that current restrictions are having a seriously damaging impact on the Irish dance industry. We have not been able to hold in-person classes since we entered level 5 and a return to level 3 still precludes us from teaching indoors. We seek guidance from this committee as to why dance has been excluded from activities allowed indoors at level 3, particularly when other comparable activities have been permitted to continue indoors.

Under the terms of the 2003 UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, it is the right of Irish citizens to expect the State to provide for and facilitate the preservation, through practice and transmission, of traditional Irish step dance. In this context, we respectfully request that due consideration be given to the adverse effect of ongoing restrictions on our national cultural heritage, particularly our Irish dance form.

I thank Ms Ní Bhriain. I am sure there is a lot of enthusiasm in this room for the arguments she has made on behalf of Irish dance. The same can be said for other dance genres. I know of Born 2 Perform, for example, a contemporary jazz and hip-hop dance company that operates in a number of counties. I would make the point that there are other dance genres that are in the same precarious position as Irish dance. This affects parents and children alike.

I thank the witnesses for their excellent opening remarks. I wholeheartedly support the case they make in describing Irish dance as an intrinsic part of our culture and a critical part of the educational offering we make to children all over the country. I come from east Galway, where Irish dancing is very much an intrinsic part of local communities. I partook in Irish dancing at an earlier age, rather unsuccessfully. My wife was incredibly more successful. We celebrate the cultural achievements of our communities through various different channels including music and dance. The young people who excel in Irish dancing are always held up as wonderful representatives of our community, nationally and internationally.

As the current restrictions stand, at level 3 it is not possible to hold what are described as indoor gatherings. The only concession that is made in that context is education, which is critically important to our young people. What, if any, engagement have the witnesses had with the Departments of Education or Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media on the possibility of concessions being made to allow dance classes to take place? What sort of conditions have they described that could be put in place to maximise the safety of such classes? Even now, as we embark on the road of returning to level 3 over the next few days, amendments are being made to what was originally described as level 3. Hopefully a significant amount of flexibility will be possible in terms of how we manage level 3 and level 2 going forward. If we were to make the case, which I am open to doing, not only for Irish dance but also for music tuition, which is very close to my heart, that opportunities for these activities should be made available to young people at level 3, what safety measures could teachers commit to putting in place? What sort of engagement, if any, have the dance organisations had with both Departments on the prospect of allowing dance classes to resume?

Ms Carol Carberry

We did not engage with the Department. We have instructed all of our teachers to follow the guidelines at all times, whether they are applicable nationwide or in particular counties. When dance classes reopened at the end of the summer, teachers were very particular about putting in place the necessary safeguards, including hand sanitising, social distancing, cleaning surfaces, wearing masks and so on. They did all of that very safely for a considerable amount of time until they had to close down again in level 3. That was a little bit of a surprise to us, if not a great shock because as far as I am aware, there had not been any problems. There were not lots of cases of Covid-19 associated with dancing. An Comhdháil was very particular about the aforementioned safety measures and I am sure that our friends in CLRG were the same.

If we got permission to run classes in small groups, that would be good. One-on-one classes, however, are no good. An Comhdháil does not allow one-on-one classes because that involves one minor with an adult in a room, which is against our child protection policy. In that circumstance, a parent would have to be present. Furthermore, it would not be right to ask parents to pay for a private lesson, the fee for which would be exorbitant. We really need groups, in a controlled and responsible manner, for classes. The class is the thing really. Children get enjoyment from being with other children; being on their own is no fun.

If a concession was to be made to allow for indoor gatherings of up to 15, which are allowed outdoors at level 3, would that be acceptable to the dance organisations? That would be a significant concession at level 3. Obviously, at level 2, teachers can revert to their normal class sizes. I am wondering if the witnesses would be supportive of that as an interim measure?

Dr. Orfhlaith Ní Bhriain

Yes, as an interim measure, certainly. To be recognised as being educational, of value and of cultural value would be immense. The problem is that dance, not just Irish dance, seems to have been singled out for particularly harsh treatment. In level 2, we abided by the pod system. We brought in a pod system and a return-to-class protocol because we wanted to play our part. I wish to make it clear that teachers bought into this. They rented bigger studios, secured more suitable venues with better ventilation, appointed Covid officers, drew up response plans, insisted on parental sign-off and so on. Those strategies have been put in place but as the committee will appreciate, circumstances will differ depending on whether one is in the community centre in Ballydehob or in the middle of Dublin. We have had to be quite expansive and allow for different circumstances and were willing to do so.

When we moved to level 3, we were forced into school sheds and outdoors for training. The guidelines expressly say that dance cannot happen. We had already cut out group dancing ourselves, of our own accord. That was very difficult for some teachers who do a lot of group and céilí work and the social cohesion obviously suffered. The children so much wanted to dance that we facilitated pods of five or multiple pods of five. We certainly could make that work. The strategies we have put in place mean we have tracing abilities through the sign-offs. We have followed those protocols, in line with our child protection policies which require us to appoint a designated liaison person. We are more than willing to do all of that and believe that would be fair.

When it became clear in August that levels 3 and above were going to be a more regular feature of our lives, we started to lobby Members of the Oireachtas. I am sure many committee members received multiple letters from me and I do not apologise for that because it is my job to represent our teachers. We have engaged in lobbying and initially we sent letters to every Deputy. We were advised that we should contact the Department of Health. We also wrote to NPHET because that seemed to be where a lot of the directives were originating. We felt that dance was in the remit of this committee and also of education. We had written to everybody but dance belongs with culture. We feel that culture is not discretionary. Furthermore, culture is education and should be seen thus.

Dr. Orfhlaith Ní Bhriain

I would really like to emphasise that point.

Some of the guidelines are contradictory. There are inconsistencies there. Gymnastics is allowed because gymnasts do not perspire, apparently, but dancers do.

That is not fair. I am not against anybody having a shot at elite performance activities indoors. Good luck to them if they can make it work but I think it is unfair. Either one can do physical and cultural activities while indoors or one cannot.

I thank the Chair and the committee for allowing our guests to come today. Cuirim fáilte roimh na finnéithe. I thank them for the letters. Not only are they nimble-footed on the dance floor, but they are also good with the letters. They were heart-wrenching. I read one from a six-year-old on the floor of the Dáil, who said she loves to dance, wants to dance and is happy when she dances. She epitomised the feelings of the daltaí óga ar fud na tíre. The witnesses do a great job. I am glad that they mentioned the international convention that gives us that right, and that they are not one bit envious of other areas but are delighted for them. However, there are clear inconsistencies which they mentioned, and I will not mention them again. I speak for other dance studios. I visited one in Clonmel on Monday, run by Alison Cronin, who teaches modern dance. It is a fabulous studio. It is bigger than this room. It is amazing that one could not have six pupils in that. I must declare that I have a niece, Kathy McGrath, who runs the McGrath School of Irish Dance, in case someone pulls me up on it afterwards. She runs a school which has invested significantly in studios.

If dance studios do not reopen under levels 3 and 4, what impact will that have on many of the schools and jobs? I know the witnesses answered the previous Deputy about the efforts that they have made already under the levels that we have, with appeals for sanitisation, pods, etc. This is important for all children, and not all children are as academically-minded. We can see the value of the dance that the witnesses referred to. If the children can excel in dancing, it is important to them and there must be parity of esteem.

What employment opportunities do the witnesses see in the dance sector, including modern dance, and what impact do they think the lockdown is having on pupils with regard to getting tuition and reaching their potential, as well as getting employment in the sector?

Dr. Orfhlaith Ní Bhriain

Ar an gcéad dul síos, we have definitely lost dancers, particularly some senior cycle students who have not been able to get to class. They already spend much time on Teams and Zoom calls so they do not want to do whatever other activities they may be able to do virtually. People between the ages of 15 and 17 are at a critical age, especially some girls who should be getting some sort of activity and are not getting that. All of our activity has been cancelled, such as our anniversary world championships. We understand that that needed to happen, but if pupils have nothing to focus on, with no focus to even get back into a class, then they drop off, so there has been a fall in numbers. While I do not want to denigrate hobbies, for people who want to pursue dance, it is more than a hobby. It is a way of life, a vocation and a professional practice. If one looks at the foot of a ballet dancer or a hard shoe dancer, it is physical, punishing and disciplined. People enjoy it but they are investing much into it and are not getting the opportunities to train for it. We are already seeing teachers with greatly reduced numbers since parents will send them to whatever activity is actually happening rather than have the whole house fight over the one computer or two iPads to try to get all of their children into classes. Ms Carberry may have more to say on that. We have implemented quite strict return-to-class protocols. If further recommendations come from this committee, we would be more than willing to take those on board, rather than a blanket ban on dancing without explanation.

Are many young boys dancing?

Dr. Orfhlaith Ní Bhriain

We have some very fine dancers but if they can go training with their football team but cannot go to their dance class, that is the end of them. We will have future generations of talented dancers who just will not be there. We are losing them now and have not had them since February.

Ms Carol Carberry

A whole generation will lose out if they are out of dancing for 12 months. They will never come back and they will have lost great opportunities. Once they are gone, that is it. They have lost their fitness, motivation and confidence. When the world gets back to whatever normality will be and shows open again, such as Lord of the Dance and Riverdance, many of our young adults will get those opportunities to see the world and take our culture worldwide. As well as that, in time, they would like to train as teachers and pass on our culture. In my day, there were none of those shows or opportunities. It is wonderful that Irish culture has now been brought to the world stage but if a whole generation loses out, it is not fair. They are the future. I have had my chances, such as they were in those times, but we need to look after our young people and ensure that they feel that there is something to look for. It is wonderful that they are back in school. I never thought I would hear a child saying that it is great that school is on again, although they were probably sorry after a few weeks. In the dark winter evenings, young people need something that they can look forward to and are involved in, that they get satisfaction from, rather than roaming the streets in groups and getting up to no good.

Ms Carberry is absolutely right. Covid has brought a new appreciation for the simple things in life, such as school.

We all know that Irish dancing is in our DNA. As the witnesses said, the first thing that every country in the world will show a person is its national dance, no matter where one goes, whether it is Turkey or China, so it is important. Some of the questions that I was going to ask have already been asked, such as about one-to-one classes, which the witnesses have already explained. Under level 3 restrictions, dancing classes cannot even operate. There is rumour and speculation that there will possibly be a lockdown in January too, so the witnesses are facing much turbulence in their dancing classes.

Do the witnesses have any thoughts on Irish dancing being categorised as a sport, compared with ballet which is supposed to be an art? I understand that it takes ten years to build up a dance school. After Covid-19, what future do the witnesses see? How do the witnesses think Irish dancing should be supported?

Ms Carol Carberry

Dancing should be classified more as an educational tool, whether it is cultural education or cultural art. Dance is not really a sport. It is not really comparable to football or camogie. Dr. Ní Bhriain touched on the examination structure. Apart from qualifying for teaching, we have a grade examination structure. Both an Comhdháil and the LRG have that. Children across the spectrum take part in that annually. We go from grade 1 onwards, which covers a little ceili dancing or figure dancing, a few questions as Gaeilge and a little music. That is educational. While a child might not win all the trophies or be top of his or her class academically, every child will be catered for and there will be a niche for them. They will do their exam and it will give them confidence to speak up. They will get a great sense of achievement, of going into do their dancing, answering the questions of the examiner and getting their certificate. It may sometimes be a pass, it may be an honour, or it may be first class honours. If they do not do so well in grade 1, then they will come to grade 3 or 4, it gets harder as it goes along, with more dances and more questions. We knew there would be no feiseanna because of the numbers, so most of the children were preparing to do those grade exams before Christmas when level 3 arrived.

We knew we could not have the céilí section - children could not even take hands for a four-hand dance - so we had already changed our curriculum such that we would give them more questions about céilí dancing and dancing in general. We had also changed the marking system. Now, under level 3, we cannot do that. Children had been looking forward to it and to getting their certificates. It does not greatly lend itself to an online setting because there may be one child at home, in the kitchen, while the rest of the family are doing whatever else. The child may be dancing on the tiles, perhaps doing a little bit in the kitchen, while someone else is on a carpet in the sitting room. It is not the way to do an examination. It is very important, from the child's and the teacher's point of view, that they get to do these grade examinations this year because it is the only thing they will have. We have had all our big events cancelled, including our 50th celebration of An Comhdháil this year, naturally, because the crowds were not permitted. We would very much like to be able to do these exams. The children go in and do them on a one-to-one basis with the teacher and the examiner, so we hope we might be able to find some way of doing the examinations.

Dr. Ní Bhriain would probably like to come in on that too. I am mindful that we have ten minutes left and have got through only three members. I suggest that for the last ten minutes we allow the three members remaining to be called to ask their questions within two minutes. The ladies can take notes on the questions. I want to give Mr. Boylan an opportunity to engage with the committee as well. That will give us six minutes in total. We will let the ladies answer all the questions combined at the end. Is that okay? Okay.

My contribution will be very brief. I thank the witnesses for coming in and informing us of the challenges they face. I think they have widespread support in the committee. I am sorry Deputy Mattie McGrath has left because I read somewhere during the week that he was a champion dancer. I would love to see footage of that.

I am sure Deputy McGrath will show that to Deputy O'Sullivan, no problem at all. He will hardly be shy about it.

It was before the days of iPhones, I imagine, so I bet the footage is locked away somewhere.

Getting to the point, I have attended a lot of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí events in the past, 2019 in particular. Some of them were my first ever events, and I was just blown away by these multitalented, incredible prodigies who were able to switch from playing a harp to doing an amazing exhibition of Irish dance. It was phenomenal, but the witnesses are very well aware of that. It is quite incredible. It seems there is an increased interest in this. I am potentially wrong but I know that in recent years there has been a real resurgence in interest in Irish traditional music, for example, particularly in Ireland. The witnesses may have touched on my question already. They have lost numbers because of Covid, but pre Covid was interest and participation in Irish dance on the increase in Ireland and internationally? If any of the witnesses could take that question, it would be great.

I thank our witnesses. Coming from Mayo, we have the luxury of calling Padraic Moyles one of our own. He has done fantastically well on the world stage. Dance is part of our heritage and makes this country what it is globally. We are very fortunate to have the likes of the witnesses, who put so much effort and commitment into producing future generations.

My question concerns the witnesses' programmes for 2021. What are their expectations as far as world championships and feiseanna are concerned and as to how we might reopen society in level 3 and how that would impact on their programmes into 2021?

I apologise for being late. Most of the questions I had have been asked. I compliment the witnesses on the work they do. I am not an exponent of Irish dance. My late mother, God rest her, tried to persuade me to become one but I did not. I love watching it, though. We have a very successful dance school in my local area. I have a question that goes back to something Deputy Christopher O'Sullivan said earlier. Were there any issues with Irish dancing prior to Covid or do the witnesses have any concerns? I fully support, as we move down the levels, the creation of pods for Irish dancing. We do it with childcare and so on and it can be done with Irish dancing. I know this is something my local dance school, the O'Reilly Bransfield School of Dance in Longford, was planning to do prior to the changes being made. I firmly believe it can be done safely. The last thing any of us wants is something that will damage our culture. As has been said, we have built this up internationally. Irish dance is world-famous now through Riverdance, Lord of the Dance, etc., and that is the level we want to keep it at. Were there any concerns prior to Covid? I firmly believe we will get back when Covid is over and come back strongly.

At this point, I will give Mr. Boylan an opportunity to contribute. He has been waiting patiently and listening very attentively. I am sure he has some suggestions to make from hearing the views of members. I will bring him in at this point if he is willing.

Mr. Peter Boylan

I thank the committee for inviting us and allowing us to put our case forward. As mentioned earlier, we are very open to any suggestion as to what we have to do in our classes in order to be able to run them as safely as possible. When Covid and all the restrictions came in and we were on level 2, we had very strict guidelines in our classes and organisations, with pods of five. I do not think any school allows any parents near the school building because of the potential for the spread of Covid. There is no carpooling. They all have to come in at the same time but spread out 2 m apart. We do not even allow queueing to get into a class. We have a tracking system we have created, hand hygiene measures and ongoing liaison with our insurance company. Any time there is a change of level, our insurance company informs us immediately that night so no teacher will break the rules and everyone will comply with the restrictions in place. If there is anything else we need to do, we just want to be told and we will abide by it.

I thank Mr. Boylan. Without being too hard on the ladies, we have three minutes to conclude, so I ask them to take just two minutes each to wrap up in response to the questions as best they can.

Ms Carol Carberry

I think the numbers were increasing both at home and abroad and there were no problems at all. As for the feiseanna, we live in hope. Both CLRG and An Comhdháil have cancelled our world championships around Easter time. We are rescheduling, being very hopeful and lighting lots of candles that they will materialise again. If they do not, so be it. We did not have any concerns, but it is hard to tell a child it is fine to go to school, that he or she is in no danger, but it is not fine to dance. There are all the whys. One cannot just say "I said so" or "the Government said so". That is not a good idea. Please God, in the very near future we will get back to having dancing and that if President Biden comes next year or the year after, we will have top-class dancers to demonstrate for him.

Dr. Orfhlaith Ní Bhriain

Go raibh maith agaibh as na ceisteanna sin. It is very interesting and I very much appreciate members' valuing of the culture because that has always been one of the challenges for us in Irish music and dance. Sometimes they are not appreciated at home whereas they can sometimes be more appreciated on a global stage than at home afterwards. We therefore really appreciate the committee's giving us this audience because it speaks to our people that Irish dance and Irish music matter at home, in their own Tithe an Oireachtais.

As for the 2021 programme, our main idea now is to get back to class and get people dancing. Going back to Deputy Mythen's question as to whether dance is art or sport, I would like to think that the dancers think like artists but they have to train like athletes because dance is very physical. We want our dancers to be thinking dancers. When somebody is sent to an art class in the beginning, he or she might not be Picasso but there is that potential.

It is about feidireachtaí and we have to keep those feidireachtaí there as a solo form. They are trained and they become performers. Nobody was born a Riverdancer. They became a Riverdancer or a lead in "Lord of the Dance" after many years in their local hall, maybe, with somebody nurturing them that way. Our advocacy is for somebody to nurture this current generation of children so we will be able to carry forward our Irish dance legacy into the future, something that has shaped part of who we are for hundreds of years. We hope go leanfaidh sé sin ar aghaidh amach anseo freisin. Tá sé ceangailte leis an teanga agus leis an mbrí a bheith i m’Éireannach. For me, coming from a family that has been involved in it since 1929, it is part of my blood, part of that whole manifestation of Irishness that is very public at home and abroad.

I thank the committee members for listening to us. We hope they will appreciate that all our parents and teachers are out rooting for us. If they want to see more, they can go home and look at David Geaney and the fabulous video they put out yesterday, which got thousands of views. That is a cry for help. That is a plea from every part of Ireland for people who say, "We want to dance". Whether we are jazz, ballet, sean-nós, Irish, or Comhdháil or any other organisation, we want to dance. Táimid ag iarraidh cothrom na Féinne don rince agus go háirithe don rince Gaelach. Gabhaim buíochas.

Mr. Boylan and Dr. Ní Bhriain have made a very strong and convincing case. It would be remiss of me not to mention Gavan Quigley, who is a dance teacher. His students wrote hundreds of letters and some of what was in those letters was very reflective of what the witnesses said today. Mr. Quigley teaches hip-hop, jazz and contemporary dance. The letters say that the performing arts sector does not have a voice, and one letter states: "I appeal to you to have our voices heard. These children are our future. Their well-being and future is in your hands". It is in our hands, which is exactly what the witnesses are saying here today. I thank them for taking the time to attend and I thank members for their good line of questioning.

Sitting suspended at 2.42 p.m. and resumed at 2.48 p.m.