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May 2, 2014 By Andy Ross

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The importance of networks

If you are like me and a little bit averse to jargon-y words like "networks", this blog post may make you want to turn off. But bear with it. It gets interesting!

Last week, I was at a conference of educators in opera, mainly the big opera houses across Europe but with some freelance members who belong to the RESEO network. The weekend event took place in the lovely city of Helsinki with its fabulous art galleries, designers and designs and gracious living. We saw an exhibition of Tove Jansson of Moomin fame, another of Beda Stjernschantz, and many more pictures and paintings all over the city. We bought weavings made by local artists and beautiful fabrics from antique dealers. And that was not including all the fun of the conference itself!

The two days of conference were about the social well-being of opera and dance. In many ways, all of us who dance, and move, and sing give ourselves a therapeutic boost each time we do those things. We feel mentally alert and physically better, or at least, I know I do. In our work we often come across people who benefit from the arts in unexpected ways so presentations by Scottish Opera about a research project to do with singing and cystic fibrosis, or from Porto's Casa da Musica who used opera to explore and tell about the colonial wars that the Portuguese fought in Africa were not unfamiliar. But it was really the after-events that were most beneficial. Chatting to Opera National de Paris about their use of Braille on a  stage production for sighted and unsighted performers, or to Streetwise Opera about using the art form in their work with homeless people. Speaking to people just on the beginning of their journey to becoming new organisations to support opera and dance, and people from all over Europe, from Serbia to Shetland, from Norway to Denmark, and of course, Finland. And it all happened in the Finnish National Opera House with workshops from dancers and singers all thrown in for good measure. We now have invitations to drop into Paris for a visit, to Serbia, Portugal and England. Huzzah for networks!