Thursday 12 April 7.30pm £12 (£10)
Working with the Start project has been a wonderful, creative journey that I have been able to take with five different schools and eight different Key Stage 1 & 2 classes. As the only dance artist working with all eight groups I have had the opportunity to witness young people from various backgrounds as they actively engaged with dance, which in some cases has been them engaging with dance for the very first time. This has been an inspiring experience for me as I have been able to see the value of giving young people arts experiences and the skills, confidence and creativity in which the project can offer them.
Back in October 2017 myself and the Start project team took each of the eight groups on a tour of Déda and its galleries to observe the ‘Bridge the Gap’ art Exhibition. Each group was given a guided tour where we discussed the art work and gave the pupils time to explore and reflect. Each child from each school gave a different reflection of the art work they had seen. Some commented on what the work reminded them of, some on what they could see and others questioned the art work. It was fantastic to see each individual investing their time in the art work. The children were beginning to interpret what they could see and also share their ideas and interpretations with me. This also gave me more than one pair of eyes to see the art work and allowed me to generate their ideas which I would later use to help each group create their own choreographies. I decided to use this experience and the selected responses from each school to create different stimuli for each group’s choreographies. Some would use Victoria Brown’s paintings on yoga mats to create a piece using yoga and nature as stimuli and others might use Nikki Dennett’s wood block prints to create a piece inspired by symmetry, reflections and repetitions.
Using the children’s responses helped me to keep the participants at the forefront of the choreographic process and gave the groups a real sense of creative ownership over their choreographies. With this in mind I would often let the participant’s ideas lead or re-mould my own planning. When planning sessions I would have to constantly think about each group and the individuals in each group. This would also sometimes mean I had to change my session plans or make a diversion in my own creative process to allow the participants to continue on their own creative journeys. I remember one particular session where I led a yoga-inspired warm up to complement their stimuli (Victoria Browns paintings on yoga mats). It was a structured warm up where they completed a sequence of stretches in a set pattern. The sequence was completed four times in a variety of ways (slower, faster, in a different direction). When we had completed the warm up which lasted approximately 5-6 minutes one of the children explained that it would be ‘cool’ to look at how we could do these movements using a ‘flower formation’. Formations was a key word we used and explored in a previous session, which this particular child had obviously remembered, and was showing an interest in developing. Before I knew it we were creating a huge flower formation using the whole class. We were practicing these warm up movements in the formation and exploring how this could be done most effectively. My whole session plan had been over written by this idea. However, this moment gave the children a real sense of working collaboratively and gave them even more ownership of the session and their choreography. These were often also the moments that the children remembered most when reflecting on the project.
Going into each group was a completely different experience. Each group had a different way of working and different view of dance and art. Whenever I go into a new group I always try to find out a bit about my participants. I like to know who dances, who has never danced, who likes to dance and who really doesn’t like to dance. I usually find that there will be a small group who haven’t danced and a small group who are disengaged with dance and who often have misconceptions of what they are about to do. It amazed me to see the changes made in these individuals throughout the creative process. During this project I have managed to re-engage any disengaged children by using various tasks and themes that they were interested in -some of whom had made it very clear that they didn’t want to dance - but they all did! All the children created and performed dance movements and all were engaged at some stage within the process. I do feel the creative nature of making choreographies has a big part to play in engaging children in learning as they are given the freedom to explore dance through creative movement and their own interpretations. One participant explained that the project gave them ‘creative freedom’ explaining that he had not been able to move like this before. He and his classmates later reiterated that they now understand that dance isn’t just about being able to stand on your toes, and that creativity has no boundaries. This was a very significant moment for me as I was able to see how much the young people value this project and how this had changed their opinion of dance and the arts.
Overall I’m so thrilled to be part of this wonderful journey, seeing smiles on children’s faces as they perform for the first time, watch as they delve into their own creative process and work together to choreograph a group piece. Witnessing multiple groups get stuck into creating and dancing, seeing individuals blossom in confidence and watching as movements are built from small ideas into set choreographic phrases. I have seen first-hand how dance can really create a spark in a child, put a smile on their faces and a spring in their steps. In the next step of the project I will oversee each child complete their Discover Arts Award. The groups are also coming back to Déda this week to see a performance of TEN by professional company ACE Dance and Music which is super-exciting, and will hopefully allow the young people to continue on their journey of discovery of dance.
Rehearsals for TEN presented by ACE Dance and Music. Image credit Graeme Braidwod.
ACE Dance and Music will perform TEN at Déda on Thursday 12 April at 7.30pm. Tickets are available at Box Office on 01332 370911 or online here.