2018
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Support START as part of our Little Steps, Big Changes campaign

Inside the START Project: "In that moment when they were all dancing...they were simply children, creating and exploring"

In November I had the privilege of shadowing our dance development and learning co-ordinator, Isobel, as she delivered a START workshop at an inner city primary school in Derby. As a newly appointed member of the fundraising team here at Déda, I was keen to go along and see some of the work that we deliver as a charity in action, to gain a better understanding of where our supporters’ donations go and the difference that they make.

The START project, which Isobel has been running at 3 schools across Derby this year, is all about creating opportunities for children to experience and participate in the arts, watch performances and gain an Arts Award. So far, this project has reached 316 children in Derby, around 30 of whom I was lucky enough to meet during this session.

The class taking part in the workshop was a diverse group of 6-7 year olds, from a multitude of backgrounds and with a variety of different needs. They all attend the inner city school, which lies in one of the more socio-economically disadvantaged areas of the Derby. The START project not only benefits the physical development of these children, including improving their balance and coordination, but also offers a wealth of social, emotional and wellbeing benefits. Boosted confidence, improved communication skills and personal development have all been evident outcomes of the children’s participation so far.

“Dance accelerates development and learning and improves hand–eye coordination… Engagement with the arts can aid physical, cognitive, linguistic, social and emotional development.” Creative Health Inquiry, 2017

Isobel planned this workshop to be based around two words, which became two key learning points. We began with the children learning about what those words meant within dance; canon, one at a time, and unison, all together.  

Isobel explained to me that one of the most important parts for her when working with these children, is that she not only gives them choreography to explore in sessions, but that there is also an educational element to the workshops.

“It’s important to me that even beyond the end of the project the children retain the essential building blocks to developing a routine, and have an understanding of the key concepts and skills. That way they are able to continue to develop and express themselves through dance.”

The workshop consisted of an energetic warm up, which saw the group follow along with Isobel to a fast paced routine consisting of lots of jumping and shaking. This was followed by opportunities for them to follow and practice set choreography, working together as a whole class and in smaller groups, and then to create and perform their own dance steps. Throughout, they revisited the ideas of dancing in unison and in canon, building on their understanding.  

The choreography was a challenge for some children, as they made sense of how their bodies needed to move along to the music and transition between the steps, but as they grasped it, the sense of accomplishment was clear to see. That alone, was evidence of the project helping them to develop essential skills such as resilience and boosting their self-esteem.

Mr Chell, the teaching assistant who worked alongside Isobel to support the children in the workshop, is also a huge advocate of the work that Déda is doing in the school.  

Isobel is fantastic, one of the best I’ve worked with.  Her enthusiasm is unwavering… It’s about raising their aspirations, and helping them to realise their own capabilities and the possibilities of what they can accomplish.”

He noted that at its heart, the project is about social mobility within the area, and making sure that all children experience the same opportunities in life. Inspiring them through dance is a way to open up a world of possibilities for them as they grow, encouraging them to flourish and reach their full potential.

“Participatory arts have the potential to enhance educational outcomes across whole schools.” Creative Health Inquiry, 2017

What I took away from the experience, was that from start to finish, UNISON ended up not just being a word that they learned; it in fact represented to me the spirit of the workshop…Unison, in the way that the dance brought together a group of young and energetic children with a single positive focus; Unison in their physical movements as they followed the steps of the choreography together; Unison, in a vastly diverse school where over 25 different languages are spoken, numerous faiths are followed and pupils come from a countless variety of different backgrounds and ethnicities, children were dancing together as one and transcending all of those language, social and cultural barriers.

At the end of the workshop, the children performed their routine all together along to the music. Mr Chell recorded it on their iPad, which gave them the opportunity to watch it back and understand how they looked as they all danced in unison. It was wonderful to observe how in that moment when they all danced together, they weren’t children from disadvantaged backgrounds, or children with additional needs, or facing any form of adversity; they were simply children, creating and exploring dancing.

Déda is a charity, and without support from our donors, we wouldn’t be able to deliver projects such as START. #LittleStepsBigChange is our current fundraising campaign, which is celebrating and supporting the fantastic work that Déda delivers to children and young people across Derby – I want to say a huge thank-you to all our donors to this campaign so far for helping us to make these amazing projects happen.

If you would like to support START, you can donate to our Little Steps, Big Changes campaign through our box office or online. No matter how small the amount, they all add up and help us to make a real difference in people’s lives. http://www.deda.uk.com/support-us/ Thank you!

Written by Lydia Atkinson, Sales and Fundraising Assistant at Déda

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