Katherine Wilkins

Dance Development and Learning Coordinator

A Week in the Life of Katherine

If you have ever considered a career in dance development, or even if you haven't, this blog from our dance development and learning co-coordinator Katherine, is an absolute must read. Her week is always jam packed but she set aside some time to blog about it for us...

I love my job.

In a week as the Dance Development and Learning Coordinator at Déda I can be leading a one on one workshop, delivering a warm-up in front of 1000 school children, or scheduling the academy show and planning schemes of work. Here is a bit of my week.

My Monday morning starts with a dozen smiling and jumping toddlers and their grownups in Stompers, this is a parents and toddler group with children 2-4 years old. They come running into the studio and then stare at me with a look of recognition, and then continue to run around the free space until we find ourselves in a circle, ready to sing the hello song and start dancing.

After 45mins of pretending to go to the farm and herd the sheep, pick the carrots and ride a tractor (all using our imagination and a couple of props), it’s time to leave this land with the good bye song and get back to my desk. After my morning of make-believe and dancing with Stompers it’s time to get down to business and coordinate the volunteers for Déda’s Summer Fun Clubs, and put the final touch to the Déda academy showcase ‘The Grand Tour’. After some e-mails, getting involved in spread sheets and creating certificates it’s time to get back in the studio.  

Over the past 6 weeks I have been working with a young person on developing her contemporary dance skills before she starts her silver and gold arts award in the autumn with Déda. This week we continued choreographing a duet that explored contact work, how we can manipulate, lift, and move one another. I’ve also introduced improvisation this week. We started with having a ‘conversation’ just using our hands, allowing one person to ‘talk’ and then the other responding with their own movement. The aim of this task was to play and discover how we can move with different rules and limitations. This task reflects a conversation in our movement for example shouting, excitement, and arguments, talking over one another or even changing the subject. The movement then progressed to using our arms, legs and torsos. This will be the beginning of a motif for us to develop later.

Tuesday was the Derbyshire School Games event held at Trent College in Long Eaton ran by the School Sports Partnership. The BTEC dance group from Heritage High School in Chesterfield were selected from Interface15 to perform at the opening ceremony. I had worked with this group on their piece and was there to support them, and also get over 1000 children warmed up and ready to compete! Heritage High school did an amazing job and they were then selected to perform at the National School games in Manchester. 

Wednesday I spent half the day at Becket primary school with year 6 who were preparing for their year 6 performance of a musical medley. I choreographed a dance to the song ‘America’ from West Side Story. The children loved this piece; the girls were on one side and the boys on the other as they battled in dance! The Becket Dan Troop after school club was year 3&4 strutting their stuff rehearsing to show parents next week.

After Becket primary I dash back to Déda to teach Jump which is Déda’s youngest performance group ages 10-13. This group are so dedicated and love dancing and are fantastic to work with, always rising to the challenge. They are completing their Explore Arts Award this term and have been flying through it.

On Thursday after catching up with paper work it’s time to get down to Derby Theatre for the Schools Festival; where a group of young people from Kings Mead School will be performing in front of friends, family and other schools. I have been working with this group for a couple of months and they have really impressed me with their commitment to learning, and rehearsing outside of their dance sessions. Even though the group was nervous and apprehensive about performing, when it came to getting on stage they went for it and looked amazing!

Friday mornings are fabulous as I spend it with Rompers (6 months – 2years) and Stompers (2-4years) and their grownups. These session are to allow children and grownups to play and move together. The freedom and space in the room allows children to explore and interact with one another as well as develop their fine motor skills, such as picking up objects, and gross motor skills, like rolling and sitting up. We use props such as scarfs, sponges and balls to create games and tasks for both parents and children.

Friday afternoons are currently spent prepping for the Academy Show and for the next week of classes. Over the years Déda’s Saturday academy has grown and grown with a whole range of different styles of dance to learn. This means there is a lot of people to organise and get ready in the right place for 3 shows each being performed twice!

I also teach on the Saturday academy programme. In the mornings I work with two creative classes aged 7-11 that choreograph and learn different style of dance such as contemporary to South Asian, with the focus being a creative collaboration with each other and the tutor, as well as learning new skills and techniques. After this, it’s a day of Hip Hop classes starting from 4 up to 11years old. The Kids classes (4-7) have been learning to dance like Transformers with an explosive robotic piece. The Juniors (7-11) have mixed it up with two pieces, reflecting all the skills they have learnt over the year.

Each week varies; from which school I’m working in, to what project is next on the agenda. What I love about this ever changing time table is all the people I meet and relationships I develop through teaching dance. Dance can be a really powerful art form that needs a lot of trust from the teacher and groups, and it can be a great way to build confidence and make friends.

The feeling I get when I see a group of children or adults moving, creating, and growing in confidence each session is priceless.






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