“It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I discovered both classical ballet and contemporary dance and realised what I’d been missing. They’ve been a hugely important part of my life (both personal and professional) ever since. That might help explain why I’m so passionate about the roles which dance could and should be playing in the development of children and young people – and why I’m delighted that our Quest Programme has now widened to include dance for the first time.”
Jeremy Newton, Chief Executive, The Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts
Dance Consortium is delighted that four of its member theatres are working with The Princes Foundation for Children & the Arts to introduce hundreds of young people to dance over a three year period from September 2012.
Schools visiting their local venue to see live dance is at the heart of Dancequest. Each venue offers an individual mix of dance performances by UK and international companies, and will be hosting two visits by participating schools a year.
After seeing the first performance there will be workshops in the schools with dance professionals. They will have the opportunity to make, perform and respond to dance. They will return to the venue to see a contrasting performance later in the year. The project will culminate with a celebratory sharing performance in each area, where the participating schools and children will all be invited to share their experiences.
The project is being independently evaluated to show the diverse impacts of dance experiences in the social, creative and educational development of young people.
DanceQuest is generously supported by the MariaMarina Foundation and the J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust.
The venues participating are The Birmingham Hippodrome, The Lowry in Salford, Festival City Theatres Trust in Edinburgh and Sadler’s Wells in London.
The DanceQuest Launch Day
The day was held at Sadler’s Wells on 21 September 2012. It brought all the participating venues and their schools together to share ideas, plans and experiences.
The project was outlined by Jeremy Newton, Chief Executive and Emma Green, Project Manager for The Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts, and the independent evaluators, Susan Potter and Filipa Pereira-Stubbs introduced their plans.
There was a session exchanging ideas and experiences of taking children to see live dance performances, led by Fiona Ross of Sadler’s Wells, and opportunities for each venue to work with their local schools to plan their projects in more detail.
Practical sessions got everyone moving. The first was led by Peter Laycock who, together with Chris Thomson both of The Place, wrote the DanceQuest Book for Teachers. In the afternoon, Jasmine Wilson of Wayne McGregor I Random Dance, introduced ideas for working together and building trust.
DanceQuest Ambassadors, Michael Nunn OBE and Billy Trevitt OBE who founded The Ballet Boyz, talked about their dance journeys. They then introduced two young men from the Company who performed a duet from Torsion, choreographed for Michael and Billy Russell Maliphant.
“Dancing is an entirely different way of using your brain and your mind. It will develop a trust and understanding between students and is a great way to express yourself – dancing can be a lot of fun, but it also provides a unique way to address really serious issues.”
Going to a Performance
This section is taken from the DanceQuest Book for Teachers. Visiting a cultural centre is a great opportunity to develop a unique learning experience which will inspire and engage children.
Preparing for a visit
Before your visit, make sure the children know something about the venue, what they will be doing there and what they might see. You could research the dance company on the internet to get a sense of their work in advance.
Many venue websites include video-clips, images and articles. Dance Consortium provides all of this together with blogs by dancers and audience comments for the Companies it tours here.
You might also ask the venue if they have any education packs or resources to support teaching and learning activities, or an advance copy of the programme. Any information you gather might help inform your question setting and activity planning both before and after the show.
On the visit day, factor in contingency time for all the usual complexities of ticket collection, toilet visits, locating seats and so on. It might sound obvious, but remind pupils to have their phones switched off. Expected behaviours in arts venues are very different from a cinema, but young people don’t always recognise that unless told.
Responding to dance
Responding assumes watching, with attention and interest. Professional dance in performance is extraordinarily rich and varied. In responding activities they can begin to articulate and justify their emerging opinions. The DanceQuest Book for Teachers includes suggestions for responding activities that can be used for watching professional dance, for informal sharings of pupil’s dance work and for self-reviewing their own work.
Managing children’s responses
There are a few simple things you can do in advance to encourage the young people to respond creatively to the performance. There is a whole section in the book about responding.
Pose questions to the group beforehand, for example in a session at school, and then remind them on the coach or train en route to the venue. You could set smaller groups with different questions to build up a class analysis back at school or in the interval. Include open ended questions about how the dance made them feel, or what they think the dancers were trying to express. You could create a worksheet for your pupils to help prompt thought about dance (there are Dance Analysis Bubbles included in the book), and another aspect of the performances such as costume, sound, set, themes or narrative. It’s a good idea to ask them to respond in the interval and after the show whilst their observations are fresh in their heads.
Young people’s responses can be spontaneous and free flowing. It’s important to remember to values their interpretations and connections, allowing space to be creative is an important part of the experience for them. Think about using other art forms, including drawing, painting or poetry to capture their responses.