I’ve always loved teaching young people; it’s a real passion of mine. Setting up and running my own youth company has been so rewarding and it’s a real highlight of my week working with the group. Since I started that venture I’ve been wanting to expand and deliver more classes and projects for young people in Suffolk. Last year I was a part of StartEast network event and met a wonderful Dance Artist in Norfolk called Steph Townsend. It soon became clear that her and I had some similar career goals, so we got to talking and a joint Summer School project was born.
The main problem I have with all of my light-bulb moments is the fact I never have any business capital to back it up. I’m only a small sole trader, and don’t have thousands of ££ sitting in a bank to do with what I fancy (my god, I wish). With the help of StartEast though, I was able to sort this problem out. The project was kindly supported by the StartEast Grants Scheme, funded by European Regional Development Fund and the Arts Council England Creative Local Growth Fund. Alas, we could trial our first Summer School without panic of only 1 child turning up and going bankrupt!
It was so great working with Steph too; meeting a new artist in the same boat, wanting to develop professionally, wanting to provide some amazing opportunities for young people. We bashed out several ideas and came up with the model. It was now time to put ourselves out there and see if any young people wanted to join us.
And they did! We had 18 young people sign up to the Creative Dance Summer School. They spent 5 days with myself, Steph and Tommy Norris (another fabulous artist we got on board to help deliver), creating choreography for performance. I always like working with a set stimulus or theme, so we decided to have Space & Journeys as the theme across the whole week. The young people joined in company classes, technique classes, workshops and creative sessions all based on our different views of the theme. For example, Steph looked at the space between people; us as humans and the connections we have. Tommy looked at the different planets and their unique qualities. I looked constellations and star signs, and what makes us who we are. All very different!
We split the young people into age brackets so 10-15yrs worked with each other, and the 16-19yrs were part of what we called a Masterclass. It basically meant they worked with each of us on some challenging technique classes, and had a shot at teaching the younger group themselves (they did very well). We provided them with a crash course in picking stimulus, developing motifs, creating and delivering creative tasks and piecing together the choreography.
It all culminated in a sharing of the work we had produced with the young people on the Friday. Friends and family came along to support them all, and I cannot express how overwhelmed I was with the feedback from the participants and parents alike. I’m SO happy they enjoyed themselves, made new friends, developed their dancing skills and walked away from the week’s experience positive.
I’m now looking at how I can run it again next year without the support of StartEast and the grant fund. Cos there’s no way I’m not running it again. It was too much fun!