I founded Motionhouse Dance Theatre in 1988 with Kevin Finnan, writes Louise Richards.
From doing everything ourselves ? workshops, performances and admin ? we now employ five dancers and two administrators. But the ethos of the company remains the same: to introduce dance to new people, especially young people who think dance is not for them, too technical and something they just don?t understand ? and make them realise it can be for them, and more importantly, that by taking part in a workshop they can do it too. We like students in our workshops to see a performance first, so they know our style of dance, and then when they meet the dancers from the performance at the workshop they realise the dancers are ordinary people just like them. The young people then learn how easy and natural dance can be and what talents they already have, the emphasis throughout being placed on success and never on failure, so that for everyone it?s a fun and positive experience.
Because of our reputation for working with young people, we were asked by the Arts Council of England (ACE) to deliver an ?intervention? in an initiative called ?Arts and Education Interface?. It?s a research project looking into the impact of the arts on young people, extending over two years and based in Corby and Bristol. We were allocated two workshop centres, both secondary schools, where all the interventions would be taking place.
At both schools we worked over two weeks in the summer term, and were invited to devise our own programme of performances and workshops. At each centre we gave a performance of ?Fearless?, the show we have been touring for the last year. Our dancers worked with groups of about 15 students aged 13 to 15 on eight afternoons culminating in performances presented to the rest of the school, staff and parents. There were no set ideas about the content of the performance, of its themes or the music we would use. All this was developed with the students during the workshops. The dancers encouraged them to come with their own ideas for themes and music, guiding them when necessary, so that the performance reflected the interests of the participants. The project was a success ? the students enjoyed themselves, learnt a lot about movement and dance and came away with a positive view of dance.
Since then, we have given our feedback on the project in the form of interviews, conducted by the National Foundation of Educational Research (NfER), as have the two sets of students. Once all the participants have been interviewed from all the interventions in Corby and Bristol, we expect the findings to be published. It will be as interesting for us as for anyone else!
Louise Richards is Executive Director of Motionhouse Dance Company.
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