Giving dancers what they don’t even know they need is a running theme for us. The young dancers that we work with are generally recommended to come along because they need a challenge.
I (Sophie) know that what we do is different but recently we have started questioning ourselves to define: what is it?
There’s a sense from the youth dancers that what we do is simple or easy. I think in a way it is, because we’re just asking them to play; which is a child-like action or quality. But actually the reality of the sessions is that they come from years of experience and understanding of the dance context. Our methodology is driven by what we are trying to achieve artistically and also what we’re trying to achieve with them technically. (more on that next time!)
There’s this fascinating thing that occurs where this certain type of young person comes along to Attik Youth Dance Company because they heard it is different from other dance classes on offer. So we get ‘The Mavericks’, those who are attracted to words like ‘different’ and where they think they might be noticed. We get the young people who dance departments recognise need something more and often are not doing so well in their other subjects because they can’t sit still. Or they are very high achievers in other subjects and they don’t choose to take dance at school but they need an outlet for their expression.
I have done a little digging around to see if there is a type of young person that would be more attracted to our offer than others. I found that there is a neural evidence base to suggest that some adolescents are more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours. In the brilliant article ‘The Adolescent Brain’ Casey et. al propose that their findings ‘ indicate that risk-taking behaviour is associated with different developmental trajectories of the subcortical pleasure and cortical control regions.’ (p.73, 2008) They say that this pre-disposition for risk-taking behaviours potentially puts them at risk for negative outcomes.
Now I am not saying that all risky adolescents are going to be ‘bad kids’ and we are going to solve all of their problems! But I know from my experience of working with young people for the past five years, that the majority of young people who have had a significant impact through our work have been the ones who are the thrill seekers and agitators. Check out our Includance and Fight Me projects.
Somehow what we do is seen as very risky; I’m learning more and more that what else is on offer is known and it seeks to replicate a known dance tradition of one form or another. I suppose what we’re trying to do is to question the norm, it takes a lot of effort to do that, because every single session, every single decision that I make is evaluated. It’s discussed with a colleague or by myself. This practice of thoroughly evaluating your actions and the response they elicit, and then analysing how or why this occurred, is the most incredible kind of action research project ever.
Casey, et. al (2008) The Adolescent Brain Developmental Review 28 (2008) 62-77