Dancers for a long time have been a part of the spectacle of the Choreographer’s vision. However across the UK and more widely throughout other European countries professional dancers are working in collectives, setting up their own creative initiatives and even within traditional company structures are being asked to offer deep artistic insight. The training of youth dancers is often more aligned to the development of dancers who will be prepared for an autocratic Choreographer and offer their bodies to their creative vision rather than creating provocations in the space. To enter into vocational or undergraduate dance training young dancers are asked to audition and ‘fight’ for a place at institutions where individuals are graded on their skills in dance techniques and creative ingenuity (on a scale). The tragedy of this is that the youth dancers who are interested in working collaboratively have a limited choice in the current training strands on offer both pre-vocational/undergraduate level . (I -Sophie- would argue that most youth dancers don’t have the knowledge or awareness to recognise the difference and the majority accept a place from the training institution that is in a location they like, if they indeed have that choice.)
How then can we re-think youth dance training to meet the demands of this creative job market?
In response to this question I am referring to what it means to work with young dancers and the values guiding the methodology. Firstly the promotion of the skills of the individual on one hand (I am referring to other recent blogs Training Youth Dancers and Working with Patterned Movement with Youth Dancers ) and providing them with the skills of transferability and relatability. So if they are being trained in the basic techniques of dance and movement skills then the next question arises for me, how does their individuated experience of training relate to the context of creating with others?
How do we train Youth dancers to truly transfer and co-create ideas in dance. I am not talking about teaching a sequence and dancing it together in unison. I am referring to developing a methodology whereby movements and ideas are developed in in a state of inter-connectedness. I observed this recently when I visited Attik Youth Dance Company at Dartington. Ben led the session and I had the pleasure if joining in the session with some incredible young dancers! The way that we passed through the phases of warming up minds and bodies incorporating ideas which would relate to the rest of the session was speedy and thorough. Masterly done. So that within 30 minutes, all of us dancing, were ‘in it’. Quickly Ben partnered us up and set a task where we continued our exploration of the previously set ideas around our partners in a shared space where we had to mould ourselves around each other’s propositions and creations. With many different partners and adaptations of the task of sharing space we spent an hour or more creating a duet. The amount of time really gave room for us to find a way to work together, through language, improvisation, a myriad of ways. Although I am a professional dancer I could co-create with a young dancer in an honest and democratic way. The transferability of my skill and the young dancer’s skills were shared and guided gently, slowly over time to create movements, connections and ideas that were unique to us dancing together in that time and space.
As each pair shared their creations I noticed how each young person had been challenged to employ all of their broader knowledge and skills in their co-creation with another. Each duet was a beautiful example of supporting, connecting and purposeful action. ’This is the power of art: The power to transcend our own self-interest, our solipsistic zoom-lens on life, and relate to the world and each other with more integrity, more curiosity, more wholeheartedness.’ Maria Popova Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova on the Value of Arts