Training Youth Dancers

Within a session of Attik youth dance company I rarely teach sequences, and recently I have been trying to work with the question of how I can teach the principles of a technical dance training through a creative framework. I have clear goals of what I want them to be able to achieve and explore physically. The rationale is to create a way of training the dancers so that they can bring themselves to the performance of their work; the opposite of ‘now we are performing so look intense!’ idea. In the sessions, I give them clear verbal instructions and join in with the task physically, so that the young dancers can get a sense of how playful it is possible to be whilst adhering to a set of instructions. In using the ethos of play I find that the dancers can be present and bring their personalities into the space whilst achieving a great many skills.

An example of the type of task I offered last week was: to push through different surfaces of their feet and hands, and to playfully notice how this push had a repercussion through the rest of their bodies. I continued to add extra information to this task; so we went through the work of a foot exercise, an adage and shifting through space at various speeds and rhythms. The range of rhythms and movements was much more extensive than if we had gone through a series of formal, technical exercises.

In this clip they are working with some strict rules about maintaining a constant, monotone rhythmic quality in space, in this way I am really pushing their strength and stability. They are working in pairs, each person concentrating on doing the task with their bodies, but also watching the other person to make sure that they are doing the task. In this competition, the winner is the person who can stick to the task for the longest!

A clip of this game is here

Unlocking creative potential in young dancers is a puzzling process because young people are incredibly creative, lateral thinkers and yet young people constantly look for role models to style themselves on. Inside a session I am constantly trying to demonstrate and give enough information for the dancers to visually understand a task but not do so much that they try to become copies of me. I constantly encourage their individuality in the space. Mostly the young dancers really love to do their style and what makes them feel good. By modelling themselves, not only on what I do as a dancer, but also on my behaviour of verbally encouraging individuality, the young dancers change their value system within dance to put bravery, playfulness and innovation at the top of the priority list.

The differences in their approach to the ideas can be seen here