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Building a community of dancers – Reflections on Accelerate: A Skills Development Lab

Thu 26 March 2020
Part of: Accelerate: A Skills Development Lab | 2019-2020
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The Accelerate project journey started last September. Since then, we have been taking 10 early career dance artists on a paid development journey that includes 3 intensive 2 day labs developing skills in specific key areas, access to work with mentors, a week-long residency for initial research into project idea and a tailored creative development package complementing the artists’ research and growth.

 2 intensive labs so far have offered learning opportunities and insight into a range of areas. This has included producing and self-producing workshops with Grace Okereke and Gracefool Collective, re-thinking how we operate and exploring how to become professional rule breakers with Sarah Shead. We facilitated exchanges with artists who are at further stages in their careers including Kwesi Johnson, Carlos Pons-Guerra, Gracefool Collective and hosted practical workshops with Eleanor Sikorski of Nora and Robbie Synge to deepen learning around specific methodologies, contexts and resilience as well as offering intensive insights into the value and tools applied in dance dramaturgy with Lou Cope.

The group of 10 are inspired and reflect positively on what they are gaining from these bespoke opportunities:

‘Fantastic opportunity to talk, share, develop our thinking around our own work and the work of the other artists.’

‘I thought all the sessions in this Lab were amazing and I loved all of the workshop leaders, truly inspiring and it has made me want to pursue dramaturgy as another career option.’

‘Doing Dramaturgy with Lou Cope was incredibly useful. Fantastic, inspiring day learning tools which are valuable for us to support our peers and view our own work and others in the future.’

The first set of residencies, offering opportunity to research into initial project idea, took place in February. We saw a range of areas explored from a playful journey discovering interaction for the early years to exploring the space in between: action and reaction, arts and science, deaf and hearing, the mindset of contemporary and the physicality of hip hop.

The next lot of residencies due to take place this April are now sadly on hold as Yorkshire Dance and Northern School of Contemporary Dance had to close their buildings following government and Public Health England advise in response to the current crisis. 

Creating a strong peer group and support is certainly an intended outcome for the project, after the first lab one of the artists fed back:

‘I already feel that I have a more secure community of dancers around me that I can go to for support or to share ideas.’ 

This kind of support community is certainly becoming a lifeline in these current uncertain and precarious times. 

Freelance artists are faced with many cancelled events, jobs and postponed projects.

Being there to support each other, if only virtually can make all the difference now and we are continuing to connect and encourage the group to exchange, utilising this time for further planning, research and to practice their newly developed peer dramaturgy.

We are trying to stay hopeful and engaged and are looking much forward to re-connecting in person and to further developing the rich and diverse research driven by this energetic and inspiring group as soon as public life resumes back to normality. 

Accelerate: A Skills Development Lab is a new artistic and professional nine-months paid development programme for early-career dance practitioners, led by Yorkshire Dance and Northern School of Contemporary Dance, and supported by Leeds Dance Partnership. Accelerate artists are: Áine Reynolds, Alethia Antonia, Alexah Tomey-Alleyne, Catrina Nisbett, Imogen Reeve, Inari Hulkkonen, Katy Hewison, Matthew Rawcliffe, Ruby Portus and Stephanie Donohoe. The project takes place in Leeds.

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