Born and Bred Blog

Starting Wednesday 7th September!

Dance and Exercise Class

When: Wednesday Evenings during term time.

What time? 6:30pm – 7:30pm

How much? £4 per class

Class Description: Join dance artist, Olivia Peers on Wednesday evenings at Mossley Community Centre for a dance exercise class specifically designed for ladies and gentlemen of a certain age! Build up your fitness by getting down with your bad self to great music whilst learning fun, easy and stylish routines.

No chairs.

No rolling tennis balls down your arms.

No playing with scarves.

You’re not dead yet!

Contemporary Dance Class

When: Wednesday Evenings during term time.

What time? 8pm – 9pm

How much? £5 per class

Class Description: Join us on Wednesday evenings at Mossley Community Centre for a dance class with a difference. Progress, at you own speed, through movement exercises and original sections of choreography in a contemporary style. This class uses dance as a way to keep fit, healthy and happy, with influences from pilates and yoga.

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I was recently approached by Contact to deliver a project. My remit was a simple one; I was given a small budget and a borough. That borough was Tameside.

Tameside is a place that Contact has been trying to create a partnership in for some time. The borough is around ten miles from the city centre, about a half hour drive depending on traffic. As a local artist and Tameside resident, I am all too familiar with the journey into Manchester, the pot luck with traffic and public transport, the stresses of finding a parking space and not paying the earth for it! I can understand why schools and community groups might be put off, so when I needed to find a partner for this project, I knew I needed a plucky one…. enter Thomas Ashton School!

Thomas Ashton is a special school in Hyde, for pupils who have identified social, emotional and/or mental health needs. Through conversations with staff at the school we (myself and Contact) collaboratively designed a project. We didn’t want the project to be a one off, but to fit into the schools overall arts strategy. We decided to run a half term of weekly movement and drama workshops that explored the theme of anger. This is an emotion that many of the students struggle with, both to understand and to deal with it.

As part of the project we also chose to incorporate Arts Award Explore. This meant that we could organise a half term of drumming sessions that also explored the theme of anger, and organise a visit to Contact where the students got to go on a tour of the building, eat pizza (I am sure they enjoyed this more than the whole project!) and watch a show. An artist from the company who made the show, also visited the school to deliver a spoken word workshop. The project culminated in a sharing event for family and friends, where the drumming work provided a live music score for each dance piece performed.

The project itself was a roaring success! I enjoyed it so much! I genuinely looked forward to going into school each week. I think what made this project such a success was the strength of the partnership. As an independent artist facilitator and Project Manager I felt that I got to be the ‘middle person’, I got to see ‘both sides’. And wow, what sides!

Contact is a young persons theatre and so they really know how to engage with young people. They provided the funding for the project and made sure tickets were available for an appropriate show. The show we went to see was ‘The Broke N Beat Collective’ from 20 Stories High and it was AMAZING! The issues explored in the show were really relevant to the young people from Thomas Ashton, and it was performed in such a cool and accessible way – it really inspired them! Add to that the organisation of providing access to the whole building for a tour, providing the young people (and teachers!) with food and organising car parking for the school minibuses, the journey into Manchester was wholly positive.

Thomas Ashton School were just fabulous throughout the project. They really made time for the project and integrated it into their weekly routine. All staff were wholly on board and supportive. They were ready each week with cameras for evidencing, and the photographs were always printed off and ready to stick in log books. The staff are really excellent, and they really get ART!!!

Pupils at Thomas Ashton School can present challenges but they are worth those challenges! It was great that the school let myself and Contact in and I am glad we created this partnership because it just works so well. We are even doing a second project with Key Stage 2 focused around Arts Award Discover.

After working with Contact and Thomas Ashton it is clear to see from these pupils, that underneath all the behaviours are wonderful and talented young people and we just need to find different ways to bring that out as visiting artists. I have put my three top tips below:

  • Be open – I think often as artists we have a clear idea of what we want to see at the end of a creative process. When working with professional artists, you usually get what you have in your head, at the end of a creative task. At Thomas Ashton I didn’t get this, what I got was something brilliant and unique to that young person. They would put their own interpretation on the task, and this created some really interesting movement work.
  • Be changeable - I often change my ideas as a project moves on in response to the group I am working with. I allow my ideas to evolve. One of the classes at Thomas Ashton were really inspired by Harry Potter, so I had a think about how I could incorporate this into the theme of anger. I decided we should do a session creating wizarding duals. I asked the group, what spells would you cast if you were duelling another wizard and you were really angry? It brought another dimension to our sessions and discussions and the class created really inventive duelling sequences, using both text and movement, devised entirely by themselves!
  • Be individual - Facilitating Arts Award is a really creative process and I believe that this should be maintained throughout the whole project. It is my job as the facilitator to cultivate that mindset, especially when it comes to evidencing. For this project I used the official Arts Award log books and we filled in pages week by week. I had considered doing an example log book, but decided against this – why should I prescribe how each young person should fill in their log book? Evidence should be as unique as the young person collecting it, and although I gave guidance, the individuality really came through. Each young person has annotated comments, used colour, stuck in more than what I asked for… They really took ownership of their logbooks and subsequently of gaining their Arts Award qualification.

So what’s next for the partnership?

Well, based upon the success of this project, Contact have agreed to fund a second project for Key Stage Two. It is a much simpler version of the project we have just delivered mainly because it will incorporate Arts Award Discover rather than Explore.

Myself and Contact also provided mentoring support to the school to enable them to apply to the Arts Access Fund, and we are pleased to say their bid was successful! Thomas Ashton will be able to deliver another Arts Award project in September, once again working in collaboration with artists from Contact and linking in the project with one of Contacts programmed shows; Bedtime Stories by Upswing Aerial. The project will allow some of the students to complete their Arts Award at Bronze level and will continue what appears to be a budding partnership between Contact, Thomas Ashton School and myself.

WEB LINKS:

Contact www.contactmcr.com

Thomas Ashton School http://www.thomasashton.tameside.sch.uk

 

So for my other job as an Artis Specialist I often integrate Arts Award. Read my blog about how the two go neatly hand in hand…

(For the original post click here)

Being an Artis Specialist, is very different to your average day job. On Monday I was an African dance specialist, a chicken farmer, a polar bear, a ‘horrid child’ from Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate factory and a water cycle rap god. Before lunch.

In my role as a specialist it is my job to bridge education and art, and find a way for children to enjoy a learning experience that is creative, unassuming and individual. No two Artis specialists are exactly the same, so no two sessions will be the same. However something we all believe in is how the arts don’t need to be a separate entity but rather an integral part of our lives, so even if your not the next Michael Jackson, Hofesh Schecter, or Jaqueline Wilson art, in all its forms, is still enjoyable. Creativity is still important. This is a train of thought that marries itself with that of the Arts Award syllabus.

Arts Award is a nationally recognised framework of art based qualifications that inspire young people to nurture their artistic interest. Arts Award is about understanding the arts and realising that the arts are so many things, not just performing, and being an artist is not necessarily being famous. Arts Award broadens children’s understanding of the art sector in the same way that Artis broadens children understanding of their education; by providing an alternative, a creative exploration of the world around them.

Last year I worked in Bradley Green Primary School in Hyde, where I interwove Arts Award into my my Artis specialist delivery. I worked with 180 children from Year 1 to Year 6 and all of them achieved their Arts Award Discover. Below I would like to outline how the different modules of Arts Award Discover, work within Artis sessions.

Part A: Discover

In this part of the award, participants should take part in a range of arts activities in order to widen their experience and understanding of the arts.

As an Artis specialist I work within three performative disciplines; voice, movement, and drama, so really this part of the Arts Award is the easiest. I provide workshops that allow the children to fully explore one discipline at a time, as Arts Award is about experience and not tick-boxing. I like to choose art forms that reflect the theme of the award. For example, the Year 2 class, were looking at Anna Meredith who you may know from BBC Ten Pieces. Anna is a percussive composer, so I chose to run a workshop in dance to one of her compositions and then a body percussion workshop so that the children could experiment with the same compositional tools as the person they were studying. Many Artis specialists have more than one art form up their sleeve so this is just one way that Artis can support your Arts Award delivery in school.

Part B: Find Out

In this part of the award, participants need to find out about artists and their work in order to develop their understanding of arts practise.

It is sometimes easy to forget that all Artis specialists are artists in their own right, and are well connected to the arts world. Depending on the theme of the arts award, I often let the children interview me for this part of the arts award. For the Year 6 group at Bradley Green, I performed an extract from a dance show I was currently working on, and did a brief presentation about my ‘other’ job as a dance artist, showing the group pictures and videos of my work. I then let the children write me a letter, working in a group, with questions about my job. I wrote back to each group, which created a storm of questions, but it meant that the group began to understand the variety of employment there is within just one art form. For Year 2 I organised a Skype interview with Anna Meredith, and took Year 3’s question about working as an actor to the cast of Scuttlers at the Royal Exchange (I was in the play at the time). The cast filmed themselves answering the children’s questions and we watched the videos in my Artis session. As an artist, I am unafraid of other artists and I know where to find them! Your Artis specialist will be the same, so they can really bring this part of Arts Award Discover to life.

Part C: Share

For the final part of the award, participants share what they enjoyed and learnt through the arts award with others. It can be a one-to-one or group activity and can take any form – from explanation to performance.

At Bradley Green I chose to make short films of each groups arts award experience. The films were then shown all together in assembly at the end of the school year, as a mass celebration of what the school had achieved. At other schools, sharing has taken the form of an assembly, a display in the school hall, another class coming to their session a little earlier so that they can watch another classes short performance.

It is part of being an Artis specialist to provide sharing opportunities throughout the year for the children we work with, and we know that this can take a variety of formats that depend of the groups needs and abilities and the time we have in school.

Artis and Arts Award really do go hand in hand, but the creative work that goes on within school already can contribute greatly to the Arts Award. At Bradley Green, I had between 6 – 12 hours with each group and the Arts Award Discover takes a recommended 20 hours. This is why I like to theme my Arts Award projects in the same way that a specialist will theme their sessions to their groups topic.

A great example of how the Artis specialist and class teachers can work together was the Year 5 group at Bradley Green. Their theme was Anglo-Saxons. In class they made Anglo-Saxon jewellery and models of saxon dwellings. As the Arts Award advisor, I photographed the children’s work and this was used as evidence for Part A, taking part in a range of arts activities. It also meant that the award became an integrated part of school life, much in the same way your Artis specialist will become an integrated part of your school.

“I am immensely proud that all of our children from Year 1 to Year 6 have achieved their first National Art Award as a result of the work they have done with Olivia Peers from Artis. The Artis practitioner works with teachers to plan enrichment activities directly linked to the curriculum, taking children to another level of understanding and at the same time developing their personal/interpersonal skills. The activities are demanding but fun and children of all abilities absolutely love it.”

Jane Matthews, Head Teacher at Bradley Green Primary

 

Our post - it notes, and named moves...

Our post – it notes, and named moves…

Once a month I attend a day long dance workshop, run by an organisation called Yorkshire Movement and Dance. It is my monthly dose of dance medicine. Why? Because there is no pressure to be good, no need to nail the technique, no deadline, no publicity and no performance. It is simply a day when dancers come together and dance.

The group began in 1947! It is a voluntary organisation run by workshop participants. The aim of the group is to provide recreational dance for dance professionals and it does this beautifully, cultivating a welcoming workshop environment each month. The sessions are taught by tutors of the highest caliber from local companies with worldwide influence such as Phoenix and Instant Dissidence.

As a regular attendant I am challenged and pushed each month, but without competitive  pressure and it is wonderful. I leave each session feeling creatively replenished, which as someone who teaches regularly, is quite a privilege. You can understand my apprehension then at making the transition from a member to a tutor for the groups June session! In this instance I was indeed feeling the pressure. I didn’t want to let my class mates down!

I began the session with a really fun exercise, involving beanbags, where the group must work together rhythmically, to pass the beanbags in numerical pattern. My second exercise was much more light hearted and designed to get people awake and moving. We threw the beanbags in two patterns simultaneously, which ended in a lot of laughing and not a lot of pattern! From here I moved onto a more traditional technique class, which I enjoyed as a teacher. It’s not often I have such a responsive and supportive class.

Lunchtime was as social as ever, and then we swiftly moved on to the afternoon creative session. I had prepared a session that took the dancers through a process to create a short contemporary dance piece. As someone who attends as a participant, I have come to enjoy the sessions where we come together as a group to dance, rather than performing snippets in small groups. The process began by playing with string. The aim was to maintain a tension in the string with your partner whilst moving around the room. As a playful group of dancers, there was a lot of sabotage, but we really enjoyed the play! From there we thought about movements or moments that we enjoyed within the improvisation and drew them on post it notes, before naming each move. The ‘dead giraffe’ was a personal favourite. (see image)

The movements then formed the basis of duets. The duets, even though created from the same movements were surprisingly varied and at times really emotional to watch. It was such a privilege to choreograph on this group. The piece was brought together by looking at gesture. I took an idea I had been working on with another group, that had evolved out of Indian Hand Gestures, and we created our own gestural sequence, that could be performed whilst walking.

The final piece was a combination of the walking gestural sequences and the duets. By the end of the workshop, I had discovered the benefit of being the choreographer without pressure as well as the participant without pressure. I am really looking forward to our next weekend workshop, which will be run by Neil Fleming Brown over a full weekend in September.

For more information about Yorkshire Movement and Dance please go to www.ymdance.co.uk

Join us this weekend for a FREE dance workshop at Uppermill Civic Hall!
 
11am – 12 noon on Saturday 5th October

The workshop is being run as part of MAD Fest, which stands for the ‘Making and Doing’ Festival. The festival is part of a local distinctiveness project celebrating all the fantastic local artists who ‘make and do’ in rural locations across the South Pennines. For full details about the festival visit www.southpennines.co.uk 

The workshop will be taught in the usual Born and Bred style of fun, creativity and general madness, and will off course be themed! Our theme is ‘Dance the South Pennines’. Alongside our workshop for 7 – 11 year olds there will a ‘Meet the Maker’ event run by Saddleworth Creative Network, so why not drop the kids off with us whilst you go and sample Saddleworth’s finest artists and food producers – or pop to Java!

Places are limited so please book ahead.

See you Saturday!

Olivia