Member Focus: Dance Futures Reflections

Member Focus - Dance Future Reflections Image
Dance Futures was a youth focussed conference created by Yorkshire Dance with support from Yorkshire’s Regional Dance Development Network. The day, hosted at Leeds City College, brought together youth groups, industry professionals and young people to explore new ideas, listen, learn and reflect on the future of youth dance.

By Josephine Sillars, Yorkshire Dance

Dance Futures was a youth focussed conference created by Yorkshire Dance with support from Yorkshire’s Regional Dance Development Network. The day, hosted at Leeds City College, brought together youth groups, industry professionals and young people to explore new ideas, listen, learn and reflect on the future of youth dance.

It was inspiring to hear directly from young people about their experiences and hopes for the future of dance, including a specially commissioned animation film by local artist Jem Clancy which captured the voices of young people through recorded interviews. Other highlights included the ‘Young People Taking the Lead’ session led by CAPA College students and performances by Leeds City College and Kick Off Boys.

“Amazing performance today by Kick Off Boys Dance Project […] highlighting dance with a social purpose […] an insightful presentation.”

“A fabulous inspiring morning so far, reminding us all why we do what we do, and why it’s important we keep doing it.”

Many young people shared reflections of the power of dance to connect them socially and emotionally. Dance continues to offer a voice for many young people who find expressing themselves in other ways really challenging. There were many examples of dance as a therapeutic experience, and an element of the conference that particularly resonated for many was the focus on wellbeing, inclusion and accessibility, in particular the ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing’ session and the ‘Moving Beyond Inclusive Practice’ sessions. Both of these highlighted areas in which organisations and freelancers alike could learn and incorporate ideas into their practice to make dance more accessible and viable for all. In particular, it was brilliant to hear from Ruben Reuter with TIN Arts whose presentation was inspiring, informative and important for breaking down barriers.

“Thank you Dance Futures, today has been a good day. I didn’t know that I needed it as much as I did… I’ve been inspired, informed & invigorated!”

Regardless of career progression in dance, the experience of taking part in a youth dance project, gives young people a sense of identity, self-worth and confidence – all of which are good life skills. Dance in school is in crisis with far less dance being offered in schools. This is NOT a reflection on uptake as when it is offered uptake is incredibly high. As stated in One Dance UK’s 2021 report, ‘Everything We Loved About Dance Was Taken: The place of dance in UK education’:

“[…] the pressures of the EBacc accountability measure and nationwide focus on subjects that are perceived to be ‘more academic’ and of ‘more value’ to students’ future careers that are causing this detrimental effect on dance in education. When children and young people are questioned about their participation and enjoyment of dance in out of-school settings, a very different picture emerges. In their 2020 ‘Girls Active’ report, Youth Sport Trust found that when asked what activity they most like to do, dance was voted third most popular by teenage girls. The annual Taking Part survey, which for 5 to 10-year-olds only collects data on activity that takes place outside of school, has reported a vast increase in the number of girls choosing to take part in dance, rising from 42% in 2011 to 53% in 2019.” (One Dance UK, ‘Everything We Loved About Dance Was Taken’ The place of dance in UK education, 2021: 15)

Dance Futures was an opportunity for young people, freelancers and organisations to be together in the same room, discussing and exploring the future of youth dance in a sustainable and captivating way. The event engaged with people of all ages and at all stages of their dance career with a real emphasis on human relationships and the pastoral support that young people have needed both during the pandemic and during the recovery. To summarise, below is a word cloud created out of audience feedback:

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End of Year Message

And suddenly it’s December! As we wind down towards the end of the year, it feels the right time to reflect on what has been achieved this year as a partnership! We have continued to strengthen work in our priority areas: Youth Voice, Skills and Progression, Advocacy and Comms, and Health and Wellbeing.

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