I was awarded a Lisa Ullmann scholarship in 2010 to work in South Africa alongside fellow dance artist Helen Linsell with Dance For All, a not for profit organisation in Cape Town that offers high quality training to participants living in several of the surrounding townships, often living in extremely challenging and unstable socio-economic environments.
The experience was one that has touched my career for years since and taught me many things including the capacity positive facilitation has in creating community, the value of creativity in supporting agency and the finely tuned balancing act that delivering successful dance projects requires when artistic quality and participant experience remain equally and fundamentally important.
I returned from South Africa to a role lecturing on the BA (Hons) Dance Performance & Teaching degree at the University of Central Lancashire – UCLan. In 2013 I became the course leader while continuing to develop my practice working with those considered marginalised and became the movement director of a creative writing and performance project called Reading The World, working in partnership with UCLan’s School of Social Work, with adults in recovery. I often feel connected to the work I did with Dance For All during this project, not because of the context but because of the single simple thread that runs through both; the power of valuing a contribution no matter how small, no matter how seemingly insignificant.
The heart of our work with UCLanDance remains very rooted in our passion to value creativity, to ensure our students are equipped with the skills to positively facilitate underpinned by an approach that prioritises community over competition and the autonomy to build one’s own career. My career continues to passionately develop socially inclusive movement projects with participants and I work closely with a Laban-Bartenieff approach to support this work.
I am so thankful for the opportunity this scholarship provided to gain a global perspective on an uncompromising part of my practice – the participant experience is key.