Thursday 15 December 2011, 12:37
Central Youth Theatre - one of the winners of our Community Dance scheme - have been encouraging its members to step out of their comfort zone. Having taken on a dance project for the very first time this year, the experience has been both challenging and rewarding.
Jessica Collings, Marketing Assistant, reveals how they made a project a success and the ways they got the whole community involved.
"Central Youth Theatre is a Wolverhampton based youth theatre which has been providing opportunities for young people for over 28 years. Up until this year however, those experiences have mostly involved drama with a little backstage. In 2011 we undertook a challenge: dance. Our goal was to engage a group of young people in dance with no previous experience or interest.
We were originally inspired to focus on dance by our involvement with Dancing for the Games, which is part of the Cultural Olympiad in the West Midlands. What followed was a year-long journey, during which both the youth theatre and its members learnt a whole lot about dancing.
On the 18th December, with the help of the BBC Performing Arts Fund, members of Central Youth Theatre will be staging an event called "Glamour and Romance & Swingtime Sweethearts". Taking place in Wolverhampton's Wulfrun Hall, the event will feature original performances based on local memories of dancing, an exhibition and a tea dance for the performers and audience alike.
As an almost exclusively drama based youth theatre, how did we succeed in getting over 100 young people interested in dancing?
In the end, we stuck to what we know best - the strength of drama comes with a good story, human interest, and something that inspires emotions. So we sent the young people off collecting memories from local people who danced in the 1930s up to the 1970s. We looked at social dancing where the idea is to enjoy yourself with friends, rather than concentrating on technical expertise or competition. The young people instantly found a connection with the dancehall stories - many of the popular venues no longer exist but we were able to build a vivid picture from pure description. The tales of getting ready, arriving at the dance, and catching the eye of the girl you fancy were both familiar and completely different to the experiences of our own young people.
By bringing these stories to life on stage, the youth theatre began to engage with the dances of the time from ballroom through to rock'n'roll and the lesser known Northern Soul. Before we knew it the whole group were taking dance lessons and embracing the challenge. It was especially pleasing to see those young people who were able to discover a real love of dance, often completely unexpected.
These shows, a mix of dance and drama, were first performed during the Everybody Dance Now festival in August 2011. It is an honour to be able to keep the dancing alive, especially in an event designed for those people whose stories inspired the whole project. The group are currently in rehearsals - polishing their lines and learning new dances - and in just a few days time they will be taking to the floor once more.
We were able to encourage our young members to try something new by working out what they were already interested in. Just as drama can be found in dance or music, so their rhythms and beats can be found in other art forms from painting to acting.
Our advice? Don't be afraid to try something new."
Central Youth Theatre will perform Glamour and Romance & Swingtime Sweethearts this Sunday 18th December at Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton.