Interview about our Praxis

Posted by on Nov 22, 2012 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Interview about our Praxis

@sophie89tate, an undergraduate at Coventry University has some questions about our community practice when working with young people. She is writing a dissertation on the influences Community Dance can have on young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the benefits or results involved for them.


Your website comments that you aim to ‘bringing inspiration, challenge, confidence and a sense of achievement into [the] lives [of young people]’. 
Are you able to explain how intend to achieve each aspect of your aim, in particular how you inspire and build confidence in young people?


Ok there are a few questions here within the first question which are broadly about our approach to working with young people. My comments about how we bring inspiration, challenge, confidence and a sense of achievement to young people are actually a reflection of what actually happens in our projects and workshops. This statement is a distillation from our participants comments that have arisen from our project evaluations.  So through running a project with integrity, a clear objective (eg the exploration of the themes) I find that this is what takes place over the period of a project as we work towards creating a performance or learning a new skill. In many ways the primary aim for a project is the development of young peoples skills, creativity and abilities through dance and technology, and sharing this process through performance.



It is great that your projects seem to have such a positive impact on the lives of young people, so what is it that makes you want to primarily work with young people?

Personally, I find working with children a constant source of inspiration: They are intriguing, challenging, perplexing, funny, warm, genuine and innately creative. They are also the most honest audience to have, you know when it works – immediately. In the context of making work I share the views of other theatre companies and recently have been particularly inspired by Fevered Sleep’s Manifesto. I will get round to writing one for us soon, but here is theirs:


I can see why you find Fevered Sleep’s Manifesto inspiring, I was drawn towards their comment on how ‘Art for children has to give them something they can’t find anywhere else in their lives’. My interests have led me to thoughts surrounding how this relates to working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds – do you work on many projects with young people from this area of society?


Yes. All the beneficiaries in our projects in some way or another ‘disadvantaged’ as you put it. Primarily the social inclusion aim of our projects and those charities/organisations who fund the projects means that we are always working in an area of need.

I would like you to unpick ‘this area of society’ some more, along with ‘disadvantaged backgrounds’. They are quite a general terms and actually means different things in different contexts, in the same way ‘special needs’ as a group refers to a wide range of individuals experiences and ‘needs’ relating to an individuals physical or learning difficulties.

When it comes to working with a specific group of people these labels do not have relevance to me. It is about these individuals and what they bring to the sessions. An answer to a question you haven’t quite asked, in the context of the manifesto quote is this: In the groups I am working with I/we not only ‘give them something they can’t find anywhere else in their lives’  – but with them ‘being at risk of social exclusion’ (to use another term) are unlikely to have/discover the opportunity anywhere else in their lives.

n.b. I use I/we as this relates both to a Mercurial Arts perspective and to my perspective as a practicing artist.


So, how much of the final outcome of your projects, are informed by the ideas and creativity of the young people involved?


That depends completely on the project and its structure,  pick a project and I’ll give an example.


@MercurialD Okay, well I am most interested in The Bubble Chamber and Hinterland projects. So how about those?


Hinterland is entirely artist led as it is a performance, however there will be a workshop programme to accompany the tour.

The Bubble Chamber I will pick one sub-project – our work with Sidney Stringer Academy. The aim was to create a live space where music dance and projections were created and presented by the young people. We worked with 20 dancers and 20 media students. The framework was set up for the project and performance, in part by the space we were working in – in that it is a standing only venue with the audience in close proximity and by my choice of a ‘durational’ style to the evening, with a flexible format.  The young people, led by myself and the team the media students created the music loops, the VJ loops working with ableton as a presentation format. For dancers group the choreography included taught material, improvised sections on clear scores, and sections the young people had created themselves through a task based processes. On the evening we structured the performance as we went. The young people re-ordering sections which they choose, pairing up music/visual/dancers in different orders together for a performance score. So as you can see, a lot of ownership is given to the group to make decisions.

Through this structure I could see how each performance evolved, allowed the audience to come and go through the evening and watch the young people gradually take more risks with their performance structures and how they linked sections together.

you can watch it here


I’ve never thought about the benefits of a durational performance, being able to notice the development of the performance through the risk taking and the confidence growth of young people must have been a fulfilling experience. Do you think it is important for the young people to be creative and follow through with their ideas and why?


It is essential for young people to be creative and follow through with their ideas. I believe this is how we all learn. Also it offers an important way to build in ownership within a process. When I work with groups I want to take them on a journey, enable them to take risks and do new things and for this they need to be directly involved in a piece’s creation.