Rebecca Ashton

Enhance – The Story So Far

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For those of you who are new to the TRS blog, welcome. To those who visit regularly,  I’m so excited to have this new strand for you!!

We have officially announced our brand new and exciting project, Enhance, although it’s been in the planning stages for over a year now. The team and I will be writing blogs throughout the project and I thought I’d start with an intro about what we’ve been doing so far. It’s been a journey with many twists and surprising turns that have lead us to something that Alice and I never expected when she first said to me, “I’ll do some Active Armchairs research.”

The very first step on this journey was to speak to the TRS Teachers. Alice and I chose the All Hands Meeting for this and we all mind mapped, drew, talked and got enthusiastic. The most important thing to come from this was that the participants should always be considered first because their well being is at the centre of everything we do. We talked about what is important to participants of Active Armchairs and ways in which we could carry out tests that would be most appropriate to them.

As I had a lot of experience with dance and project management, but little with research, I felt it would be a good idea to speak to some experts. I also went along to some events to find out more. Places and people who have influenced the project along the way include Medway Healthy Weight Summit 2018, Scott Elliot (Head of Medway Health and Wellbeing Services), Patricia Vella-Burrows (Pricipal Research Fellow, Sidney De Hann Research Centre), various staff members at University of Kent, Medway Dance Network and Medway and Kent Dance, Arts, Culture Health and Wellbeing Symposium. Without all of this input the project wouldn’t be what it is today.
 
Alongside this, Alice and I set about working out exactly what we wanted to ask. We settled upon the following questions.
 

I also decided to make the study as ‘robust’ as possible. I’ve become very used to the word, robust, as researchers use it a lot when they’re doing high quality research! It is important. The NESTA standards of evidence were recommended to me and I thought this was a great way to ensure people could trust the outcomes of the project. I’m hoping we will reach the very highest standard.

It also became apparent that there is a surprising amount of dance research out there, but it isn’t easy to find. I want the outcomes of the project to be easily found, understood and utilised, and I have some ideas in mind. As well as the report being available to all, we are also going to have a training day for Active Armchairs facilitators. This will be an unusual opportunity for everyone to get together, discuss, develop ideas and share practice. Alice and I will also be sharing how the results will influence Active Armchairs.

Somewhere in amongst all of this I met with Ian Farr, PhD Student at University of Kent. His work allies beautifully with our research aims and this was when the project began to swell and strengthen. Ian has an academic interest in the health and well being of older adults and how psychosocial factors may influence physical performance. His research will be completely independent of anything The Right Step do to ensure objectivity and to avoid bias. Simply put, we run classes and he does research about it. I won’t be there when he carries out any aspect of the study and he won’t be attending any classes.
 
After this we needed to find suitable care homes. They had to meet a few different criteria, but long story short, the chosen 5, who are kindly giving time and energy to make this happen are Ashley Gardens, Barton Court, Little Court, Warwick House and Woodstock. I’m sure their staff and residents will love the 20 Active Armchairs sessions we have planned for them!

We also have 3 facilitators, Steph, Becca G and I will be visiting on a weekly basis, except on testing weeks, and we can’t wait to get started. We’ll be planning sessions together and adapting them to the group each week.

We have a detailed plan,  we have the right people and we have the places. Next we will start the project. Research has just begun and sessions begin soon. We’ll keep you up dated, but do let us know what aspects of the project you want to hear about.

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Ofsted Influences

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The new Ofsted inspection framework draft was published in January 2019 and is currently in review. I might be getting ahead, but it’s important that we begin to think about how dance in schools can be influenced by it and how our extra curricular, cross-curricular and dance for physical activity classes will support schools on providing excellent dance provision. Although dance is a small part of the many things schools do, we want what we do to make a difference, not just to participants, but to the school as a whole. We are already doing great things within schools in Kent, this is just another way to improve what we do. 

You can find the inspection framework here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/education-inspection-framework-draft-for-consultation

Currently inspections do not focus heavily on sport in general, especially in short inspections, but they do look at cultural development and dance could be an indicator of positive participation in cultural activity. Schools can try international dance styles relating to the diverse backgrounds of pupils within the school (read this blog post about when we went to Greenvale Infants and danced familiar dances for pupils such as traditional Polish and Slavic dances), dance that celebrates National Days such as May Day (May Pole Dance or Morris Dance) or historical dance styles taught within our Educating Dance classes (Tudor Dance for example).

Extra curricular provision is something already considered by inspectors, (normally in relation to Pupil Premium and Sport Premium budgets) and this is something we can easily add to the school day. Dance clubs can be varied and tailored to the specific needs of the school. For example, if girls are not responding to PE within school time or if they have lower attendance of clubs, a confidence building dance club is perfect. Alternatively, if the school wants to encourage creativity, a Creative Dance Club (EYFS – KS2) or Choreography Club (KS3 – 4) would support this aim.

In terms of evidencing value for money, two of our company aims are

  • To provide quality, well organised, accessible dance opportunities for all.
  • To provide paid and voluntary work for dance professionals and to increase the recognition of dance teaching in the community as a career

Our pricing policy reflects this so schools know they can get high quality dance clubs at reasonable prices. We even have deals for long term bookings and MATs who book for multiple schools. Schools are able to make a profit from our classes easily, if they choose to, and this can be put towards other things. For more information about using PE and Sport Premium Funding for dance please read One Dance UK’s funding document, https://www.onedanceuk.org/programme/children-young-people/dance-in-schools/ and, if you would like to know how we can help specifically to make clubs successful, please see our blog post.

In her speech at Youth Sport Trust 2019 Conference, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Speilman, admits that currently inspections are heavily tilted towards data and says that the new framework will look at what matters to children, “What are they being taught and how? How are they being set up to succeed in the next stage of their lives?” Read the transcript here, https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/amanda-spielman-at-the-youth-sport-trust-2019-conference

At TRS, the content of our classes, what children are being taught, has always been extremely important. We plan with the individual participants in mind, use school themes and topics and make sure participants learn best practice and teach safe dance technique that is appropriate to the type of class. Our dance teachers are not observed during Ofsted inspections as they aren’t faculty members, but that doesn’t stop the odd inspector enjoying a moment watching a happy dance class and it doesn’t mean the TRS Teachers aren’t working to high standards all the time. It does mean that our teachers are not teaching for tests and have to freedom to educate the whole child, preparing them for further dance education or life in general. There are a lot of blogs out there about how dance makes great people!

We must also look at how school teachers can provide great dance lessons during school time. Although we provide Educating Dance classes for schools, it is sometimes more appropriate for a school to provide training for their staff so they can deliver appropriate and effective dance classes themselves. In our training, Dance: A Cross-curricular Approach and Dance in the EYFS, we provide school staff with the tools and confidence to do this. Our cross-curricular flow chart gives them the framework they need to design and deliver high quality dance lessons. Dance can be a fantastic tool for improving how the curriculum is taught and is excellent for a thematic, creative approach.

In terms of monitoring, evaluation and impact,  the Educating Dance teachers are always happy to provide feedback and we can support the school on this. We also ask class participants for feedback at least once a year. Our CPD for school staff can also have an additional mentoring side to support staff and the SLT with evaluating progress. All of the TRS Teachers are up to date with the relevant legislation and this makes it easy for schools to ensure they have up to date records as well.

To find out more about the new framework and the EYFS in general, see Nursery World’s review of the plans.

https://www.nurseryworld.co.uk/nursery-world/news/1166634/education-inspection-framework-2019-key-changes-for-early-years

It is no secret that dance classes can provide for broad and rich learning. A varied approach to dance including physical activity, learning and development is key to a quality dance lesson. There are plenty of ideas within our blog, but we are just a phone call or email away if anyone would like advice about dance in schools. I have a passion for excellent dance education for all and, as Director of The Right Step, I’m able to pass this passion and my experience onto the TRS Teachers. We are here to help the schools (inc. EYFS settings), and other organisations, we work with meet the aims set by governing bodies such as Ofsted as well as aims set within schools themselves.

Arts 4 Dementia Conference

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Yesterday I attended the Arts 4 Dementia Best Practice Conference, “Towards Social Prescribing (Arts & Heritage) for the dementias”. It was jam pack day that left me thinking. There were also a huge amount of important thoughts and ideas shared by speakers so I thought I would share some aspects of the experience. 

We were welcomed by Veronica Franklin Gould who was the driving force behind the day and who is clearly extremely well-respected by her colleagues, I can see why. Immediately she left us with actions to complete… Providers of relevant activities should sign up to the Arts 4 Dementia website and notify the local NHS social prescribers. A clear message… share information and start a conversation. 

We not only heard from professionals working in the field, but also from Christine Maddocks about her experience living with vascular dementia. In Alexandra Coulter’s words she was “the voice of the individual in the system”. She inspired everyone and was an instant reminder to all of why we were there. 

One of the most relevant sections of the day for me was when two outstanding academics, Dr Daisy Fancourt and Professor Sebastian Crutch spoke. Relevant because we are about to run our own research into Active Armchairs, but also because the studies that have already been carried out can influence our provision and teaching.

Daisy talked about how the arts are multi modal (they have lots of components at play) so there are a wide variety of outcomes. She said “The more people engaged with these [arts] activities, the better their memory was years on.” A fact that can boost all providers of arts activities to anyone, if they are living with dementia or not. As dance artists and arts providers, we can also take other things from her speech. For example, we should try to include lots of different elements and approaches such as song, dance, conversation. Theses are already all important elements of Active Armchairs, but perhaps we can develop this further.

Having taken part in the Created Out of Mind training and I’ve also read about his research, I was keen to hear what Professor Sebastian Crutch had to say. He encouraged us to bring in people with a lived experience and find what works for them. The slide in the photo shows how different people are affected in different ways with different dementias. In summary, everyone is different and so the effect of the dementia is different too. 

He said “What people really need is continuity of support” and I would whole heartedly agree with this. I’ve seen the disappointment when a fantastic arts intervention has to end due to funding. It will be a difficult hurdle to jump. One that those spearheading social prescription seem to think will be solved by volunteers, but that’s another story. 

Sebastian also talked about the importance of support and community. Care is varied across the country, but he encourages people to learn about online support such as Facebook groups and said “Nothing local is not the same as nothing available.”

The comment that resonated with me most was when he said “The fact that it’s in the moment, or short-term, doesn’t make it irrelevant.” He was referring to the various graphs showing short-term and long-term improvements, some of which are only present during a session. I have always considered that, when working with anyone, the moment is just as important as the outcome. In fact, in dance, working to an outcome such as a performance can be stressful. A participatory project often has more benefits to health and well-being and the journey is key. 

After refreshments, we heard from Dr Michael Dixon, OBE GP. He speaks very highly of social prescription and is extremely positive about the initiative. He was inspiring. He said we’re “caught in the scissors of doom” (increasing costs and a reduction in funding), sees social prescription as a way out and believes that prevention is critical to the survival of our health services. I believe that it’s not only that we should think of; If we can prevent illness, we also prevent pain and suffering. 

The thinking is changing, why wait.
Dr Michael Dixon, OBE GP

The keynote speech was given by Baroness Greengross, a lady whose prestigious achievements, when listed, take up a lot of space. She clearly has a passion and knowledge for the subject and believes “The key is timing. We must guide people to the arts at the earliest stages.”

 

 


In plenary debate, chaired by Dr Marie Polley, we heard from six people (see list in photo) for five minutes each. Various points of views were heard and it was concluded that there was more conversation to be had and that a group for Arts and Dementia must be created as part of the network. I would go further in suggesting that, a group representing the artists should be created too. Social prescription will not work without them. 

“Where people’s’ souls are nurtured as well as their bodies.”
Professor Martin Green OBE FIAM FInstLM, FRSA, FIPSM, Cheif Executive Care England

“It really should be about conversation”
Georgia Chimbani, Dementia Lead, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services

“Biggest thing to happen in the arts for some time.”
Dr Richard Ings, Arts in Health, Wellbeing and Criminal Justice lead, Arts Council England.

Ian McCreath summed up in a way that I recognise as the approach used by many arts organisations and individuals to deliver their services, “Universal, but recognising that some people require additional support.” I agree, sessions only for those living with dementia and their carers have a place, but I believe in an inclusive approach whenever possible and appropriate. 

The afternoon was split into two sections of relevant examples. The first was entitled Arts for People Affected by Early-Stage Dementia, chaired by Dr Patricia Vella-Burrows who I’ve been lucky enough to hear speak and learn from a several times now. Examples from poetry and music were, of course of interest, especially Gemma Dixon’s story of Bob who played the organ before class. “His confidence was boosted, he had ability to speak in full sentences where he couldn’t before”.

 

 

The section about dance was most relevant though and it was a delight to hear from Dr Sophia Hulbert and neurophysiotherapist who has a love of dance. It was boosting for me that many of the things Sophia attributed to the success of her sessions (including items in the photo of ‘Conceptual Underpinning) are also found within Active Armchairs.

 

Sophia also did a quick demonstration. This was a fantastic way to get everyone reawakened after lunch and demonstrated how “Imagery can really empower movement”. In this case the imagery was also uplifting as it was about flying in a hot air balloon. I always enjoy seeing a conference of people who usually sit at a desk dancing! 

 

 

The second section in the afternoon gave everyone a better understanding about how Social Prescription can, and does, work. Nicky Taylor talked about how working in partnership has more impact, Dr Richard Hooker encouraged us to always remember the carers, Wendy Gallagher told us about the Handbook for engagement with people living with dementia and Bogdan Chiva Giurca, an extremely inspiring young man said that “One step is to bridge the inter generational gap”. Kathryn Gilfoy, Director at Resonate Arts, had many examples of different activities to share and I enjoyed her slide about the benefits of arts and person centred care.

Following this Professor Helen Chatterjee MBE discussed social isolation and how museums can help combat it. Her points about the research already carried out motivate artists to provide deep level cognitive stimulation to ensure that activities are truly engaging. I also picked up some more thoughts for the up coming Active Armchairs research project. 

Nigel Franklin, Chief Executive, Arts 4 Dementia, closed the day. In just a few minutes he left us with actions and inspirations.

“There are more people living with dementia now that ever have before.”
Nigel Franklin, Chief Executive, Arts 4 Dementia

It was one of those days that leaves your brain fuzzed with thoughts and ideas. I will act on them.

In terms of practical application, I believe there are some gaps that still need exploring, transport and fair payment for artists for example, but as an overall ideal for shifting prescription to preventative measures, I’m completely on board. Not just for people living with dementia though, if done well, Social Prescription could help everyone with their health and well-being and provide a cultural shift. We will see.

I do hope The Right Step will be found delivering prescribed dance activity, especially as what we currently offer is already of high quality and always developing to suit the needs of participants, but we will have to see how the commissioning side evolves and how we are able to be included.

I will conclude with an open invitation for anyone working in social prescribing to contact me. We must open conversation about how we can bring dance with a health and well-being agenda to the masses.

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Book Week 2019

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It’ taken a while to get this published because we’ve been collating lots of bits from some of the different TRS Teachers involved. Georgie has very kindly put everything together and here’s what she’s said…

We had some lovely Educating Dance Book Week sessions this year at TRS, they even went over 2 weeks! We went to Balfour Infants School in Rochester and St Michael’s Primary School in Chatham and St Mary’s Primary School in Gillingham. TRS teachers Katie, Steph and I have told us about their time spent at these schools.

St Michael’s Primary

Georgie: I love it when book week comes around each year. It’s always exciting to hear what stories you’ll be telling through dance with the participants. So, when I found out that St Michael’s wanted do Myths and Legends, I was very excited!  I decided to focus on Greek myths and legends, their hero’s, Gods and Goddesses. Especially Hercules! We went around the room and explored 4 different characters, Zeus, Hera, Poseidon and Hercules. Coming up with different movements like showing off our muscles, throwing lightning bolts and going swimming in the sea, for each one. I then taught a short routine where we told a simple story of Hercules through dance which the children picked up really well and really got into character! The last part of the lessons involved the students creating their own myth as a class for us to tell through dance. They chose a main character, a side kick and a villain. We used the likes of Medusa and Cerberus for these, which the children found highly amusing from the pictures I showed. We then put all the movement together to create a whole dance. The children were brilliant, so enthusiastic and it was great to be involved with these classes.

 

Balfour Infants School

Katie: Handa’s Surprise takes you on a delicious and mischievous journey to Kenya, full of colourful fruit and naughty animals! We had fun pretending to be each animal, and the children remembered all of the animals from the book and had some brilliant movements. It was like we were on a real safari! The children enjoyed pretending to be specific animals when they went on a parade wearing different animal masks. With a beanbag on their heads, the children walked to their friends without dropping the beanbag, as they imagined how Handa would carry her basket full of fruit to her friend in Kenya. We learnt some tribal dancing and then made up our own dance to tell the story of all the animals taking the fruit from Handa’s basket. We enjoyed imagining that we had stolen our own favourite fruit at the end! Year R had more energy than all of the animals in the animal kingdom and were an absolute joy to work with!

 

Becca: I took some photos of my classes with Year 1 and 2.

 

St Mary’s Primary

Georgie: I’ve been to St Mary’s Primary a few times now and I couldn’t wait to return this year. It was especially nice as there were 3 TRS teachers going, Steph, Becca and I. Which meant we really got to work together to come up with ideas for the children across years R-6. The theme we were given was space, which is a theme I’ve done before and thoroughly enjoyed so I was looking forward to teaching this subject again.  I taught year 2 first, we used different shapes to for our warm up, big planets, small planets, rockets, shooting starts all while exploring and walking through space. We then created a giant rocket shape using everyone in the class! The children then chose an alien to recreate in their groups, firstly by looking at what they looked like and then copy to create their starting pose. After that they looked at ways their alien could move to create a short phrase with their groups. The children were extremely imaginative with this and really enjoyed it! We then cooled down by travelling back down to earth. The second group I taught was year 5 and we started off with an astronaut narrative, we put on our space suits, went up in the rocket and flew around space before landing. I then gave half the group a paper plate with the planet written on it. They then had to quickly get themselves into the right order from the sun, and start circling around to make the solar system. Once they had started the other half then traveled through space exploring the planets. They then switched over so they could experience both sides. We then looked at constellations and stars. I gave the groups some time to recreate some well known ones, then set them on the task of creating some of their own. They used letters, levels, different body parts, all sorts of ideas to create some really unique looking constellations as a class. Finally we cooled down by using some of the shapes and ideas from both the solar system and the constellations. 5 leaders chose their favourite shape to do in super slow motion. It was a lovely session and the children were so enthusiastic which was great!

 

Steph: I went along to St Mary’s Primary for Book Week 2019. This years theme was Space. In year 1’s classes we took our first steps in space, using the fact that there is no gravity in space so we took very slow large steps around the room. We then discovered Alien’s. Like the very hungry caterpillar the alien’s loved to eat everything in sight too!

In year 4 we stretched into out astronaut suits and checked that they were safe for space and how we would move in the space suits. We looked out of our rocket windows to see what we could find in space, planets, aliens, the moon! We landed on the moon to explore moon dust about how it feels and how we could make the moon dust dance in our hands. We then spotted the different planets and made the shapes of the planets. We orbited around the sun by rolling, turning and spinning! Year 4 then created their own planets in groups deciding whether they were slow or fast planets. From there we also looked at star constellations and recreated a few, and then made our own! The participants used their bodies to connect their stars and they also came up with a name for each one.

For year 5 I made an envelope for each planet and each one contained short facts about the planet. Year 5 then got into groups and using the facts the explored the planets through movement. We discovered that every planet is unique and that meant that each of the dances were just as unique too!

It was a fantastic few days, both myself and the participants thoroughly enjoyed it!

 

 

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Happy Birthday to Us!

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Yes, TRS is 9 years old today. I’m immensely proud of how far we’ve come and I’m extremely thankful to all of the amazing people who’ve helped me and the team along the way.
 
When I first had the business idea, there was even a name so my husband, Lawrence, thought of one. I sought business advice from The Princes Trust and they sent me my amazing mentor, Ian Goodwin. We needed teachers and along came Sophie, then Alix, then many other wonderful TRS Teachers. I need office help and Georgia was the one to help me let other people in. There were too many classes to manually look after so Kenny, Gavin and the team at Snapwire saved the day by designing our managment portal. When the ideas kept coming and there were gaps that needed to be filled with dance, James from Tremendous Design Agency helped to brand it all.
 
There have been dance collaborations, partnerships and funds galore. We love to work with Luci and Medway Council on things like Big Dance and other annual dance events. We’ve partnered with Sun Pier House for festivals and our had our fantastic office there. Funds for projects like Changes in the Current and The Sirens of Cetham seem like long ago, but they were so important to us and we still think about them. Funds from Age Concern lead to Active Armchairs training. The collaborations that come from Medway Dance Network are just as important and I’ve enjoyed hearing about everything that happens in Medway.
 
We headed out into Kent and worked with more schools and care homes. We appeared on the BBC (more than once!). When Georgie’s franchise launched last year I was made to think again of how far this has come… my tiny desk and one binder to multiple dance companies under the TRS brand.
 
I’m so grateful for all of this and promise to work hard to continue to bring dance to Kent and, who knows, further afield!
 
Thank you everyone for all that you do for TRS and long may it continue.
 
Rebecca x

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TRS Tots

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Last week we launched TRS Tots. We’ve been providing classes in the EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) for years, but now these sessions have an official logo and marketing material thanks to Tremendous Design Agency. We’re looking forward to holding more classes in nurseries, pre-schools, children’s centres and other places were babies, toddlers and young children gather. They’ll be sessions for parents / guardians to dance with their children and for the children to move without them from 2. 
 

Anyway, to celebrate,  I thought we would share some of our favourite things to do so here are some ideas from the TRS Teachers.

What’s in the bag prop task, getting them to guess what it is always fun.
Georgia
I second this! A bag full of egg shakers makes wonderful sounds when you wiggle it, creates conversation and excitement as they put a hand in to feel what could be in the bag and then produces big smiles as they pull out a brightly coloured prop that doubles up as an instrument! Magic!
Steph
 
I love to pick out a prop (whatever it maybe, scarf, balls etc) and watch them explore the different movements they can make using it.
Georgie
I like to use bubbles at the end of class. I ask them to dodge them and make funny shapes with there bodies or pop them. They always look forward to it.
Hayley
I love an improv story. It’s great to see the unexpected things that the dancers come up with. Even if I have some ideas, give them something I think is difficult or give them a really specific task, they’re always surprising me! Plus, there are so many things you can do with an improv story! I wrote a whole blog about it here… http://www.therightstepdc.co.uk/2018/11/21/improvisation/
Rebecca
 
Props props props… I love a prop and so do they. I also have a theme for each class… going to the park, winter weather (in winter), dancing in the rain, and then each theme leads to the movements we do such as splashing in puddles, lifting our knees high when walking thru snow, swishing the fallen leaves with our feet etc.
Clare
 
I’d say things that make noise or that are very tactile.
Georgia about classes for babies
 
I love to watch their eyes follow the noisy objects. Parents like to see how they react to different tactile objects too.
Rebecca
 
I used to use light up balls when I taught ball skills – turned the lights in the room off and then they just bounced the balls around
Katie
 

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Inspiration April

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This months our social media focus is Inspiration. We’re going along the lines of April, new and inspiring things! With this in mind, we thought we’d share what inspiration we use to plan some of our dance classes and Georgie has written a blog about it. It’s just a little introduction to the many things the TRS Teachers get up to, but it might be helpful when planning a dance lesson. Enjoy!

Written by Georgie, Manager of TRS South Kent

There are so many things you can use for your inspiration for dance classes, from the style of dance to the class topic of the term. Here at TRS we follow guidelines to help us both in our Educating Dance classes as well as our usual dance clubs.

 

You can start with the learning styles to develop your inspiration for your class. These include auditory, visual, kinesthetic (practical/learn by doing) and read write. This will help the dance teacher appeal to all pupils and their various learning styles. We also explore social inspiration and tactile inspiration alongside this. 

Visual is a popular one to use in our classes by our TRS facilitators. Using images throughout the lessons allows those who are visual learners to really grasp the idea. You can use images such as the stages of growth for a plant, the water cycle as well as lots more. Also using videos from online can be very useful and participants respond well to them.

 

For auditory inspiration you can use music, perhaps a particular song that you like or think that the participants will respond well too. Sounds like rain forest, the sea etc. would also work or you can even use some of the participants to create the sounds for the dance, using instruments, instruments they’ve made themselves or body parts like in Gumboot Dancing (photo on the right).

Tactile can be very exciting to use as inspiration, especially for younger ones. You can use different materials and express how they feel through movement, furry, shiny, slimy, rugged, squishy and so on. You can also bring in objects for the participants to explore and study like historical artefacts. Props are also used in many TRS classes and can come in all shapes and sizes, whether you buy pompoms or make your own jingle sticks, these are a great to get everyone involved. A TRS favourite is our tactile scarf. It is made from lots of different materials all tied together to make one giant scarf.

There are also a lot of practical ways to find inspiration for your dance class. These are experienced things so they are often things that are experienced elsewhere and brought into class in other ways such as current events. Fireworks (the bonfire flames in the photo on the left) is a fun theme. You may want to use certain holidays like Easter or even what’s happening around us now. For example, when The Greatest Showman came out everyone was so inspired and excited to use the ideas and music.

Styles of dance can be used as inspiration, you maybe looking at a world theme and you could explore different types of dance from around the world such as Latin, line dancing or Bollywood. Practical inspiration can be as closed or open as you want it to be when using it in your lessons or for your inspiration and it can be shown through other sorts of inspiration that is auditory, visual or tactile. 

Book Week is a great opportunity for us to use read/write inspiration. Books are always a useful tool.

Other ways to find inspiration can include things like focusing on a particular area you want to develop with your participants, for example motor skills, balance or extension. 

So as you can see there are so many ways to find inspiration for your dance class. You can also use a combination of these ideas, especially the learning styles as that way you can ensure that all your participants are gaining from the lesson. TRS teachers will always use a combination in their lessons. Start off with a focus and then you can extend and explore further.

We also love hearing your ideas at TRS, they inspire and challenge us as teachers and that always makes our classes interesting and enjoyable.

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Is My Dance Teacher Qualified?

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How do you know if a dance teacher is qualified and experienced enough to teach what you’ve asked them for? Unfortunately,  the answer is complicated. There are many routes into dance teaching, just as there are many dance styles. In this blog post I will help you decide whether your dance teacher, or prospective dance teacher is suitable. This will also help trainee teachers work out what route they want to take for their career.
 
A combination off all of the following will make for a well-rounded dance teacher. A qualification alone doesn’t necessarily mean a good teacher and, as with all teaching, personality and passion are also a big factors!
 

Qualifications

In most professions these are the key to discovering someone’s suitability. In dance they go a long way to doing so, but you need to points 2 to 4 in mind as well.
 
If you want a class to lead to dance exams  you will need someone who has qualified with the relevant governing body. For community dance and creative dance you are much better off with someone who has a dance degree or, better yet, a DTALL. For dance with specialist groups such as older adults or people with disabilities a dance teacher should have further training in addition to their degree. This is normally part of their Continued Professional Development (CPD), but it could have been a specific part of their degree or as a qualification such as Green Candle Dance Company’s Diploma. For cross-curricular dance look for a degree as well as experience or training related to the curriculum because this is a very creative discipline that involves thinking outside the box as well as dance talent.
 
Examples of qualifications held by TRS Teachers are – BA (Hons) Degrees and Masters Degrees in dance, various dance teaching qualifications from ISTD, RAD etc.
 

Experience

Once a dance artist gains their initial qualification, they will need to start to gain experience.
 
This could be from a structured course such as Loop Dance Company’s DASP (Dance Artist Support Programme) or by going to another teachers’ lessons for observations and team teaching. At The Right Step we have teachers who have taken both routes. Neither is better than the other because both are so varied and everybody learns differently. Many teachers do a combination of both. It is at this stage that the dance artists discover their passions and focus their teaching. The more classes a teacher experiences, the better.
 
Excellent dance teachers will always be learning from and inspired by their peers and we have a mentoring programme to help teachers progress.
 

Legislation

Unfortunately there are surprisingly few things that a dance teacher must legally have and, unless they belong to a governing body or are teaching for a larger company such as TRS, there is probably no one to check up on them. That doesn’t mean dance teachers working alone don’t have what’s needed though. It just means the place they’re working in needs to check for it. If the class is outside of an organisation such as a school or care home, parents and participants should ask the dance teacher for the relevant things.
 
Every dance teacher must have a DBS check to work with children, even whilst gaining experience and not yet teaching themselves. Public Liability Insurance is just as important. If the dance teacher is working for you via a larger company, that company must hold sufficient Employer’s Liability Insurance. It is not sufficient for only one of these insurances to be in place.
 
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is relatively new, but all dance teachers must be compliant. In addition to the TRS compliance documents, the TRS Teachers also have their own. 
 
Though there aren’t many legal requirements, there are lots of things that are good practice, and looking for these things is more likely to lead you to someone meeting higher teaching standards within class as well.
 
A good dance teacher will have First Aid training and Child Safeguarding Training. Safeguarding of Vulnerable Adults (SOVA) training is also available. These training sessions are good for the safety of their participants and the teachers themselves. They also provide teachers with the knowledge of procedures they should have in place.
 
An excellent dance teacher might also be a member of a governing body such as People Dancing and will have Policy and Procedure documents (inc. Risk assessments). Many of the TRS Teachers are members of organisations. The TRS Teachers don’t need their own policy and procedure documents for the work they do for The Right Step because they use ours.
 

Continued Professional Development (CPD)

Dance Teachers should always be learning and experiencing new things. The dance world is every changing and to be an excellent teacher they must stay current and inspired. To do this an excellent dance teacher will go to workshops, take short courses and do dance class for themselves. This is all at a cost to them and is one of the things that means an excellent dance teacher should be paid more.
 
The list of CPD is endless and ever-changing so it is difficult to know what is good to see on a CV. You can ask for certificates, check the course background (such as course provider and whether it is accredited) and ask the dance teacher what they learnt from it.
 
CPD helps dance teachers specialise. A dance teacher is best if they are able to teach where their passion lies.
 
CPD is essential in the dance world for learning more about specialist subjects such dance with specific mental health conditions, dance with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s or dance in education such as cross-curricular dance. This is because their aren’t enough specialist accredited courses and, if there are, they are often very costly. A dance teacher has to balance their earning and their learning. If they are not paid enough, they are unable to continue to learn.
 
CPD doesn’t always have to be dance specific, it can inform practice, such as Chair Based Exercise Training or the Exercise to Music course. The Active Armchairs facilitators are Dementia Friends and this helps them support the people they work with in the right way. 
 
 
 
At The Right Step we strive for high quality dance for everyone. This means we keep our prices reasonable, paying the dance teachers fairly, and we support them in their careers. We work with trainee dance teachers at Level One right through to highly experienced practitioners at Level Three. We have progression routes for their careers and support them with our mentorship programme, annual reviews and celebrations of success. We are always welcoming new members to the team and if someone would like to get in touch they can find their local branch by clicking HERE
 

Moon Zoom!

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In celebration of Science Week (this week) and Book Week (last week) I’m going to share the ideas behind one of my schemes of work, Moon Zoom! Something helpful and useful for school teachers and dance teachers looking to plan a cross-curricular dance class.

Moon Zoom was designed for Year 1 at Miers Court Primary School. They had been reading ‘Man on the Moon’ by Simon Bartram so this was the inspiration for the dance class. I added jumping as a dance focus and we talked about stamina and various health benefits throughout the term as well. You can read the original blog post here: http://www.therightstepdc.co.uk/2016/12/15/moon-zoom/ 

When planning a cross-curricular dance class, we (the Educating Dance teachers) use a process that’s very similar to that of a school teacher. We do start with a topic brainstorm and some research though. The schools give us such a varied selection of sometimes challenging subjects that we need to make sure we’re on the right track! 

My learning aims and objectives were broken down and differentiated before I continued my plan. It was important to me that I taught the class some facts about travelling to the moon, but I didn’t want to destroy the magic of the story either! I also wanted pupils to learn about choreography, experiment with how their body moves (the different ways to jump!) and to use their imagination. Other outcomes included a class dance that would be performed to friends and family at the end of term. 

Once I had the learning aims and objectives I could get on with piecing together the ideas I’d had in my earlier brain storm. I talk about these in the original blog post so I won’t go into detail, but this is the fun bit for us dance artists and we do often get carried away. To help me I had the TRS cross-curricular flow chart (this helps us structure the plan as a whole), I knew from training years ago how to structure a dance class and I also included starters and plenaries, important elements for lessons in schools. 

The first few lessons were mostly for exploring the theme, but we used almost all of the dance moves learnt and created in these lessons for the final dance as well. One of the things we did was a journey dance. I love improvisation journeys and my blog, Improvisation, says more about them. This improvisation was for our warm up from the second lesson and it was about how Bob (the astronaut) went from his house to the moon. Along the way the dancers had to show how Bob could cycle, click the engine on and move as though it were rumbling beneath them and look out at the stars in all the space. 

As the lessons progressed we included short rehearsal times so that the class could remember what they had done before. As they were year 1 I included a lot of improvisation so rehearsal was mostly to remember sequences rather than movements. 

I also introduced Year 1 to choreography. Although I do choreography from Year R, this group hadn’t done any before. We did alien movements, something deliberately very abstract, and I gave them lots of pictures from the book for inspiration. They only had to choreograph one movement each and I structured the main task (choreograph a motif) into lots of short tasks to make it easier for them. I was very pleased with the result and Year 1 were very proud of themselves. 

The final few sessions were for structuring the dance. This involved putting together all the elements learnt and rehearsed in previous weeks. Each group performed separately, but also as a whole class within the dance. There was even a gigantic rocket shape and a bow to finish! 

As well as teaching cross-curricular dance, we provide CPD for school teachers to give them the confidence and tools to teach really good cross-curricular dance classes themselves. Find out more here: CPD for School Staff

 

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Inspirational People

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Collated and written by Georgie

This month’s theme for TRS was ‘Loving Dance’ and we thought we’d ask the TRS teachers why they love dance, who inspired them and who continues to do so.

TRS Director Rebecca Ashton:

“3 people stand out as having a huge effect on my career.

My 1st dance teacher, Debbie, is probably the reason I love dance so much. I clearly remember that she taught me friendship between dancers, we can work with other dance schools and didn’t have to be competitive. This sounds very much like how we work as a team of dance artists at TRS.

Another dance teacher at Collectivedance SchoolCollege, Sue, is completely the reason I went to university. She took me to Surrey uni in year 9 and I never looked back. From Sue I learnt that there are lots of different types of dance career, something that influences the way I work with dance teachers now. I also learnt how to dance on Pointe to Meatloaf and how to stand like a Flamingo with my leg by my head, but they’re different stories.

Finally Rachel Deadman, from thedancemovement.co.uk inspired me after Uni. She supported me into work and made me believe in a world of happiness for dance teachers.

Without these 3 ladies I wouldn’t be where I am now. I love them for the inspiration, opportunity and confidence they gave me, and I hope that at least some of the things they do can be seen in my work too.” 

 

Georgie, South Kent Franchise Owner, Level 3 TRS Teacher:

“I have always wanted to dance ever since I was little, that’s obvious to anyone who knows me, but keeping up with dance and being inspired to teach, that’s where I need to thank a lot of people.

When I was younger, for over 10 years I attended Prima Stage school, where so many teachers really boosted my love for dance and especially contemporary. Thanks to those teachers I then went onto college where I met Marie Forbes who made me really believe in myself and that I could make a career out of dance. She had so much passion and really knew how to inspire all those in her class and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

I then went onto do the DASP with Loop Dance Company where I met Nina Atkinson and Georgia Smith, both of whom showed me the world of community dance. Again, two people who really inspired and pushed me into where I am today. One lesson I learnt which I use almost every day now is to throw myself into anything and you will either sink or swim, but at least this way you can succeed or learn how to.

Which brings me onto my next inspiration, Rebecca Ashton (Director of TRS). As soon as I heard about the work Rebecca did, I knew I wanted to join the company. I especially loved the idea of ‘Active Armchairs’ as this was something very close and personal to me. I have now worked for TRS for 5 years and every year I am growing more and more as a practitioner, being challenged and inspired by people who really believe in dance but also in me. I would not be where I am today without any of these people and I truly hope they know how grateful I am.”

 

 

Georgia, Adult Dance Coordinator and Level 2 TRS Teacher:

“The people that first inspired me were my teachers in secondary school because they opened up the possibilities of careers in dance and took me to some inspirational places and let me experience the impact dance can have. Without them I wouldn’t have applied to university. During university, I meet Nina Atkinson from Loop Dance Company and she introduced me to a world of endless possibilities, and this inspired me to always dream big and to always strive to inspire others. After my time at university, Loop opened doors to other companies, and they continue to inspire and support my ideas. My network of people is what inspire me and to them I will be forever grateful.”

 

Becca G, Schools Dance Coordinator and Level 2 TRS Teacher:

“Being a dancer from the age of 3 and having so many opportunities pop up from this has inspired and developed me into who I am today. My first inspiration and thanks go to my first dance teacher 

Lesley Munn. From a young age she could see something in me and from the age of 4 I was competing on stage. Miss Dorban is another inspiration of mine as despite her age she created/ choreographed/ envisioned/ taught my beautiful solo’s, duets and trios to compete. My love for performing on stage came from that and grew when I joined stage theatre society. I performed in a lot of musicals till sadly I was too old to continue in the shows but now I am very lucky to be able to choreograph for STS. From choreographing assisting and teaching for both Munn academy and STS I wanted to go to Uni to further my training. From Uni I was very lucky to find TRS. It was almost like fate as a friend already taught for TRS so without knowing I already had many links. So, I would like to thank all at Munn, STS and Rebecca from TRS for where I am today. Without them I would not be able to do what I love every day.”

 

Steph, Level 3 TRS Teacher:

“I am fortunate to have been inspired by many dance teachers, dance friends and visiting professionals during my training. Now, I would say most of my inspiration comes from the participants in my classes and those I dance with. Seeing someone in my class enjoy themselves is so incredibly rewarding and most definitely inspires me!

I love to dance because I believe it is inherent in us. When babies learn to stand, they dance and wiggle before they walk. The human body is made to move, and all movement no matter how big or small can be classed as Dancing…that’s awesome. When you add music to mix, I think that’s a wonderful recipe for the soul!”

Alix, Level 2 TRS Teacher:

“My dance teacher at secondary school inspired me, Diane Rogers, if it wasn’t for this lady, I do not think I would have fallen in love with dance as much as I did. She inspired me in many ways, working together as a team, being positive always, and always motivating me to be better. She always had time.  She’s a big part of why I teach today. 

Loop Dance Company also inspired me and introduced me to community dance. When I first met Marie her passion for dance and to teach was so powerful it shone through her. However talented us dancers were, she put time in, made us all feel good and made all classes enjoyable. I then joined LoopEd youth group where I met amazing people and met the rest of LOOP that continued to inspire me and give me confidence.”

 

There are so many people who inspire our teachers to this day and we hope we are inspiring the people we work with as well. The network we have not only within The Right Step but surrounding is so supportive that everyone can pursue the career they want to within dance. That’s why we are ‘Loving Dance’ this month!

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