Written by Sophie Fuller, Level Two TRS Teacher and Active Armchairs Facilitator
A Project with Young People Exploring Choreography and Performance
The result of a one off session in the summer with the Wednesday Squad at Parkwood Youth Centre Gillingham, came a 4 week project that allowed the youth group to work together and create a dance piece for a final performance. The youth group used an AQA Unit Award Scheme for some of their activities enabling the participants to gain an accredited AQA certificate. For this project we completed the ‘Creating a Dance’ unit which focused on choreographing a dance to a chosen piece of music.
The Wednesday Squad provides activities and games for young people with learning disabilities and as soon I was walked through the door I was made to feel very welcome. As this is a fun, social club it is up to the attendees what they would like to do, so there was no pressure for everybody to participate, just those who wanted to come and give it a go. Therefore each week there were different people wanting to join in and they helped to contribute ideas to the creation of the piece. For all four weeks there were the same six choreographers and five of those performed the final dance. It was these six who gained their AQA accreditation.
Week 1 consisted of a fun warm up using the idea of ‘street’ and being ‘cool’ and it was a good chance to show off their own moves to help generate ideas for the piece. We found different ways of saying hello by using high 5’s and adding on our own movement, I discovered that one dancer was a brilliant Irish dancer, another showed off some Chinese dancing he had done at college and the others just loved to dance!
With all these movement ideas we discussed what the dance should be about and what we want to convey to the audience. The dancers all agreed they wanted to have a go at a solo to show off their skills and we talked about how each person had something different to show and how this made us unique individuals. The dancers also asked to be taught a routine so we decided that I would teach them a phrase that they could perform altogether in unison and this would convey that they are a ‘crew’, group, ‘team’.
We had an introduction where we used the high 5 ideas and strutted on stage to meet a partner. From partners we would go into a formation and perform a unison phrase followed by a dance off which show cased everybody’s own talent and their own choice of music.
The final section consisted of using a baseball hat as a prop and we all put an action forward to create this final phrase of the dance and by performing it in unison it brought the performers back together as a group.
There was one more idea…to get the audience up and have a dance! Throughout the four weeks we tried to encourage all members of the Wednesday Squad to have a go so we thought this would be a perfect way and a way of including them in the final piece. So one dancer took it upon himself to put together and say a few words to ‘Get the Party Started!’
The final week was the night of the performance! We invited families and carers to come along and see what we had been up to and the end product of their hard work. The dancers were very excited and showed no sign of nerves at all! We practiced and made sure all the transitions between sections were perfect!
We had to come up with a title so we all sat down and brainstormed words that we thought best described the piece. ‘Unique’, ‘stride’, ‘In-Sync’, ‘Own Style’, ‘Youth’, ‘street’ and we decided on ‘Uni – Sync’.
The audience were seated, the dancers were ready, the music started and we were off! The dancers performed with high energy and everything went as rehearsed! Even at the end of the performance everybody got off their chairs and joined us for a last dance!
The performers loved it. One said ‘that was the best bit, I loved performing’, another said ‘that went really well’ and a third smiled throughout.
Reactions from the audience were great too, One Mum said ‘all his practicing has paid off’ and told us that her son’s practicing upstairs put a crack in the ceiling!! Other supporters were pleased to hear that their efforts are being recognised with an AQA accreditation.
I was sad to leave the Wednesday Squad that night as I have really enjoyed working with them all. They made my job easier as they were so enthusiastic and full of ideas every session but more importantly they worked well within a team listening to each other.
Well Done Wednesday Squad!
Here’s a video that was created automatically using some photos and videos from the performance night.