The conference was called People Dancing … so that’s what we did.
Lizz Fort, Lecturer in Dance Education at the RAD's Faculty of Education, looks back at the recent People Dancing event.
A big day
Thursday 13 November was a special day when, along with my colleagues in the Faculty of Education, Libby Costello, Helen Linkenbagh and Hannah Bailes, we presented the preliminary findings from our new research at People Dancing. This was the first international event organised by the Foundation for Community Dance, which later that day, announced that they had adopted ‘People Dancing’ as their new name. We all felt incredibly proud to have been a small part of this landmark celebration.
During the conference presentation, the FoE team gave an overview of the original Dance for Lifelong Wellbeing (DfLW) project from 2012-2013. These classes with older adults are about people dancing together to feel togetherness, achievement, celebration, joy, freedom, equality, diversity, empowerment and sometimes transformation. Our project has not only enriched the lives of participants and staff at the classes, but our research also shows that the lives of our teachers are positively affected too.
This was followed by case studies from project teachers Helen and Hannah, who shared their respective transitions from ballet teaching skills (Helen), and teaching children and young people (Hannah), to working with older adults. Their stories were followed by two inspiring participatory tasks, with Helen delivering an enchanting intergalactic port de bras, and Hannah whipping participants into a frenzy with an exercise featuring gold and silver sparkly hats and ‘Hey Big Spender’ as accompaniment.
The pictures from the session say it all. It was thought-provoking, captivating and good fun. Simply, people dancing (click to enlarge):
CPD integrated model
Talk about a hard act to follow, but Libby then gamely talked delegates through our new research as CPD integrated model (Fig 1).
In order to get a better understanding of our model, we held a focus group with five of the original DfLW teachers in October, and some of the emerging themes from this research were then presented to delegates. These included some important findings about how the project had shifted (and continue to shift) teacher’s professional identities.
Teachers as researchers
One of these findings was that the DfLW project has given teachers the confidence to call themselves ‘researchers’. It also inspired them to continue their own research, as well as building their confidence to get involved in other research projects. Two of the teachers have now shifted from calling themselves ‘dance teachers’, to calling themselves ‘community dance teachers’. They have both joined People Dancing, extending their professional network. One of these, a longstanding RAD ballet teacher, now runs an additional six classes per week for older adults in her local area. These are based on the tailored teaching methods and strategies that she devised on the DfLW project. It has completely transformed her professional freelance portfolio of work. In addition, another three of the teachers talked about their aspirations for developing intergenerational work.
We can’t fully report on our findings until we’ve fully analysed the focus group transcriptions, but it is clear that our model was positively received by the teachers, and that it seems most suited to experienced and mature teachers who already have a clear understanding of their practice. We hope to publish our research in 2015. And, further to this, we’ll be testing the model again to make sure it is industry appropriate, and would love to explore its viability internationally across RAD networks.
We’ll take it one dancing step at a time. But in the meantime, our DfLW classes continue to thrive and expand with funding through the Borough of Wandsworth, under the inspired leadership of our teachers.
We are getting people dancing, and that is what this work is all about.