As anyone who works with young people will tell you (and we frequently do tell you) working with young people in any creative context is a route to being constantly surprised, questioned, delighted, frustrated, confused, and ultimately rewarded by the enormous innate potential bubbling away inside their brains.
I suppose before we get too heavily into this, I should introduce myself. My names Ian and I’m a dancer. Sometimes I make work, sometimes I help other people make work and sometimes I call myself a dance artist. Whatever my job title I like to flatter myself with being quite good at it. I’m eternally thankful for the fact that I’ve managed to do this for the last decade. Over the last ten years, some of my most abiding memories are of people I’ve taught, either in a one off workshop with non-dancers, or with others I’ve taught on a regular or semi-regular basis.
So yes, my names Ian and I’m writing this blog because the wonderful Alice Thickett, who’s the Youth Programmer at Nottingham Contemporary – an art gallery in the titular city and also my home town, asked me to facilitate a group of young artists in devising a response to the galleries current instillation and help plan the presentation of it at a night called ‘Collabor-8’. A regular event giving the group a chance to show off their work. This is all part of a national programme called Circuit, an initiative run through the Tate and funded by Paul Hamlyn (something I later learnt was instigated as a response to the 2011 riots as an attempt to weave a deeper integration between young people in the UK and ownership and interaction with culture and – not wanting to get on a soap box yet, I can’t think of a better reason for a project than that). Over the last ten years I’ve worked with all sorts of people but never artists and never like this. I was excited…
I’ve often taught, or introduced dance to non-dancers, but never to a group of non-dancing artists, so I devised for our initial sessions a sort of “speed load” of contemporary dance, which I kicked off by showing a series of (each radically different from the rest) videos and talking about in the context of art, dance and people just watching other people move.
After this we drove straight into some practical work, I loved seeing the group go from simple composition tasks into actual spontaneous improvising and working together. I took a variety of simple fun tasks for the group and let their creativity fly. They showed some amazing innate compositional skills and I loved their enthusiasm for what was probably really intimidating.
In the following weeks, watching them work with a similar group of young dancers and watching the initial hesitancy (“oh crap, please don’t make me move, don’t ask me to make other people to move”) and skepticism (“Is this gonna work??”) give way to enthusiasm, ownership and lots and lots of smiles, I was reminded – as I always am, that (and apologies if this sounds insufferably twee or trite) in a few years I better start looking for a new job, there was a lot of talent in that room.
The night itself was brilliant, me and Alice where a bit nervous about attendance, there were a lot of events in the city that weekend and historically July and August have been a bit sketchy but the space filled up over the night, I loved watching audience members becoming participants by engaging in a (not so) easy version of Just Dance with a video projection guide, the first tentative members to sit down opposite and dare to engage with some of the dancers the other side of a mirror frame. (Lots of grins and smiles on both sides as they began to realise respond to and finally break the rules of the game) and finally some slightly (very) messy audience directed live art/painting where the performers used their whole body and lots of blue paint to create a large scale echo of their movements.
Of course, unless you where there, most of that last paragraph probably makes NO sense! So what you should do instead is follow the amazing link below and watch a short video of the night – filmed by another very talented member of the group.
As a final thought and from a very satisfied artist still trying to get down with the kids…
– Ian Dolan – Loving the creativity, July Guest Artist