Arts Award - Silver Lining

In September 2015 The Dance Movement were lucky enough to be joined by Mariah, a student from a local secondary school in Guildford.  Mariah had been attending The Willows School due to the traditional school environment not being able to meet her needs.  The Dance Movement had previously developed a relationship with The Willows School (a PRU) as a result of the Programme Director Rachel Palmer having worked there with female students delivering dance sessions.  In July 2016 The Willows faced a difficult time due to government cuts ending the alternative secondary education provision, Mariah along with the other students attending the school was about to be displaced.

The Head Teacher from The Willows made contact with Rachel from The Dance Movement to inquire if it might be possible to arrange a placement for Mariah as she had shown an interest in dancing.  Mariah joined the team by attending the Company office every Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon.  Her placement was managed and supported by Company administrator Nicky Norton.  Over the academic year Mariah’s time was spent working on her Silver Arts Award, through this she developed skills in teaching dance to primary school children, attending dance performances and writing about them and learning how to dance herself.

Nicky acted as Mariah’s mentor and 1 to 1 arts advisor during her time at The Dance Movement, she wrote the following about Maria’s achievements:

As part of her arts challenge, Mariah decided that she wanted to learn more about dance and drama and to build her confidence in getting up in front of people. She had enjoyed the dancing and acting she had done in the past and decided her arts challenge should centre around dancing.

She had the opportunity to learn in a 1:1 situation with me as well as shadow and observe dance lessons in a local primary school.  At the school she learnt about using the body safely within a large group, the importance of warming up, dance terms such as travelling, levels, unison, canon etc…. She saw how dances can be created using a stimulus – stories, pictures etc… and how to talk about performing and give critical feedback.

All of this then linked in with our 1:1 sessions. We looked at the body and basic anatomy. Mariah was quick to understand the importance of how and why we needed to have good posture. She was able to identify when she was doing things correctly or her body wasn’t used to something. We looked at many dance styles – street, ballet, tap, contemporary and also at methods of stretching, yoga and balances. She understood that repetition and practice enabled change and this is what I witnessed over the ensuing weeks. She began to surprise herself with what she could actually do.

This discovery fed her confidence levels and she then re-evaluated her initial challenge and set a new goal. Initially she had said she wanted to build her confidence and knowledge in her chosen art form and getting up in front of people. This challenge was fairly broad. Her new goal then refined this aim with a definitive event – a community dance performance. For me this was her challenge completed – the strength of character and determination and confidence (although very small) that it took to agree to be part of this show in the first place, let alone actually take part, was such a huge advancement on where she began. It was very significant.

Mariah’s performance was the result of weeks of practice, learning, time with the other dancers and time with me that led to this challenge being so significant. It was very special. The massive steps she took on this journey from the first day I met her to the evening of the show are very difficult to put into words. She took to the stage and danced with confidence and style, remembered all her moves and performed really well. I believe she actually enjoyed herself! I was very, very proud of her.

As part of Mariah’s learning she had to write reviews of professional performances that she watched:

What did you see?   Jack & the beanstalk

When?   Monday 14th December 2015

Where?   Guildford Yvonne Arnaud

What did the set look like?

Had a stage at the front of the room an the chairs all around in a ‘U’ shape, the stage must have been about 10 foot front ways and about 25 long ways, different scenes added props came in.

What were the performers wearing?

All in costumes- jack, princess, young children, Mum , cow , giant, evil magician , fairy god mother &jacks brother.

Jack was wearing a loose fitted waist coat with a white vest but looked greyish, and ripped brown trousers, this was to have the effect that he was poor.

Fairy god mother was wearing wore a short white dress with lots of frills and glitter almost looked like a tutu.

What was the lighting like?

The had lots of lights going a bit of pictures and video going on in the back ground, spot lights, follow spots and lots of lamps and brightly coloured lights when songs/dancing started.

Was there any music?

Yes, there was loads of music… when dramatic parts came on they had sounds to make it more dramatic, we had backing songs through some of the scenes we also had songs to sing and dance to that the audience could particapte.

Explain the plot/what took place?

So its was a poor family the only had a cow, there was 2 brothers one whom’s   name was jack. He needed money to pay of his mum’s debts or they’d be left homeless, there was an evil magician involved though. Well jack met the princess and fell for her instantly but the evil magician was after her and was also friends/scared of the giant so he was sending threats to jack. Well all the children and the princess needed saving from the giant and the evil magician so they needed money and the evil magician wiped of the earth. Jack had only one solution which was to sell daisy the cow, so he travelled miles on end until eventually an old woman approached him and offered golden coins for daisy the cow jack was over the moon but as he turned away the old lady switched the coins for runner beans, jack set of home without realizing he was over the moon now the children his mum& the princes could be safe after establishing they were runner beans and the old lady was in fact the evil magician jacks mum threw out the runner beans. Next morning it’d had grown into a massive beanstalk, jack climbed and climbed until coming into contact with the giant his self he defeated the giant and broke down his beanstalk the fairy god mother changed the evil magician to the loveliest magician you could meet then they all lived happily ever after.

What was your favorite part? Can you say why? Would you recommend it to a friend?

My favorite part was when the sang 12 days of Christmas, they added in some hilarious scenes such as pie’ing the younger brother . Everyone knew the song so we were all singing along it was a really good atmosphere the room was lit up with lots of smiles from children and elderly people it was a really good experience and I definitely would recommend it to a friend what’s not to like?

Was there anything you didn’t like?

Some of the props fell down and words/ long lyrics were often forgotten or jumbled up would have been nicer for them to almost look as if it was meant to happen a couple of times you noticed awkward faces or awkward looks and voices

How would you rate it out of 10

I would rate it as a 9 I really enjoyed it but feel that they could of changed how they dealt with awkward moments but apart from that it was a brilliant experience

What did you see? He had hairy hands

When?  Thursday 15th October 2015

Where?   Farnham Maltings

What did the set look like?

Chairs around back half of hall a screen at front with 5-10 metres space for actors to act

What were the performers wearing?

Costumes – scientist , were wolf , police , old ladies.   All of theses styles were shabby and old to have the effect of this happening many years ago. Although they were only 4 actors they all took part in playing many more characters, and we could tell the difference in the characters with the help of their costumes.

What was the lighting like?

Big Screen for films, scenery was just a few items of furniture and good general lighting to show the stage.

Was there any music?

Yes a lot, to get more of the feel of the setting and for the songs were really fast and complicated not a song the audience could sing a lot too.

Explain the plot/what took place?

So a werewolf was born many years ago and many years later people were being killed and no one believed Whitechapel (the detective) that a were wolf was the cause of the injuries with the suspicion a bloke caked Mayor Castlechurch but no one had knowledge of him having a son. Later on truth was revealed after 6-8 people being killed that the person to blame was in fact a were wolf.

What was your favorite part? Can you say why? Would you recommend it to a friend?

My favorite part was when they sang and then we discovered who the were wolf was, it was very nice mixed up and really drew in my attention and yes I would recommend it as its really interesting and it feels a bit like every scene is left on an a cliff hanger urging you to want to watch more!

Was there anything you didn’t like?

The split between the scenes I felt it was to quick so you missed out on a bit as your trying to work out what was happening next which left you a bit confused, it felt a little rushed at change over would definitely recommend adding on some time space for the change over for the future.

How would you rate it out of 10?

I would probably rate it an 8 as I was really intrigue by this play but also feel there were some little buts that could have been a little adjusted such as making the scenes a lot clearer and some parts of the scene a bit slower so that the audience could understand it better.

Programme Director of The Dance Movement summarises Mariah’s achievements:

Taking on a placement student like Mariah was a first for The Dance Movement.  There were initial concerns going into this project as we had very little back ground on Mariah and were unsure whether we would be able to meet her needs.  Nicky Norton was absolutely key in Mariah’s successful year with the Company.  She helped Mariah develop confidence and self belief, something which was severely lacking when she first walked through the office day.  Watching Mariah develop over the year, which included performing on stage and devising and teaching primary school children was such a joy.  Her dedication and commitment to her arts award was wonderful.  When other aspects of her life were unsettled and challenging she found the strength and self belief to focus and accomplish a huge amount of work.  This is testament to how a person can flourish when they are shown love, support and are believed in.

Orignally posted July 17, 2016