We believe dance has a vital and transformative role to play in education. It improves children and young people’s mental and physical wellbeing, including by inspiring creativity, boosting self-confidence, increasing self-awareness and developing discipline, communication and team-working skills.

As part of our work to embed dance in young people’s lives, Sadler’s Wells recently ran a summer school with the National Youth Dance Company (NYDC), and delivered dance workshops at the East Education Summer School. Both projects were designed to offer memorable and inspiring opportunities for children and young people to experience and engage with dance.

On International Youth Day, we speak to some of the young participants in the two summer schools to ask about their experience.

Summer School with NYDC

From 29 July to 9 August, we offered 19 students from seven of our Associate Schools in Islington, Newham and Tower Hamlets the chance to experience a ‘week in the life of’ NYDC and its current Guest Artistic Director Botis Seva, with bespoke workshops led by members of his company Far From the Norm.

Spotlight centre, in Poplar E14 6GN.   Students will come from Tower Hamlets, Islington, Newham and Haringey

At the beginning of the week, a young participant interviewed Associate Choreographer Jordan Douglas, shining a light on his approach to teaching and take on the role of dance in empowering young people.

What will you be facilitating in the workshop?

“During the course of the week, participants in the NYDC summer school will be taught by a different member of Far from the Norm each day. We will be teaching and introducing dancers to the foundations of different street styles such as house, locking, krump, popping and breaking. We will also be teaching sections from MADHEAD, Botis Seva’s recent production for National Youth Dance Company, as well as works from the company. I will be focusing specifically on house dance and gestural phrases from MADHEAD.”

NYDC Summer School participants.

How do you prepare the young people for the week? Can you describe your approach?

“I start by teaching the students some of the basics of house dance, so we look at groove and footwork. As there is a mixed level of ability in a class, being able to have an adaptable framework is very important in order to get the most out of a session. During the workshop, one of my top priorities is getting the young dancers to interact with each other. This way, you’re creating an environment that is a safe space, which allows the students to feel confident no matter what the challenge is.”

How does dance educate, inspire and empower young people?

“The feeling of learning something new, of working on it, watching it improve and then being able to perform it, is a great one. This, as well as the freedom to express yourself through dance, is very empowering. The creativity within dance can really offer a much-needed break from their standard school subjects and daily activities.”

NYDC Summer School participants with Associate Choreographer Jordan Douglas.

Why is dance a useful/important form of expression for young people to explore?

“The medium of street dance is a lot more connected to youth. Street dance is easily accessible: it’s online, in music videos and at the forefront of fashion. Being able to share a common language takes us one step further to being able to help young people open up to dance.”

At the end of the week, we asked some of the young participants to share some thoughts:

What did you learn during your week at the Summer School with NYDC and Far From The Norm?

“I learnt a lot on how to develop myself as a dancer, but also on how to open up more to things that are difficult.”

“It was interesting to learn about new dance styles, and also to see how professional dancers work.”

“My favourite part was engaging and getting on with people as well as taking on new stuff that was given. I learned more about working together, but also having to learn quickly and keeping up at a fast pace.”

What three words would you use to describe how you felt before the workshop?

“Nervous, scared, anxious”

“Shy, inexperienced, insecure”

“Interested, anticipating, open”

What three words would you use to describe how you felt after the workshop?

“Optimistic, determined, confident”

“Creative, happy, educated”

“Courageous, challenged, proud”

NYDC Summer School participants.

East Education Summer School

During a free, two-week programme held at Here East in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, young east Londoners were given the opportunity to take part in a host of activities and classes delivered by world-leading organisations. These included the six institutions that will be part of East Bank, a new cultural and education district being developed in the park: Sadler’s Wells, the BBC, UAL’s London College of Fashion, UCL and the V&A in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution.

East Education Summer School promotional flyer. Image: Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

As part of the summer school, Sadler’s Wells hosted workshops in African dance, led by our Learning & Engagement team, and in rap, grime, music, theatre skills and dramaturgy, led by our Breakin’ Convention team. An evening trip was also arranged during the week for the young participants to enjoy Matthew Bourne’s Romeo and Juliet, a new production performed by our Resident Company New Adventures. 

We asked some of the participants from Breakin’ Convention’s hip hop theatre workshop to share some of their highlights from the programme.

What was your favourite part of the workshop?

“Showcasing what I’ve got!”

“Having a good time.”

“Meeting new people.”

“Spitting some hard bars!”

“Learning new things.”

“Destroying the stage.”

“Embracing ourselves.”

East Education Summer School participants from Breakin’ Convention’s hip hop theatre workshop pictured with mentors. Image: Theo Godson

National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) is supported using public funding by the Department for Education and Arts Council England.