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.

This International Youth Day, we find out more about the summer activities from the young participants themselves.

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.

Summer School with NYDC highlight video.

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.

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.”

NYDC Summer School participants with NYDC alumna Joshua Attwood.

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 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.”

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.

Young participants during African dance workshop with workshop leader Miles Ncube. Image: Rahil Ahmed.

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. 

Young participants during African dance workshop. Image: Rahil Ahmed.

Young participants during Breakin’ Convention workshop with workshop leader Theo ‘Godson’ Oloyade. Image: Rahil Ahmed.

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!”

Young participants (Breakin’ Convention workshop) performing at East Education Summer School showcase. Image: Rahil Ahmed.

“Having a good time.”

Young participants (Breakin’ Convention workshop) performing at East Education Summer School showcase. Image: Rahil Ahmed.

“Meeting new people.”

“Spitting some hard bars!”

Young participants (Breakin’ Convention workshop) performing at East Education Summer School showcase. Image: Rahil Ahmed.

“Learning new things.”

“Destroying the stage.”

Young participants (Breakin’ Convention workshop) performing at East Education Summer School showcase. Image: Rahil Ahmed.

“Embracing ourselves.”

Young participants from Breakin’ Convention’s hip hop theatre workshop with mentors
Education Coordinator Shay D (left), Capo Lee (bottom) and Yomi Sode (right). Image: Theo ‘Godson’ Oloyade

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

A teacher’s perspective on our Associate Schools scheme

Sadler’s Wells works closely with a number of local schools in north and east London, with the aim of widening participation in the arts for young people by integrating dance into their education. Our Learning & Engagement team devises a bespoke programme of workshops and events for each of the 12 Associate Schools, so that students can benefit from classes and talks by dance professionals, and their teachers are supported in delivering dance as part of the curriculum.

Here, Carolyn Wells – Head of the Performance and PE Faculty at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington – speaks about her experience of our Associate Schools scheme:

“As a dance teacher, I am a great believer in the importance of the arts in education and the lasting, positive impact they have on young people. It’s all about experiences, in the classroom and beyond. It has been an absolute joy to be an Associate School with Sadler’s Wells, and the scheme’s ethos goes hand-in-hand with the ethos of the dance department here at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School (EGA).

We officially became an Associate School of Sadler’s Wells in the summer of 2017 and when term began in September, the opportunities that the dance department and our students have received have been second to none – and we haven’t even finished the school year yet! As part of the scheme, EGA students took part in a workshop with Rambert, Britain’s oldest dance company, to aid with their study of A Linha Curva for GCSE. Oh – and not forgetting to mention this was on the main stage! That’s right, our girls have trodden the same boards as world-renowned dance companies, choreographers and artists. The very next day we returned to watch Rambert’s matinée performance of A Linha Curva, and other works. The ability to see professionals perform what our students had learnt on the same stage truly brought learning to life.

Later, we had the opportunity to attend an audition for Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures. This resulted in 11 of our students working with the company dancers and other school pupils to create a curtain raiser piece that was performed during the run of New Adventures’ Cinderella. It was such a special and unforgettable moment for the girls involved.

More recently, Sadler’s Wells’ Director of Technical & Production Emma Wilson and her team came into school to help us to ‘make sense’ of our lighting and sound system in our school theatre space. So thanks to a world-class and very friendly team of technicians, it’s all working much better now.

I’m so pleased we’ve had the opportunity to forge this partnership with Sadler’s Wells and their education coordinator Sara Daniels. I can’t wait to see where it leads.”

Sadler’s Wells’ Voices: Maurice Rowan-Bishop on his apprenticeship

Sadler’s Wells offers a number of apprenticeships, giving young people the opportunity to access practical training and develop crucial knowledge and skills across different areas of the creative industries. In October 2014, Maurice Rowan-Bishop joined Sadler’s Wells as Cultural Venue Operations Apprentice, as part of the creative employment programme, to gain experience in the Front of House, Catering and Events departments. Following his successful apprenticeship, Maurice was offered a permanent role as Catering Team Leader in October 2016. He is responsible for helping to train staff and ensure the smooth running of the cafes and bars at the theatre. We spoke to Maurice about what he learnt from his apprenticeship at Sadler’s Wells.

What is your background?

I came to Sadler’s Wells straight from education, having spent 2 years studying English Literature at the University of Essex. My experience with higher education was not what I had hoped for and so I left in 2014 without gaining my degree. This was a big disappointment at the time, however looking back now I feel like coming out of education and into work benefited me in a huge way. I came to Sadler’s having worked previously for Aramark at the 2012 Olympics in the dining hall of the Athletes village. Not only did this give me a first experience working in hospitality, but it left me with a feeling that I was participating in something significant and influenced my desire to pursue a career in the arts.

How did you find out about the apprenticeship you applied for?

On the website. They have an entire section dedicated to Apprenticeships, which I was searching with a particular eye on the arts sector. When I saw that Sadler’s Wells was offering one I knew I had to apply as I recognised it as a really important institution in the arts world and great way to start a career in the arts.

Why did you apply to work at Sadler’s Wells?

It was perfectly suited for what I was looking for at the time; I knew I was interested in working in theatre, however I was unsure of what area to focus my attention on. The apprenticeship was very general, offering experience in a number of departments within the theatre so provided me with an opportunity to gain a flavour for the various careers one can pursue within the arts and decide which was best for me.

What did your apprenticeship involve?

I spent my apprenticeship working in three of the theatre’s departments. Front of House, Catering and Events. For the majority of this, I worked in the events department of the theatre, assisting the team with the sale of events spaces and the organisation and smooth running of events. These spaces included the theatre’s main auditorium, reception areas, meeting rooms and dance studios. My responsibilities within the team included: Communicating with other internal operational departments to ensure the needs and requirements of clients are met, receiving external phone calls and forwarding them to the appropriate team member, using the diary system to book internal departments into events spaces as per their requests, generating a daily schedule of events each week to be used by all departments and carrying out market research to improve the sales of spaces. I also attended Lewisham and Southwark College and completed an NVQ in Cultural Venues operation during this time.

What did you learn?

The fact I was given an opportunity to work in so many departments gave me a fantastic insight into how a theatre is run and the various roles its many staff have. During the first four months (the portion of the apprenticeship spent in FOH and Catering), I was able to really hone my customer service experience, especially working as an usher during the sold-out Christmas show where a large portion of the audience were new to the theatre.

Working in the events department was my first time in an office environment, so I was able to learn a lot. Everything from sending emails to colleagues and clients as well as answering enquiries over the phone were all new things to me, but I got a lot of support from the rest of the team and by the end of the 8 months I very comfortable with those sort of tasks. I also learned a lot about time management and the prioritising of tasks, skills that are still very valuable to my current job even though it is more operationally based.

What did you particularly enjoy as part of the apprenticeship?

The experience of learning whilst working was very refreshing when compared to the academic approach I had struggled with at university, particularly when it came to the structure that comes with full time work. I also remember being really impressed by how friendly the atmosphere was within the theatre. It felt a bit like a family full of people who were proud of what they did and where they worked.

How do you feel the apprenticeship benefited your career?

It’s hard to imagine how else I could have gotten my foot in the door at a theatre like Sadler’s without a degree. The apprenticeship also gave me a fantastic understanding of the arts sector in general, and helped me understand what direction I could take with my career.

What advice would you give to other graduates doing an apprenticeship at Sadler’s Wells?

I would say definitely don’t put off the coursework. It’s basically functions as a portfolio of all the little things you learn as you work, making it a lot easier if you add to it as you go rather than leaving it to the end of the year as I did. Another thing would be to hold on to the contacts you build throughout the apprenticeship – from your tutor to the other apprentices on the course with you, because it is a useful way to build a network of both personal and professional support.