The Place is one of the leading centres for dance in the UK. We are passionate about making dance available for everyone and have been supporting dance artists and enthusiasts for over 50 years.
We first piloted our Camden Partner Schools Programme in 2016/17 with the aim to connect young people living and learning in Camden with The Place and with dance. We set out to inspire creativity in Camden primary school children and embed dance education and art-based activities into the primary school curriculum.
Through the generous support of John Lyon’s Charity, we’ve grown our Partner Schools programme every academic year since, and by 2019, it had expanded from 4 to 14 schools across the borough, with approximately 750 children visiting The Place in the autumn term. Halfway through the 2020 programme, all activity had to stop due to COVID.
We knew that we had an obligation to carry on somehow, despite lockdown, and we worked with our Partner Schools to ensure children were able to engage in creative and physical activity whilst stuck at home. We mined our culture of experimentation to stay connected, to develop inventive ways to replicate elements of our face-to-face Partner Schools programme and explore alternative ways to keep children active. We also wanted to honour the commitment we made to the 22 freelance dance artists involved in the Partner Schools Programme, who were relying on this work. So, in consultation with the Partners School teachers, and to support our artists we decided to commission creative session videos for them to film at home, and in just a few weeks delivered over 50 videos for children to access with creative tasks and exercises through movement. These films went out to our 14 partner schools in Camden over the summer term, reaching 750 primary school children, and an estimated 1,500 parents and siblings. Both the teachers and the kids were very grateful to have something creative to do that wasn’t English or Maths, where the children could have fun and be physical. The videos were so popular, that we made them publicly available to everyone online as a YouTube playlist, that has been viewed 1546 times.
Our annual school visits were replaced by re-imagining a pupil experience of visiting The Place with a filmed a tour around the building to introduce different staff members.
When COVID restrictions eased in summer 2021, we were thrilled to be in a position to go back into schools with The Place’s first ever Playground Tour, designed to bring outstanding dance performances made especially for young audiences into schools’ playgrounds in a COVID-safe environment. The Playground Tour reached c.1,440 children and c.96 teachers and teaching assistants in playgrounds and the responses of the children have been fantastic! For many children it was the first time they had taken part in an activity with children outside of their class bubble and it was so exciting to see the universal support from the staff and children who were simply beside themselves with the thrill and joy of seeing dance, risk-taking, creativity and being able to take part. We’ve had claps, cheers, whoops, gasps, and freestyles from playgrounds across Camden.
We know the impact dance can have on the life of a child, particularly contributing to physical development, emotional maturity, social awareness and cognitive and non-cognitive development. Dance ignites children’s imaginations and gives them the opportunity to discover what inspires them to think differently. It encourages children to find personal joy in movement while supporting the development of critical life skills like communication, teamwork, creativity, confidence, self-esteem and analytical thinking. At the end of the project, 100% of teachers responded ‘yes’ to whether working with a professional dance artist helped to improve their pupils' engagement in dance and physical activity. Additionally, almost 90% saw an improvement in communication, teamwork, creativity, confidence, self-esteem and analytical thinking. Through the pandemic, we doubled down our efforts to support our Partner Schools, resulting in a more dynamic culture for dance teaching, learning and practice - devising innovative and collaborative ways to deliver the programme without compromising quality.
Our Partner Schools Programme ensured that children had access to physical activity throughout an extended period of home learning, in turn supporting their broader learning as well as their physical and mental wellbeing. We are proud to have provided 750 unique children with meaningful opportunities to watch, create and perform dance in both their schools and daily lives.
By the end of 2020, local news platform The Camdenist presented us with a Covid Champion Award in the category "Saviour for Cuture" for our "unwavering passion and dedication of the team, and the required tenacity to somehow press on."