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MDX dance senior lecturer describes project which allows students to engage with the local community as “pure joy”

MDX Teaching Artist Programme has already helped 300 Barnet schoolchildren learn through dance experiences

The MDX Teaching Artist Programme was set up nine years ago by Senior Dance Lecturer April Brown and develops undergraduate student skills in creative dance leadership whilst also enabling young children to have access to high-quality creative dance experiences.

Partnering with Sunnyfields Primary School in Barnet since 2017, the programme combines professional development and community engagement.

Each project explores a global concern through movement, drawing, discussion, and writing.

Weekly creative workshops develop transferable skills in teamwork, leadership, communication, dexterity and creativity whilst providing a space to build self-esteem. In these spaces both the children and undergraduate teaching artists develop essential skills that support their employability and citizenship.

With a focus on creative, inclusive dance leadership, the student teaching artists engage in professional development, reflection, collective teaching, observation and feedback. Equipping them to enter the future workforce and able to contribute to community practice.

Each project host six weeks of live workshops in the state-of-the-art Dance Studios of Middlesex University and culminates in a series of final performances at Arts Depot, the Royal Air Force Museum and Middlesex University.

April said: “We have a fantastic dance programme at MDX where our students are trained as versatile dance artists the Teaching Artist programme allows them to apply their advance knowledge to an industry setting as part of a community civic engagement programme, equipping them to facilitate similar projects when they graduate.

“This project is offering students a mentored placement experience where they deliver practically with young children, ahead of graduation.”

The feedback is excellent, and 94 per cent of 40 students who have undertaken the programme to date are working in education.

But April said this was just the beginning, adding: “The journey that both the students and the children go on every year is very special. They come together through the project and it is a beautiful process of co-creation where they learn so much from eachother.

“The act as students role models whilst the children bring playfulness and new way of looking at the world to the space.

“At what can feel like a serious point in their dance training, this experience brings our students back to why they fell in love with dance in the first place and shifts their perception of the power of dance and the role of an educator.”

April set up the programme after graduating from MDX and entering the teaching profession.

She said: “I worked for a number of different organisations, and you just get thrown in and do the best that you can, without really knowing if what you are doing is any good or not.

“With more experience and further training I was able to recognise good practice and develop my offer to schools. The teaching artist programme offers undergraduate students a space to witness excellent practice, and be mentored through their own teaching delivery, ahead of graduating, enabling them to be more equipped for a career in dance education”.

Ann Richards, teacher at Sunnyfields Primary School, said: “The Teaching Artists Programme is a hugely successful partnership between Middlesex University and Sunnyfields Primary School which enables our children to access high quality creative dance experiences. It is a collaboration between the students and children where children are able to articulate their ideas on topics they are passionate about and, through teamwork, develop them in to sequences that provide a creative outlet for the children to share their ideas with a wider audience.

“It has such a positive impact on the children’s self-esteem and confidence and they are very proud of their performance on stage. Something they will always remember.”

This year, a short film has been commissioned by Barnet and Culture for Youth, Access Fund to demonstrate the Teaching Artists impact in Employability, Education & Learning, Health & Wellbeing and Life Chances for young people in the London Borough of Barnet.

Find out more about the teaching artist programme here: https://www.aprilannbrown.co.uk/teaching-artist

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