Founded in 1997, The Dance Studios in Hockley, Nottingham teaches children’s and adult dance classes including tap, ballet, modern, jazz and limbering. We invited children and young people from The Dance Studios to be part of The Jingah Project, a fantastic theatrical collaboration based around the theme of environmental responsibility. Led by Chloé Charody Creations, the project brought together world-class artists and performers to create exciting opportunities for a number of Nottingham community groups.
A key aim of the Jingah Project was to create a collaborative piece of theatre that allowed professional and non-professional artists and performers to work together. Dancer and choreographer, Sophie Duncan led on the overall choreography, and we invited her to assemble a group of children and young people from the local community to play a central role in the show.
Sophie knew the team at The Dance Studios, based just up the road from City Arts, as her own dance teaching programme, NG Dance had been based there. As a young dancer, Sophie trained with dance schools in Nottingham and was excited to bring her skills and experience back to the city, to inspire the next generation of young performers.
Children and young people from The Dance Studios auditioned to be part of the production, with the chosen performers training with Sophie and the Jingah Project team at The Squire Performing Arts Centre over an intensive two-week rehearsal period, before performing in the final show.
Sophie shared her thoughts about the project:
I knew I had to create something really good, especially once I heard all the music. The professional performers I was getting in touch with to be in the show were ex-Cirque de Soleil artists, so we needed high production values. We went wild, did everything we could, and treated it like a high-end West End production. The children and young people from The Dance Studios had to come into this ambitious space, and feel a genuine part of the production, rather than just an add-on.
I’m always nervous when I choreograph with children as you’re putting a lot of responsibility on kids, rather than professional dancers. I had to really think – how can I make this enough for them to look good, rather than just putting kids on stage? But they really pulled it out of the bag!
Sophie also thought about how to create impactful opportunities for some of the older students at The Dance Studios. One young person, Olivia, really stood out.
I enjoyed working with Olivia, and giving her more responsibility to work with the younger children as a chaperone and dance captain. It was nice to give her that opportunity, and let her believe in how great she is. Sophie has been in touch since the project, to let me know how much she enjoyed working with me and the Jingah Project team. That was amazing to hear.
The Jingah Project had been held up by the pandemic for over a year, so it was exciting for The Dance Studio’s young performers to get back on stage after such a long time.
The Dance Studios are run by Jill Edwards and Maxine Loydall. Maxine shared her thoughts:
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. It was when we got to the dress and technical rehearsals that I understood how it would all come together. I thought it was fabulous. I was sitting there with my mouth open! Originally, the final piece was going to be an outdoor show, so I wasn’t sure what it was going to be like, but when I did see it, it was absolutely amazing!
An exciting and intrinsic part of the overall show were the circus elements, with performers working on ropes, silks, and aerial poles. This enabled students from The Dance Studios to experience a lot of new things, with Sophie teaching them some of the techniques involved to give them a taster.
We caught up with three of the children from The Dance Studios during rehearsals, Lakai, Olivia-Grace, and Adreanna.
I didn’t know there was going to be a trapeze, and that I was going to be part of that.
I saw them do new tricks that I haven’t learnt, and maybe in the future I’ll do those tricks that they’re doing.
The project brought children and young people from The Dance Studios together with dancers and performers from around the world. New friendship groups developed and everyone loved the vibrant and positive experience, with Adreanna sharing:
It brought a smile to people’s faces.
At the end of the project, Lakai, who has since gone on to win a dance bursary, asked:
Can you make another Jingah that we can all do?
The children’s experiences shows how important art and culture is to young people’s lives. From giving them the chance to work alongside world class performers and learn exciting new skills, to inspiring their confidence, sense of self-belief and ambition to become the next generation of performers and artists.