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About the arts Project

About the original arts project: The 3 linked site-specific performance pieces included theatre, dance, song and video

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Children of the Mills was a collaborative project that involved a team of four creative practitioners working with children from six primary schools. The project aimed to create three linked site specific performance pieces that included theatre, dance, song and video, which together told the story of the people that worked in the Arkwright mills of the industrial revolution. More detail about the process of the overall project can be found in the 'Making History' section, under About the Process.

More detail about the movement and dance specific elements can be found in 'Moving Through History' under About the Process.



Moving through Time

Moving through Time

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About the artist

About the artist: A dancer / choreographer whose work focuses on creative collaboration with children and young people

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  • About Debi Hedderwick
  • Debi Hedderwick's CV

Dance is all about people, and I am a dancer/choreographer who has chosen to develop my working practice by specialising in working with children and young people. This work has developed over two decades and takes place both in formal (schools) and informal (community) learning settings. I work with people of all ages, ranges of ability and experience, as I believe that dance, being a transforming participatory experience, should be accessible to and enjoyed by everyone. I aim both to encourage inclusion and to facilitate participants' learning and personal development through the creative process; and to inspire people's confidence in their own imagination, creativity and ability to make dance performance work.

I think that dance is an essential part of our cultural and expressive life - it is sociable and enjoyable, it increases our understanding of ourselves and others, our ability to communicate and express ourselves fully, our self-confidence and personal empowerment as well as our physical awareness and health. I am particularly interested in dance as an integral part of creative learning, and in the unique opportunities it provides to develop non-verbal imagination and communication, kinaesthetic understanding and expression, and as a holistic body/mind experience that brings different parts of our personality together.

I have run a wide variety of projects and programmes that have either focused entirely on dance or combined dance with other art-forms (drama, music composition, new media - video making, digital photography, sculpture, design). The themes for projects are often taken from other curriculum areas to develop creative approaches to cross-curricular learning. Recently these areas have particularly covered citizenship and emotional literacy, science, history and literacy. I work with children at all stages of their learning, and have done a considerable amount of work with people with learning disabilities, and with children in their early years. I also do training workshops (in dance, cross-curricular approaches to teaching and in developing creativity) with teachers to support the long-term development of dance and creative learning in schools.

My work in directing Learning Through Arts - initiating, developing and managing inclusive and inspiring creative education projects across all sectors of the community - reflects my belief that the arts are a powerful tool in lifelong learning, group development, social inclusion, partnership building and community regeneration.

For more detailed information about my work, or about Learning Through Arts, go to the general information section.

Debi Hedderwick




01629 825202 / 07900 690237



1979 – 82:

Nottingham University – B.A. Hons 2.1 in Music, specialising in composition with Nigel Osborne.


Gulbenkian Course for Composers and Choreographers – directors John Cage and Merce Cunningham, attended as a dancer.

1982 – 85;

London School of Contemporary Dance – full time dance training

1992 – 95:

British Sign Language Stage 1 and 2 Course. CACDP B.S.L. Stage 2 passed.


Various courses, seminars and conferences selected as necessary to continue professional development e.g. with Miranda Tufnell, Kirstie Simpson, Wolfgang Stange, NIACE, RSA, Arts Council England and through Creative Partnerships Nottingham.

Personal statement

  • My work through dance performance, choreography, teaching and facilitation, and more recently through
    wider cross art-form work has focused on the central philosophy of inspiring participation, learning
    and personal development through the creative process. Dance is an essential part of our cultural and
    expressive life – it is sociable and enjoyable, it increases our understanding of ourselves and others,
    our ability to communicate and express ourselves fully, our self-confidence and personal empowerment,
    our physical awareness and health.
  • As I believe that dance, as a transforming participatory experience, should be open to everyone to enjoy,
    I aim to encourage inclusion and to facilitate participants’ development, learning goals and aspirations.
  • I am particularly interested in dance as an integral part of creative learning within a personalized
    learning philosophy, and the unique opportunities it provides to develop non-verbal communication,
    kinaesthetic understanding and expression, and holistic body/mind experience that brings movement,
    sound and vision together.
  • My work in directing Learning Through Arts – initiating, developing and managing inclusive and inspiring
    arts-in-education projects across all sectors of the community - reflects my belief that the arts are a
    powerful tool in creative education, group development, social inclusion, partnership building and
    community regeneration.

Key Skills:

  • inspiring inclusion, particularly with young people, disaffected groups and people with learning
    disability: working with people as individuals to develop confidence and self expression.
  • creating exciting performance work with people of all ages, experiences and abilities
  • initiating innovative projects and developing appropriate content and material, in connection
    with any area of the curriculum where required
  • developing and managing projects from inception to performance and evaluation
  • training other professionals e.g. teachers, dancers working in education
  • establishing healthy and dynamic group structures
  • inspiring individual’s confidence in their contribution and learning development
  • developing creative learning skills, tools and resources for people with a variety of
    different experiences
  • managing teams
  • collaborating with artists
  • communicating clearly and getting on well with people
  • engaging children and young people and making learning fun

Sustained work with major companies, art centres, colleges and choreographers:

  • Creative Partnerships Nottingham
  • Richard Attenborough Centre for Arts and Disability
  • London Contemporary Dance Theatre Educational Unit, and Special Education Unit
    (touring to special schools and day centres throughout U.K.)
  • Hong Kong City Contemporary Dance Company
  • Islington Arts Factory
  • Suffolk Dance
  • Middlesex Polytechnic, The Studio Centre, London College of Dance, Derby College Wilmorton,
  • Imminent Dancers (dir. Matthew Hawkins), Direct Current Dance Company (dir. Michael Popper)
  • Derbyshire County Council, Norfolk County and Norwich City Council

(including Youth and Community Choreography)

Learning Through Arts


Early Years Creative Learning. Dance and Drama development with staff, through partnership working with the children’s sessions at Alfreton Nursery.

Theatre of Possibility: with John Naylor, exploring personalised learning through interactive improvisation (using dance, music, new media, lighting, projection) with students with Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties.

Teacher training with Derbyshire County Council LEA in Creative Approaches to Teaching and Learning, in using dance and creative movement for cross-curricular teaching, and in dance skills and progression through the key stages.



i.move dance project: 4 schools worked with choreographer Debi Hedderwick on themes arising from the Citizenship curriculum, such as friendship and bullying, and then met to perform the work and share and celebrate their achievement, at the Pomegranate Theatre Chesterfield.

Yes, We’re Boys! : Video-making project with Year 7 boys at Glossopdale Secondary School to a create movement based film that celebrated the identity of the group as a whole and the individuals within it, for Derbyshire’s Children’s Festival

Don’t Box Me In: Wirksworth IN.depend.DANCE Youth Dance Company (OSHL group) was commissioned by DCC LEA to create a work as a dance introduction to the key note speech on creativity at the Biannual Derbyshire Head teacher’s Conference.

Wonderful Me, Wonderful You: Children from Fritchley Primary School University of the First Age Summer School explored themselves as individual learners through digital photography, sculpture and the moving body.



Children of the Mills: Choreography for multi-media performance project linked to the local history of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. 6 primary schools created 3 linked performances including dance, drama, video and music.

Teacher CPD training in Dance and Creativity for DCC LEA, both at conference and training days and specifically formulated training for individual schools.

Wirksworth IN.depend.DANCE development of sustained Youth Performance Company, creating performance work for target year 5/6 audiences on the citizenship curriculum, to tour to schools in 2004.



20 week dance residency as experiential teacher training at Walton Holymoorside Primary School, and Daughter of the Sea (from novel by Berlie Doherty)- dance theatre piece created with OOHL Drama Group for School Arts Week Performance at The Winding Wheel Chesterfield.



Fast Forward: Development and delivery of Youth Dance Development project in partnership with Derbyshire County Youth Service, funded by DDC, DDDC, East Midland Arts, and Rural Development Programme. To devise a programme of varied dance genres, choreography, music, video and theatre design, and create performance

The Big Big Brother: multi media dance theatre including Street dance, Jazz, Body Percussion, Flamenco, Hip Hop, drama, dance video and video projection, design and music composition with 85 young people from the Derbyshire Dales. Focusing on rural/urban cultures and consumerism, personal and group images and relationships.



Marching Through Heanor: Devised dance theatre performance work for 79 performers from Year 6 at William Howitt School Heanor, exploring the last 100 years of local history through dance, drama and song writing.


Moving Experience Dance Project

1994 – present:

teaching regular contemporary, creative, improvisation and choreography dance classes for children and young people, age 2 –16 including:

  • Youth Performance Group; dance improvisation, and culturally diverse social dance for adults;

  • Boys Dance group; developing dance opportunities in a variety of dance styles for adults and

  • children; promoting quality dance performance in local venues, creating works and performance

  • opportunities for locally based dancers.



performance project with Year 9 students at Frederick Gents School, South Normanton, including teacher training. Based on youth crime personal responsibility and decision making. For Junction Arts.



dance consultation and training for Heritage School Cluster Gifted and Talented Arts Project.



dance development projects at Shirebrook Community School with Year 10 and 11 students on

i) exploring the GCSE science curriculum through dance to increase interest and understanding,

ii) exploring disruptive social behaviour, alcohol abuse and solutions to these through dance theatre techniques. For Junction Arts.



Labels: Year of the Artist project to work with a group of disaffected boys from the local community to make a dance film with original music. The film explored the individual and group personalities and examined society’s labeling of them, as well as their own self imaging. The work has been shown at Wirksworth Art and Architecture Trail, The Rural Youth Issues National Forum, National Specialist Sports Colleges Conference and featured in the East Midlands Arts ‘YOTA - The Way Forward’ Conference.



Work on personal development and social inclusion through movement and video with Pupil Referral Unit, Breadsall. Derbyshire County Council.



Electric Paper: as part of a major national education initiative linking Primary science learning (Key Stages 1 and 2) with performing arts and literacy - developing and leading a training programme for professional dance graduates; developing teacher’s resource pack; choreographing a commissioned dance-in education work with an integrated dance group of disabled and able bodied performers; leading science through dance workshops and in-service training at a variety of Midlands schools



Wirksworth 20-20: perfect vision dance theatre project commissioned by Derbyshire LEA to represent the county at Derbyshire’s Day in the Dome, October 4 th 2000. Dance theatre work created with approx. 200 young people with live performance, video projection, text, and commissioned contemporary score.



True Colours: Devised work commissioned by Junction Arts for performance at the Flags and Lanterns Festival at Bolsover Castle, devised with, and performed by, special needs FE students



Through My Eyes – for Moving Together Youth Dance, work involving dance, video and still photography. Performed at secondary schools in the Derbyshire Dales, as part of a touring programme of dance-in-education specifically created by Moving Experience Dance Project for young performers



The Body Project 1 – collaborative performance project with composer Andrew Williams, Ensemble 8, and Moving Experience community dance group, using dance, live electronic music, film and sculpture in a site specific installation. Including workshops for adults with profound multiple disabilities



On A Scale Of 1-10 – for Moving Together Youth Dance. Wirksworth Festival.

The Firebird – for Birds of Paradise Junior Dance. Wirksworth Schools.



Golding House Resource Centre – regular percussion workshops, and a course creating music or animated film for adults with learning difficulties.



Derby College, Wilmorton – A level and BTec choreography, performance skills and technique; Mixed Media Performance Group for students with learning and behavioral difficulties.




Celebration – a community work for 60 performers including children, adults, and people with learning difficulties. Wirksworth Festival. 1996.

Dance Macabre – commissioned by Norfolk and Norwich Community Dance for the inception of Norfolk Youth Dance Group. Norwich. 1991.

Every Bond You Break – commissioned by Eastern Arts Association for Cambridge Dance Festival, ’89



Norfolk and Norwich Community Dance, Dancer-in-residence, with responsibility for initiating, developing and sustaining dance work throughout Norfolk, and for leading workshops and courses in all sectors of the community.


Wells Arts Centre 6 week residency as Dancer-in-residence. 4 week residency in Suffolk schools creating original works in dance and music



London Contemporary Dance Theatre Special Education Team, teacher touring to special schools and day centres throughout U.K.



London Contemporary Dance Theatre Education Team, teacher touring to mainstream schools, youth groups and vocational colleges throughout G.B.



Workshops, regular classes and courses, at Islington Arts Factory, MiddlesexPolytechnic, The Studio Centre, London College of Dance , throughout East Anglia for Suffolk Dance and Cambridge Ballet Workshop (including commissioned choreographies with integrated professional and youth dancers: Threepenny Piece, Sporting Chance, Light Collisions, Simultaneous Windows, Mrs Otto’s Outing all performed at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, and Mumford Theatre Cambridge.


CHOREOGRAPHY AND PERFORMANCE (additional to work in education and the community)



In My House I Am: dance video, first part of a seven year cycle of linked videos created with daughter Lillie Hedderwick Turner, exploring mother and daughter relationship over seven years of growing up. Derby Dance Centre Ignite Showcase.



Mandala: Improvised dance performance to music by Andreas Salm. Adrian Boult Concert Hall. Birmingham

Under: Improvised dance performance as part of Matlock Arts Festival with E8 music ensemble



Electric Paper – dance piece commissioned by The Design Council and The Richard Attenborough Centre, to make a work for Key Stages 1 - 2 using new poetry by Michael Rosen



The Body Project 2 – a collaborative work with composer Andrew Williams, using dance, live electronic music, film and sculpture, for the Space Body Image Festival; with choreographic commission from East Midland Arts Board, and a training and development grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation. Bonnington Gallery, Nottingham.



Picture This: chor.: Peter Purdy, for the opening of the Derby Dance Centre.



Across This Space: solos and duets from The Body Project. Wirksworth Festival.



Silent Voices: chor.: Tricia Durdey. Bonnington Gallery, Nottingham.



This Must Be The Place: improvised street performance as part of European Festival Week,



Out Of The Dark: for the Norfolk Composers Co-operative Live, improvised performance. Norwich Arts Centre.



Four Songs – commissioned by Inter-Artes for A Salute of Combined Arts, with dancers from the Hong Kong City Contemporary Dance Company. Hong Kong.


Sometimes Sad – choreographed in collaboration with Ann Dickie for soloist Tom Yang. Taiwan.

1991 – 93:

Choreography for the professional theatre, including dance consultation for Children of a Lesser God . Derby Playhouse.


Singing My Self – music, Luciano Berio. Chisendale Dance Space.

Face To Space – theatre dance work created with actor Patric Turner. Chisendale Dance Space.


What A Muse Meant – collaborative work with Ann Dickie and Dudley Barrett. Putney Dance Attic.

1986 – 87:

Imminent Dancers – director/choreographer Matthew Hawkins

Direct CurrentDance Company– director/choreographer Michael Popper


Lurching Darts – direction/choreography Ann Dickie, Matthew Hawkins, Tom Yang.


Images Dance Company, Israel

Manoeuvres Community Dance Company, Lambeth Community Dance Company


2002 – 2005:

Creative Development Worker with Creative Partnerships Nottingham, working in particular with Shepherd Special School to develop a range of long term arts programmes in partnership with artists and arts organizations, and researching access and inclusion issues for students with special needs across mainstream provision. Development of creative approaches to Personalised Learning.

1999 – present:

Learning Through Arts: Co-founder/Director - specialist arts and creative education organisation - inspiring inclusion, participation and learning in and through the arts. Initiating, developing and managing cross art-form projects, programmes and events through partnerships within the community, schools, lifelong learning and youth sectors and in collaboration with regional artists.

  • e.g. 1. 2001/2: Lifelines: Commissioned by Derbyshire County Council. Writing and visual arts participatory project celebrating cultural diversity in the lives of the local population, resulting in an exhibition, which represented Derbyshire’s contribution to the Long Journey Home for the Commonwealth Games Spirit of Friendship Arts Festival, and is currently touring Derbyshire venues
  • e.g. 2. Project work with disaffected and special needs pupils at the Anthony Gell School Wirksworth to encourage inclusion and participation in the education process, and engagement in personal and group decision-making through performing arts and media.
  • e.g. 3. 2002/3: The Skellig Project. Commissioned work from Derbyshire County Council to devise performing and visual arts workshops and libraries resource pack from the celebrated children’s novel Skellig, for the Books Connect partnership to tour to varied size libraries and heritage venues across Derbyshire.
1996 – present:

Moving Experience Dance Project: Director - facilitating and promoting dance workshops, classes, courses and projects in Contemporary Dance, choreography, improvisation, Street Dance, Flamenco, Indian folk, South and Pan African, Argentine Tango, Samba, Jive, Video, Mask, Performance work. Promotion of dance performances e.g. Adzido, ACE, Jaleo and Horse and Bamboo Theatre Company.

2002: Artistic Direction of Books Connect National Conference performance showcase, at Broadway Cinema Nottingham
2002: Community Works: JointCo-ordinator of Outreach and Special Events forEMDA funded NOW! Wirksworth Regeneration project. Developing and delivering a wide range of creative and arts-led projects as tool for regeneration consultation with young people, the elderly, and disadvantaged groups in schools and the community.
2001/2 Learning Through Arts: Consultation and writing of development plan for Wirksworth Town Hall as a multi use arts centre, commissioned by Wirksworth Town Council
2001: Bolsover Children’s Festival: Programme Co-ordinator (shared post), programming ten arts residencies in schools and youth centres, and community and professional performances for weekend event at Bolsover Castle
1997/01 Wirksworth Festival: Programme Director and Co-ordinator, two week performing and visual arts event encompassing all art-forms, and promoting work of local, regional and national significance. All aspects of programming, management, production, fund-raising, editing of brochure, co-ordination of artists and venues, press and media interviews.
Pre 1997 Evaluation of various dance projects.

Membership of Boards and Steering Groups :

  • Creative Partnerships Nottingham Research Steering Group ( Nottingham Trent University)
  • Creative Partnerships BAM Steering Group
  • Derbyshire County Council Arts Development Group and Education Sub-group
  • Gateway Project Management Group
  • Force 5
  • Wirksworth Regeneration Board, Culture Action Group and Youth Action Group (chair)
  • Parish Rooms Creative Industry Workspace Development Group, Wirksworth


More about the process

More about the process: Workshops had generic creative learning aims but also served to create movement work for the performance

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In this section, I will describe the process that the children involved in the dance work went through with me.

As context to the process involved, I feel it’s important to point out that as well as setting out to create movement work for the performance piece, the dance workshops had generic creative learning aims in themselves:

  • motivating and inspiring the learners
  • developing their imaginations
  • building their self confidence as creative people
  • developing communication and expressive skills
  • engaging with individual’s kinaesthetic learning abilities
  • making structures work
  • reflecting on and improving the work

Each of these areas is developed in different ways through the key processes of:

  • game playing
  • exploring movement/developing vocabulary
  • improvisation
  • group working
  • structuring
  • refining
  • performing
  • reflecting

These in turn fit into a workshop structure that follows the pattern of:

  • warm up (game playing, exploring movement/developing vocabulary)
  • exploring ideas (improvising, exploring movement/developing vocabulary, group working)
  • making a dance piece (group working, structuring, refining, performing and reflecting)

For me two of the most important of these elements are improvising and structuring:


(playing with ideas as they happen) on given themes and within given structures is really important both in developing people’s confidence in themselves as dancers and as creative people, and in allowing space for the imagination to flow and ideas to be explored. Structured improvisations allow people to move as themselves, and to respond directly to stimulus and to those they are improvising with. It requires acute non-verbal communication and awareness of the other dancer/s. You will find specific ideas for structured improvisations in the downloadable workshop document.

Structuringwork (making up dances) with ideas that have arisen during improvisations allows people to work together - requiring group working skills such as communication and co-operation – and also empowers participants to make their own choreography that expresses the theme or narrative. Giving participants time for both reflection on the effectiveness of the piece created, and for subsequent refining and improving of their work, deepens the level of understanding and learning.

I have also found that children and young people really respond well to contact dance skills involving trust and counterbalance/support work, and I included this area of practice in the workshops.

The workshops described below explored two main themes in connection with the narrative developed through the drama work (see Andy Barrett’s pages), and with the mill sites themselves:

  • Expressing feelings - how the children working in the mills might have felt;
  • Working together – communities giving and receiving support.

Other themes that were explored and developed into pieces for the final performance were: the river as the driving force, factory machines, servants at work in the Arkwright home, privileged education of Arkwright’s children (dance of the era), community celebration dances in honour of Richard Arkwright. Some of these were approached from an abstract starting point (e.g. the river dance), some from a narrative context (community celebration dances), and some from a humorous and deliberately anachronistic point of view (e.g. the servants at work, dancing the polka). As you can see, the sites proved to be a rich mine for stimulus and inspiration.

Debi Hedderwick


How to sheets

‘How to’ sheets: 3 distinct workshops (of < 1 hour each) using warm up, improvisation and structuring to make and show group dance pieces

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Three Workshop Outlines

The process and underlying aims outlined in the ‘about the process’ section can be organized into three distinct workshops (of 45 mins – 1 hour) that each use warm up, improvisation and structuring activities to make and show group dance pieces on the theme Children of the Mills: expressing feelings and working together.


Workshop One: Expressing Feelings

Warm Up

  • Circle game: how do you feel today
  • Warm up exercises
  • Exploring movement: moving around the room with different qualities
  • Moving with feeling, different qualities for different feelings

Exploring ideas

  • Improvisation activities

Making a dance piece

  • Discussion: how the children of the mills might have felt
  • Storyline
  • Selecting ideas
  • Structuring
  • Showing

Warm Up

Circle game. How do you feel today:

The purpose of the game is to introduce the central idea of the workshop through a game format - this makes it fun and gives participants the idea that there are no right or wrong ways of doing it/expressing themselves.

Make a circle. Ask participants how they are feeling today (happy, tired, excited etc), and to find a movement or shape that expresses the feeling. This doesn’t have to be realistic or recognisable. Around the circle each person in turn says their name and makes their feeling shape or movement. Everyone else in the circle repeats their name and copies their shape as accurately as possible. At the end ask the participants if they were able to empathise with how others were feeling.

Warm up exercises:

The purpose of these exercises is to warm the body up to be able to move without injury, but also to increase movement ability and range, and give people confidence through an extended potential vocabulary.

  • Breathing and stretching: Connect this to vocabulary of emotions:

breathing in to stretch out and up with your arms (feeling open and ready?), breathing out to fold into a crouch position (feeling quiet and soft?), breathing in to extend your body into a new position of your own (what does this position make you feel?), breathing out to lower to the floor (feeling relaxed?), breathing in three times to slowly return to standing (feeling expansive, strong/powerful, energetic?). Breathe out to rest. Repeat with new shape in middle of exercise.

  • Moving in circles: ask participants to move first their shoulders, then

half their arms (touching finger tips to shoulders), then whole arm in forwards and backwards circles (four counts for each to establish rhythmical movement).

Suggest that they imagine they are painting a picture with differently coloured circular patterns all around themselves, using first their lead hand, and then their other hand.

Extend this to painting circles with their feet, top of their heads (make sure that they don’t bend their necks backwards), noses, backs, knees etc – different body parts leading.

Ask if the picture they have painted (colours and shapes used) expresses any particular feeling.

  • Working the feet: it’s very important to warm up the feet and lower

legs in dance to ensure dancers are ready for jumps and leaps. Ask the participants to articulate the feet through the heel and toes to an extended foot position and then reverse (one count for each move). Then go on to peeling the foot off the floor as if stuck firmly in thick mud. Then go on to using one foot at a time as if jumping and landing. Rise onto the balls of the feet, lower and bend the knees (this is the jumping and landing action in slow motion and teaches the correct use of feet and legs). Finally progress to small soft jumps on the spot.

Exploring the movement

The purpose of these exercises is to give participants the opportunity to use the space more freely to explore their personal movement vocabulary and mode of expression for the workshop theme.

Moving around the room with different qualities:

  • firstly introduce the idea of varied movement quality in an abstract context (not connected to the theme). Ask the participants to follow the verbal instructions, but to interpret them in their own way. Moving round the room, starting with jogging (to establish good use of space), then (for example) rolling, spinning, extending (stretching into shape), skipping, galloping, leaping.
  • then add movement qualities that they should interpret in their own way – this is to increase movement expressiveness before tackling the theme: move around the room exploring words such as soft, spiky, floating, powerful, fast, slow, flowing, interrupted etc. Ask the participants for their ideas.
  • then do the same but using vocabulary of emotion: happy, sad, angry, shy, fearful etc. Ask the participants for their ideas. It is very likely that the dancers will naturally try to mime these emotions. Really try to encourage them to express the feeling of the emotion without miming/acting. Ask them where they feel that particular emotion and then ask them to let that part of the body lead the movement. Ask them how the emotion feels (tight, open, wobbly, etc) and then ask them to express this quality.

Exploring ideas

Improvisation activities: the purpose of using some specific structured improvisation activities here is to encourage participants to increase their awareness of and confidence in their own expressive abilities and to increase their ability to respond to each other and to ideas that arise spontaneously.

  • Dialogue: In pairs. Talk about how a conversation goes between two people – an exchange of ideas/ information in which one person talks whilst the other listens, and then the other responds whilst the first listens etc. Link this to the exercise: the first person moves in whatever way they want whilst the other, holding a shape, watches. Then the second responds, in whatever way they like, whilst the first holds their shape and watches etc. Encourage the participants to respond spontaneously using shorter (single movement) or longer phrases, whole body or single body parts, different levels, echoing or contrasting movements. Any movement vocabulary is OK – within safe parameters.
  • Whose leading: In pairs. This exercise explores how the balance of power in terms of leader/follower can be played with. One person starts as leader and the other copies the movement as accurately as they can (not as a mirror, using right foot when the leader is using the left foot, but as identical). On a command the second person takes over the lead and the first person copies. This swop should be done without talking or pausing. At the next command both dancers become equal leaders/followers, each observes and responds, instigating movement as they want to, following as they need to. A magical communication takes place and a spontaneous partner dance evolves without planning or talking!

Making a dance piece

how the children of the mills might have felt. (This presumes some specific preparation, discovery and learning in this particular area of history). Talk with the participants about how they think the children who were working in the mills might have felt about their employment, how they might have felt at the beginning and end of the day, what they might have wanted to change about their lives, etc. Talk about specific emotions connected to different events/activities and times of day.

ask the participants to make small groups (4 or 5) and to create a storyline for themselves about a part of the children’s day – e.g. waking and going to work, getting started in the factory – and to then explore movement ideas and pathways in the room that communicates the storyline and expresses the emotions clearly. Encourage them not to try and tell a long or complicated story, but rather a short and clear one that communicates the emotional context as compared to events.

Selecting ideas and structuring:
encourage the participants to think about their ideas and select those that they feel are the most expressive and communicative of the theme/story. Talk to them about structure/form of their work. This could be as simple as beginning, middle and ending, or could include spatial structure (pathways), dynamic structure, contrast, unison/counterpoint etc depending on the experience of your group.

allow plenty of time for showing work, in the context of sharing good ideas around the class. Both preparing their own work for showing and watching others helps participants develop their skills in communicating ideas clearly. It also gives opportunity for building confidence through praise in picking out the most successful elements of each group’s work. I like to ask all participants to think about one thing they thought worked really well, or they liked or responded to, whilst they are watching and to offer positive comments, as this encourages thoughtful observation and reflective\analytical skills.


Workshop Two: Working Together

Warm Up

  • Game: push and pull
  • Warm up exercises
  • Understanding your weight and balance

Exploring ideas

  • Trust games: in a circle
  • falling in pairs
  • Contact exercises: sharing weight, supporting a partner
  • Push and pull
  • Lean onto back
  • Fall and recover
  • Chair lift

Making a dance piece

  • Discussion: communities working together
  • Storyline
  • Selecting ideas
  • Structuring
  • Showing

Warm Up

Game. push and pull:

The purpose of this game is to introduce the theme of the session, working together with trust, support and counterbalance, through the format of a game.

Before the game, explain that each member of the group must work in a responsible and trustworthy way with their partner, being responsible for their safety and well being. Practice the counterbalance positions of push and pull.

Push – partners put flat hands against each other (as in prayer position), move their feet away from each other and push with EQUAL weight and balance against their partner. To finish it’s really important that the participants know that they move towards each other to release the counterbalance without letting their partner fall.

Pull – partners hold each other’s wrists without squeezing (one person’s hands facing up, and one person’s hands facing down). They move their feet away from each other and pull each other with EQUAL strength and balance. As before, it’s very important that participants know that if they don’t walk towards each other to finish then one person could fall and hurt themselves.

The game: when the music plays the participants move around the space, weaving in and out, changing direction and keeping as much space around themselves as possible. When the music stops they find a partner and either push or pull according to the command. They finish the counterbalance when told to move together. It’s good if participants find a different partner each time, so that they can feel the different amount of weight and strength to use against their partner to keep an effective balance.

N.B. Of course as teachers or group leaders you will know if there are any children who are best not partnered together, or who need an adult near them to ensure responsible response to this game.

Warm up exercises

I think that repetition is not only good for physical learning, but also helps participants feel more confident in what they are doing. Asking the dancers to think about different things as they work can extend the learning:

  • Breathing and stretching as before.
  • Circling movements as before.
  • Feet and lower legs as before.

But connect comments to the theme of balance:

  • can you feel your weight changing to different parts of your body?
  • adding moments of balance to the circling exercise.
  • can you balance on one foot?
  • can you feel your weight wanting to come down as soon as you take off?

Understanding your weight and balance

  • Falling softly to the floor. Ask participants to allow themselves to fall slowly, with soft limbs, to the floor, as if in a faint. Ask them to feel their weight being gradually taken by the floor as they give into it and relax.
  • Feeling the change of weight as you move back to standing. Ask participants to really feel and think about the many changes of weight in the body as they stand up again.
  • Pushing into the air for a leap. Ask the participants to run and leap and consider how their weight (under the force of gravity) wants to return to the earth. How weight falls and how it must be controlled as it lands.
  • Leaning against the wall. Ask participants to lean against the wall really giving their weight to the support of the vertical surface.

Exploring ideas

Trust games.

The purpose of these games is to build trust within the group and to ensure that participants working together are responsible for each other and support each other’s weight.

  • in a circle: participants stand in a circle of about 8 people. One person is in the middle. It’s really important that everyone in the circle knows that they are responsible at all times, and that more than one person is always there as a “catcher”. The people in a circle have their shoulders close enough to be touching so that there are no gaps. The person in the centre keeps their body completely stiff in the middle, so that they lean not bend, and their feet still, as if nailed to the floor. When everyone is ready the person in the centre leans forward, backwards or sideways, and is caught on the shoulders by the people in the circle who are closest. EVERYONE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THAT PERSON! It’s good if the central person can close their eyes.
  • falling in pairs: one person stands in front of the other with their back turned. When they know that the other person is ready they start to fall in the slow and soft way practiced above. The other person catches the faller’s weight by hooking their arms underneath the armpits. The catcher lowers the faller softly to the floor. The faller does not give their whole weight to the catcher, but takes some of the responsibility for getting to the floor safely themselves. When the faller is on the floor, the catcher steps over them, takes one hand and moves backwards, pulling to help the faller return to standing. Both participants should be able to feel the share and change of weight and responsibility.

Contact exercises:

Sharing weight, supporting a partner.

The purpose of these exercises is to show participants how you can take the weight of a partner into a support/balance through using counterbalance rather than strength. These supports can then be used expressively in dances.

  • Push and pull. Reprise if necessary.
  • Lean onto back. The partners should be of approximately equal size. One person stands behind the other. The person in front is the support, the other is the lifted. The support bends their knees and holds their hands above their head and holds the wrists of the other (the lifted). They bend slowly forward, hinging at the hips (not bending their backs). As they do so the lifted person will come easily off the ground – it’s important that they stay relaxed and don’t kick their feet around, as this will make them wobbly and the support unstable. To finish the support comes all the way back up to standing so that the lifted person’s feet are firmly on the ground.
  • Fall and recover. As above but with more flow, maybe concentrating on varying how the fall and recovery happen (direction, speed, dynamic, pause), and adding transitional movement into and out of the fall and recover.
  • Moving over crouches: In pairs. One person crouches in tight ball or on all fours. The other finds slow and soft ways of moving over the shape – “pouring” their body over the shape that is the support.
  • Chair lift. In threes. Two people make a seat with their hands – the best way, I think is for each person to hold their own left wrist and, facing their partner, their partner’s right wrist. The third person sits in the hand-chair, putting their arms around the supports’ shoulders and is lifted off the floor. It’s important, as in all lifting, that the support people keep their backs straight at all times. Make sure that the participants know that the lifted person’s feet go back to the floor first, and that the lift is not finished until their feet are on the ground! Sometimes children do get carried away and want to go onto the next idea before they are safely finished with the one they are involved in.

There are many other supports and lifts that can be safely used, teachers amongst you will know some from gymnastics, bearing in mind that in dance the movement into and out of the support usually needs to be flowing rather than static.

N.B. You will know your group – be very aware of how much you think they can take on safely, and ensure that responsibility is being taken and instructions followed very carefully.

Making a dance piece

communities working together. Discuss the idea with the group, that despite hardships in the life of the workers in the mill factories of the era, communities and families worked together and looked after each other.

Ask the participants to work in small groups (4 or 5) to make a short narrative about a situation in which someone needs help or support. E.g. maybe they are tired, or they don’t want to go to work that day. Maybe they have been hurt or are hungry and have run out of strength. Make sure the narratives allow space for some of the support movement practiced to be included as expressive material.

Selecting ideas.
As above.

As above.

As above.


Workshop Three: Making the Dance

This session is mainly dedicated to creating a finished and more polished dance piece, and to sharing and showing it to the rest of the group.

Warm up:

The warm up can use material from previous sessions. It is a good idea to ask for ideas and suggestions from the participants to consolidate their learning from the previous week, allow them to add and embellish and to extend their learning with their own ideas.

Revise ideas:

Revisit some of the ideas from the previous sessions, maybe:

  • encouraging the dancers to really try and express feelings with their whole body, maybe trying to help the movement develop from a more abstract basis rather than a mime, maybe encouraging varied use of quality, dynamic, speed and level.
  • Revise the support work with an emphasis on remembering safe practice, or if you are sure of that, then concentrating on movement into and out of supports to encourage flow.

Making the piece: time to work together.

This group work is intended to bring the ideas of the other two workshop sessions together, using expressive movement based on feelings and emotions as well as trust and contact work to communicate the theme of communities working together and supporting each other. Give plenty of time for the groups to develop their ideas, shape them into a structure that tells the story and to practice and refine their work. I normally find they are much better left to their own devises, rather than suggesting material – unless a group gets completely stuck, or can’t work out differences of opinion! Rather than suggesting material, try to encourage dancers to think about working with their best material (as opposed to every idea they come up with), and to include changes of quality, speed, dynamic, and level as appropriate to express their narrative.

In groups of 4 – 6: Ask the participants to think about how the children working in the mills might have felt at the end of their working day – were they exhausted, relieved, hungry, dying get home, needing support, hurt etc. Ask them to make a story about the journey home at the end of the day, and create a short dance piece that shows the children’s feelings and their mutual support and for each other.

As detailed above, make sure that when the pieces are shared at the end of the session you leave time for the rest of the group to make positive comments about what they have seen – bits they really liked, or thought were effective, and why.

The music for dance tasks like this is really important, and in the section “Other Resources” I have included the titles of some CDs that I have found very useful in providing the right atmosphere and setting the scene.

Above all the session should be fun, and the participants should feel that they have really achieved something in creating their own dance work. A positive atmosphere in which all ideas are appreciated is vital. Using a video camera to record work at the end of the session, and playing back for the participants to watch is a good idea from time to time. Not only will the children enjoy watching themselves, but also they will learn from it by seeing for themselves what ideas really worked well.


Curriculum links

Curriculum Links: PHSE: Citizenship and Literacy: Creative Writing

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PHSE: Citizenship:

Over the past two years, I have been doing a great deal of dance work in schools on themes from the Citizenship curriculum, which has been very effective in exploring ideas of community, friendship and bullying – working with each other responsibly and thoughtfully, understanding one another, celebrating different communities and cultures.

I think that exploring and gaining insight into and understanding of people’s lives during the Industrial Revolution ties in well with PHSE and Citizenship. For older students there are also the wider global issues of fair and legal employment, justice and accountability, fair trade. Mock trials to examine some of these issues could be written and staged. Comparisons can be made between the period of local history and today’s trading and working standards (employment of minors) in developing countries for the benefit of commerce and economic growth in developed countries. (A youth dance group I work with has, in fact, created a dance performance piece entitled “My Favourite Things” on this theme. In it they counterpose a flashy fashion show with a factory scene in which under privileged young people are making the clothes for the show.) The idea is not to offer solutions but to gain insight and some degree of understanding of issues involved.

Literacy: creative writing:

I have found that dance work leads very successfully into creative writing.

Example 1: following the workshop on Exploring Feelings, participants can be asked to write down all the feelings words they can think of on one half of a piece of paper, then write down movement words (the more descriptive and unusual, the better) on the other half of the paper. Bearing the narrative dance task in mind – the working children’s day at the factory, write a poem describing part of the day, using the feeling words and the movement words together.

Example 2: following the third workshop Making the Dance, ask the participants to write the story of their dance narrative, but encourage them to use words that describe the way they felt when they were dancing in their group – did the person they supported feel heavy, did their bodies feel wobbly, shaky, out of breath, was the end of their journey in sight or did it feel like a journey that would never end.

The dance work will provide a wonderful source of descriptive material for writing, and the stories have already been formed as a basis to work from.


There are also obvious links with science in this project. I have been engaged over several years in extensive work investigating, through action research with groups of children, the value of using dance to increase interest and understanding in science topics. The result has been that children have shown considerably increased engagement with the subject, and in some areas in particular (energy and forces, materials and their properties, growth and change in plants and animals) they have increased their learning, understanding and memory.

During this project we talked about the river being the driving force for the industrial innovations and developments, and about how a water wheel works in order to generate energy. The children created the flow of a river with cloth materials and movement, and formed a working human water wheel through which the water could flow.

We also thought about the machines in the factories and how the constituent parts work together to do the job required. The children made human machines with their bodies, thinking about how each movement they did had to fit together with/drive another person’s movement forward, in the same way a cog or a camshaft works in reality.


Resources and Links

Resources and Links: Music I have found to be essential as a resource for workshops, websites

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I have found few written dance resources that really focus on creative and imaginative work, using improvisation as a basis for generating and developing ideas, and that allow a theme to be developed over a series of sessions to create dance pieces in some depth, rather than meeting National Curriculum needs in a much more formal way.

However, from a generic point of view, I think the following is useful:

  • "Letting the buggers be creative" Sue Cowley

You might find the National Dance Teachers Association website useful, it has lesson plans, ideas and resource lists for teachers of dance in schools, at all key stages: , also there are downloadable lesson plans for dance based on personal and social issues, and communication, at Key Stages at 3 and 4 on .

And watching good choreography with your students can be inspiring. These works have historical themes, or dramatic narratives, and are a really good example of expressive work in contemporary dance:

  • "Ghost Dances" by Christopher Bruce
  • "Carmen" by Carlos Saura
  • "West Side Story", choreography by Jerome Robbins

Music I have found to be essential as a resource for workshops:

World music:

  • "World percussion" - 32 tracks of various musicians
  • "Planet Drum" - Mickey Hart
  • "Big Drum, Small World" - Dhol Foundation
  • "La Bottine Sourrante" - Anthology

Classical: (usually good old favourites!)

  • "Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra" - Britten
  • "Pictures at an Exhibition" - Mussorsky
  • "Carnival of the Animals" - Saint Saens
  • "The Planets" - Holst
  • "The Firebird"/"The Rite of Spring" - Stravinsky
  • "Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano" - John Cage
  • Various - The Kronos Quartet
  • Various - Ligeti