My name is Naima, and I am 15 years old. My goal is to perform in musical theatre, however, as a young black woman, I am devastated by the complete lack of cultural influence in that sector. That's why IRIE! called out to me, and I am glad it did. When I first heard about IRIE!, I was intrigued, then, once I looked at their website and learnt more about them, I was invested. IRIE! was and still is the only dance company - even the only performing arts company, full stop - so committed to diversity. They have a mission, and every single staff member is passionate in this mission. In fact, after just the first day, I had already learnt all about their company from many different kind staff members, why it was founded, when, and by who. IRIE! was founded in 1985 by Beverley Glean (a wonderful woman that I hope you get to meet if you also apply here).
For the 2 weeks I enjoyed work experience at IRIE!, I worked under/shadowed Connor Taylor, the Education and Community Engagement officer. (You can read his story here: https://www.iriedancetheatre.org/post/my-journey-with-irie-dance-theatre-2).
I know, big scary title. However, everyone at IRIE!, especially Connor, was excellent at breaking down complicated industry language to my poor little Year 10 ears. Connor's role is essentially to connect IRIE! to the community, and wow, he does a great job; IRIE! is powered by the community for the community, IRIE! is even a little community in and of itself, in which everybody helps each other out. What I thought was so brilliant about IRIE! were the flexible job titles and the fluidity in the work I was doing. Each day was a little different, and I was never bored. In fact, there were a few days that I worked under completely different people.
IRIE! is the perfect place to get a complete idea of the inner workings of a dance company. I learnt about web design, organisation systems, archiving and more. I learnt to write budget reports, handle calls, write emails to hire out rooms and generally engage with IRIE!'s clients. I sat in on rehearsals, and meetings alike, and got an exceptional sense of both behind the scenes and on stage. IRIE! is not a placement where you do nothing but make tea!
Because IRIE! is a small, intimate, and informal organisation, I knew everyone in the company by the end, including some of the students on their BA programme, their teachers and community class leaders, the founder and CEO. I greatly developed my social skills whilst in a professional environment, whilst also having fun and joking about with what was essentially a big group of friends. That's actually the perfect way to describe the people at IRIE! - a big group of friends: supportive, nurturing, and loving. Adding to this casual, friendly attitude, I was even allowed a generous amount of flexibility in my working hours, despite Connor already adamantly adhering to not keeping me for longer than the length of a school day. Most importantly though, there was the perfect amount of independence. I was never coddled, and they all seemed to value what I had to say. I was given just as much instruction as I needed, then they allowed me to use my own initiative and intuition to do the rest - it was like a baby bird learning how to fly by being pushed (gently!) out of the nest. I was treated like an adult, a part of the team, even though they respected that I was young, and still learning. Actually, I lied earlier. As anyone my age knows, most important is dress code, of course! And IRIE!'s dress code is very casual. Some were in hoodies, whilst some seemed glammed up, anything goes (within reasonable limits of course!). Just be yourself and have fun.
If you are eager to learn (and eager to laugh) IRIE! dance theatre is the placement for you.