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Stepping Out Into World!

Reflecting on the past year I am full of admiration for the students and staff team members who faced the challenges of COVID, developing resilience in a time of online classes and great uncertainty. Dance classes are designed to be expansive as members travel and fully extend into the space. After months of negotiations with family members, house mates, pets and the furniture, will we ever complain again that the studio is not big enough or that someone is obstructing our pathway?

2020-21 was a challenge, in our most anxious moments we could never have imagined how difficult that period would turn out to be with the combination of live and online classes and the sacrifices this tactile art form made to the necessary discipline of social distancing. All partnering was abandoned with dancers reimagining projects and translating their ideas onto film, a positive outcome as staff and students rapidly digested the new digital world.

In the midst of the pandemic our third-year students completed all their assignments, breathing huge sighs of relief as final projects were concluded. Many visions inevitably had to change but the end results were powerful. The uncertainty of the times has hopefully prepared them for a fragile industry, in which their entrepreneurial skills and tenacity will be needed in abundance. The final Independent project is designed to encourage students to look outwards and to forge ahead with career development plans. The following examples give a snap shot of some of their ideas and thoughts on graduating.

Jamie Baker commented;

‘Overall my time at IRIE! has been really phenomenal. I definitely believe that I am leaving a better dancer than when I entered the doors at Moonshot. A bonus would be that I had the pleasure to work alongside many incredible artists and make friends that I consider family and also make memories that will last a lifetime …’ (Baker 2021)

Jamie created an integrated film and live performance project for his Independent Project, something that we hope he will continue to develop as performance restrictions are lifted and he engages with his life as a freelance artist.

Connor Taylor who is currently as an Education Officer at IRIE! commented:

I am so happy I chose IRIE! - as I feel I have progressed enormously taking on different styles that wouldn’t necessarily fit on my body without the outstanding training and tutors. IRIE! has helped me to go into the dance world as a diverse dancer and has not only helped me with my dance identity but has also shaped me as a person. (Taylor 2021)

Connor’s IP took the form of a performance project which developed into a workshop. Designed for ‘looked after young people’ the concept could be explored further in his new role with the education team.

Rochelle Weekes- Brown initially studied Contemporary dance before she came to IRIE! to study diverse dance styles.

Reflecting on her overall experience she commented:

I’ve always wanted to get into teaching and I found studying the teaching module in year 3 to be enjoyable and beneficial, as this will carry me forward into the future. Overall my time has been amazing. I left university in Preston to study at IRIE! and I’m so grateful that I enjoyed my experience, as previously I was one step away from giving up. (Weekes – Brown 2021)

For Rochelle the IP worked hand in glove with her ambition to become a teacher, with the development of ‘Her -Hair Story’ an education project for young African and Caribbean women aged 13-15 years.

The final product was an excellent film detailing the history and context of negative stereotypes around afro -textured hair, resulting in a powerful and empowering project for the young people involved. It is hoped that the project can be developed further in 2021-22 in schools/colleges /youth centres, accompanied by a resource pack we have every faith that this will establish Rochelle as a freelance artist/teacher

Naadedei Rebecca Okine already has a degree in nursing and she hopes to combine the two worlds as she develops her interest in Dance and Movement therapy. For the IP Naadedei originally envisioned a performance piece with a large cast. What eventually transpired was an integrated film and live solo performance, tackling issues concerning her dual British and Ghanaian heritage.

‘Doing a solo was hard for me as well as emotional, due to the topic of identity. IRIE! is an amazing place to call home, a place to express and let go, well that’s what I feel! ‘(Okine, 2021)

Through all the uncertainty of the past 18 months I believe we did our best and as the snapshot of year 3 stories prove, we are ready to move forwards, hopefully abandoning online learning for life in the studio, (using zoom for global purposes only!)

We wish all the year 3 graduating students well, we can’t wait to see where their first steps will take them.

Rosie Lehan

Director of Accredited Training

IRIE! dance theatre

Evaluation Interviews 07/06/2021

Jamie Baker

Naadedei Rebecca Okine

Connor Taylor

Rochelle Weekes Brown

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