Over the summer, our Co-Artistic Director, Kevin, worked with young people’s mental health charity, 42nd Street, to deliver a dance and mental health project. Filmed for a BBC Two documentary, the world-famous ballerina and Strictly Come Dancing judge, Darcey Bussell, observed and followed the project. Here, Kevin tells us more about the project.
“The project we developed in partnership with 42nd Street involved six weeks of workshops, which gave young people who are struggling with their mental health, the opportunity to engage in dance, movement and the creative process of choreography.
I’m a great believer in the power of the arts, as I know how they have helped me in my life, specifically in relation to my own struggle with bi-polar disorder. Additionally, through touring with Company Chameleon and as a professional dancer, and through delivering dance workshops globally, I’ve seen the positive impact that seeing and taking part in dance can have on people. This is something I’ve seen again and again, all over the world.
The project with 42nd Street focused on giving the young people the space to explore their own challenges and feelings through dance, and to also come together as a group, as a company and to make new friends.
Before the first session, everyone was very nervous and unsure. But week by week, workshop by workshop, the dynamic of the group began to change. As the young people’s confidence grew, so did their ability to engage with their feelings and expressing them through movement.
By the last session, friendships had formed through a shared experienced, the guys were relaxed, sharing stories, laughs and jokes: it was like a light had lit up inside of them. The process was a wonderful thing to witness and it was lovely to see the young people bloom in this way.
Darcey came into the workshops and observed the project and the creative process as it unfolded. She questioned me and the young people, commented on the process and gave her feedback and some really lovely insights to the group. She was full of curiosity and respect and her presence created a positive energy in the room.
It was incredibly interesting to hear her perspective on the workshops and to discover the great value that she found in the creative process that Company Chameleon follows. The fact that I facilitated the young people to find their own movement as oppose to teaching them the individual steps is a very different way of exploring and approaching dance to say that of a classical ballet dancer, where there’s more of a focus on form, aesthetic and the detail of every step.
I respect every one of the young people in the group for having the bravery to take part and develop their dance skills as part of the project, and for having the courage for tapping into their feelings and sharing their experiences with one another in the space.
There are so many positive things you can get from dance. Not only the physical side – the endorphins, the fitness, strength and coordination, but there is also the emotional element. Dance is cathartic as it allows you to express your internal world through movement. There is of course as well, the social aspect of meeting people and forming friendships. In the project, these things worked together and made the young people realise they could achieve something that they first doubted they could. Boosting their self-esteem, this in turn made them feel more confidence and empowered, which can open up a world of opportunities. This I find truly inspiring and is one of the reasons I wholeheartedly believe in what dance can do.”
The documentary with Kevin, 42nd Street and Darcey Bussell is a Matchlight production made for BBC Two and will be broadcast later this Autumn.
More announcements soon.
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Thank you to everyone who comes to watch us perform and for all your wonderful comments and feedback!