For Black History Month 2020 Magpie Dance are doing a 2-part news feature to celebrate! For part 2, our Facilitator Annie will be talking about her training in African dance and how this has shaped her work with Magpie.
I started Irish dancing at the age of 6 and fell in love with the music the most I think, so I guess fundamentally at that age it was the feeling of moving to music that I most enjoyed.
I did GCSE and BTEC Dance. After that I completed a BA Hons Dance and culture Degree at the University of Surrey between 2006-2009.
My first experience of African Dance was at University, as part of our course we were fortunate enough to have weekly African and Caribbean peoples’ dance classes.
H Patten trained me whilst at University, he was a very engaging teacher. The majority of our year group had never experienced this dance style before, yet H managed to impart his knowledge in an open, encouraging and never judgemental way. I loved his lessons and this dance form so much that I continued to study it throughout my three years training at university. Since leaving I was fortunate enough to take part in a workshop with H at Pineapple Studios too.
Having studied mainly Contemporary and Ballet before University, the Dance and Culture degree stood out to me due to being able to study both African and Kathak. I was interested in experiencing these different dance styles in the hope it would make me a more well-rounded dancer. Physically I feel studying African Dance made me a more grounded dancer, more responsive to different dynamics, and able to isolate parts of my body I hadn’t previously. H took us to Gambia in 2009 to experience dancing with local dance troupes and it was such a wonderful trip and one which I believe shaped me as a dancer and individual. Visiting another country where dance was everywhere, not just in classes, or in clubs but on the streets, it seemed to be so intertwined with the culture and just a general way of being. It was intoxicating and joyful and I felt that was how dance intrinsically is for humans once societal barriers are taken away. It was this trip as well as visits with inclusive dance companies that made me realise the joy dance can bring and made me want to gain experience in inclusive dance where dance could bring about such joy.
Incredibly important, we live in a world full of diversity and this should be represented in all dance forms. I feel like some progress has been made with diversity in dance, the fact that there are African and Caribbean People’s dance or Kathak or urban dance courses available as well as contemporary and ballet is a step in the right direction, however I recognise there is room for improvement.
Companies, and educational establishments alike need to be, or continue to be forward thinking and represent our diverse population. Children and Young people from all backgrounds, all races and faiths must have role models in the Arts if they are to be engaged and feel there is a place for them.
I volunteered at one of Magpie’s Easter School’s whilst I was in college in 2006, I then wrote my dissertation on inclusive dance based on visiting Magpie’s classes. I went on to complete a training year in 2011 with the company and ever since have worked as a facilitator for them.
We have used the theme world dance several times over the years, when using this idea, I have been able to re-visit and teach parts of dances and exercises I learnt which the participants and I thoroughly enjoyed. Being able to call on this knowledge for my teaching has been wonderful.
I went to see a performance by Carlos Acosta in 2017 – Acosta Danza. The aspect that was most enjoyable for me from his show was the diversity we saw on stage in mostly balletic dances. I am very interested in IRIE! Dance Theatre’s work, although have not been fortunate enough to work with them or see any of their work to date. Hopefully in the future!
To find out more about Annie, visit her profile here.