Artistic excellence and change

Artistic excellence and change

Dance United is a UK-based company that uses dance to transform the lives of young offenders and young people at risk of offending. It has worked in Bradford, Berlin and Rotterdam and is one of 26 charities chosen to benefit from the upcoming Royal Wedding fund. Speaking at Dancehouse, Dance United’s Strategic Advisor Nikki Crane didn’t boast a professional structure or highly-charged governance that has led to the project’s outstanding success. Instead she simply spoke about a range of individuals – participants, professional dance artists, choreographers, evaluators and back-up staff that are responsible for transforming lives.

The Academy runs a 12-week, five days-a-week, six hours-a-day dance programme for young offenders. Modelled on professional training the classes and rehearsals are supplemented with literacy and numeracy sessions, cooking and gym training. According to artistic director Tara-Jane Herbert it’s about “giving those people the opportunity to do something that gives them the skills to be able to choose”. She features on a short film, Academy, which Crane included in her presentation and is available online at www.dance-united.com. In particular, dance gives them the opportunity to think and then make an action.

“They don’t make clear choices. They react,” Herbert says. “You have to be able to be still before you make a choice or an action. To stop before you begin. It’s exactly same in dance and life.”