On the 23rd of November, Kayleigh our Welsh Language Apprentice Dance Practitioner travelled up to London to attend the annual National Dance Teachers Association Conference. Here’s what she had to say about the day… Up bright and early on a fresh and frosty London morning, I couldn’t wait to spend the day in the ever fascinating Laban building, attending workshops and talks, gaining more knowledge in a field I’m keen to progress and pursue post Powys Dance apprenticeship. Morning class was up first, fast paced contemporary! It was a highly refreshing class with clarity and precision both in structure and delivery. Also used were some great examples of music choices that can help accentuate the purpose of particular exercises. Fast paced it most definitely was, before I knew it the hour and half had flown by. Now that I was all limbered up and feeling energized I was ready for the day ahead.
With the NDTA Celebrating its 25th Birthday it would have been easy for the conference to look back on its success, however, the focus was aimed at looking toward the future and how dance can continue to thrive in education. Due to the changes to the national curriculum, through keynote presentations, we were able to gain a deeper understanding of what implementations can be made to adhere to these curriculum changes for best practice in dance education. A particular highlight was guest speaker Geoff Barton, head teacher at King Edward VI School, Suffolk. His passionate speech about the central importance he places on dance in schools left all attendees inspired about the possibilities of what we can deliver as teachers, artists and thinkers. Where so much of education is seen to be measured almost robotically by following criteria, assessment and examination, the importance of encouraging an enriching, creative and imaginative experience within schools is being underrated and more importantly, undervalued. Despite his enthusiasm and positivity, Barton did not ignore the issues surrounding dance on the curriculum either. Needless to say, Michael Gove’s name cropped up once or twice. With the constant challenges and questions that dance continues to face to prove its purpose and worth, there was one quote mentioned within the speech that stood out and resonated through and above all else, reminding us that even in times of difficulty, where there is hope there is faith. “When it is dark enough, you can see the stars”
After lunch it was time to get back into the studio for a class with Hofesh Shechter company dancer Chris Evans. It was a personal pleasure to have the opportunity to learn professional repertoire from Uprising (2006) and Political Mother (2010). I took away some complex exercises and phrases that will most definitely challenge the pre-vocational youth age range. In addition, hopefully it will give them a taste of a very particular style of movement that is so established within contemporary dance today. It was time for seminar number 2 and on the agenda was ‘Teaching an 'outstanding' dance lesson using Ofsted inspection criteria.’ Presented by Judy Evans (Chair NDTA) and Sue Trottman (Dance Education Consultant) it was a highly interesting insight into the main features of what is considered as outstanding dance practice and also provided the tools to improve the quality of teaching and overall effectiveness of dance in schools.
Finally, to end such a non-stop day was an inspiring performance of young people’s dance from around the London area. Four very different groups sharing one main commonality: their passion and enjoyment for dance. The level of commitment and dedication that the groups put into the performance was clear, not to mention the outstanding work on behalf of the teachers also.
Overall the day was both wonderful and insightful. I most definitely learnt a lot of new information which can be put into practise within my current position at Powys Dance. I look forward to starting 2014 with a fresh outlook on my teaching skills and the continued development of myself as a dance practitioner. For more information or to become a member of the NDTA visit http://www.ndta.org.uk/