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Animated Edition - Summer 2007
Building partnerships with the sports sector
Sue Pennycook, Community and Education Manager at Yorkshire Dance, outlines their developing relationship with the sports sector
Under the banner Every Body Dances, Yorkshire Dance explores four key questions in its work: What is dance? Who can dance? Where can dance happen? What can dance do?

We may not always have the answers to these questions but in exploring them we are required to place our work in sometimes unfamiliar, even uncomfortable contexts, promoting the notion of 'exchange' in all our relationships in order that we continue to develop the art form. By definition this means working with a range of partners, including; Physical Education School Sport Club Links (PESSCL), Sports Development Units of local authorities, private sport businesses, Youth Dance England, local authorities, and Specialist Sports Schools.

The word partnership often implies an equality in terms of input/output for each 'partner' but in practice we recognise that equality of reciprocity is not always possible, nor is it always the aim. There can be inevitable tensions with the sport and dance sectors coming together, not least because sport is often a competitive activity, whether competing with yourself, as part of a team, to break a record and so on. This concept does not always sit comfortably with dance where the focus is generally on artistic ideas and the expression of those ideas. That is not to say, however, that dance is not competitive. A dancer competes in auditions, youth groups compete to get in to performance events, and so on.

As dance sits within Physical Education in the National Curriculum often teachers have the pressure to deliver high quality dance based on little personal experience of the art form. If you try to buy in a freelance dance artist, hour for hour they are often more expensive than, for example, a football coach. When budgets are tight and everyone needs access to a physical activity, which is more likely to go?

Working in a political environment where regular long-term income cannot be guaranteed, work with sport and the sport sector has to be creatively embedded in our practice to maximise longevity. We do this through formal partnership, sport as a tool for access and sport as a tool for artistic innovation.

Through a recent strategic partnership with City of York Council, we have been working with Kevin Davies, a Specialist Sports School Partnership Development Manager. As a non-dance specialist, we have offered advice on practical issues, and as a professional working in the sports sector Kevin has provided us with useful advocacy. In his own words Kevin explains how he developed this dance project as a non-dance specialist: "Our sports partnership received funding through the Big Lottery Fund to provide dance opportunities to key stage 1 and 4 pupils with low communication and social skills. Comprising of 31 primary schools and 6 secondary schools, all signed up to the project.

Taster sessions and six-week after-school clubs ran simultaneously in all 31 primary schools for Key stage 1 pupils - 186 sessions in six weeks! These schools were then invited to their hub secondary school to continue dance, creating six community clubs. The six secondary schools also established an after school dance club creating 12 community dance clubs in total with many secondary pupils volunteering to help out the primary dance clubs. During the project a filming company attended sessions to record pupil's progress and illustrate improvements in communication and social skills.

All 12 groups spent 15 weeks rehearsing for a performance at the York Theatre Royal. Prior to each performance, a montage of video clips set to music was played, introducing to their piece and outlining the journey these dancers went through. The performance, including footage from rehearsals was edited together to produce a DVD of the project for schools, parents and dancers.

Overall the project involved 850 pupils from across York with over 350 pupils taking part in the final performance. This had a major impact on the sports partnerships targets such as increasing the number of pupils receiving two hours' high quality PE and school sport, providing inter school competition, linking schools to clubs, and increasing the number of pupils actively involved in volunteering."

This approach has given us an opportunity to gain access to an established sports infrastructure and audience in the region that, through Kevin's work, are now familiar with dance and its benefits. The challenge now is to build on this work towards stronger, more established links with the sports sector.

contact suepennycook@everybodydances.com / visit www.everybodydances.com

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Animated: Summer 2007