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Animated Edition - Winter 2008
Dance for Life
The British Red Cross is supporting Dance For Life, a national initiative to get more young people to participate in dance. Laura Deacon tells us the story so far
All too often we switch on our TV screens to see harrowing images of vulnerable people, both across the world and in the UK, yet in the comfort of our own homes the stark reality of such a life is often unimaginable. The British Red Cross Dance for Life project is bridging the gap between these two worlds and overcoming cultural, social and physical barriers, by encouraging young people to explore the work of the largest humanitarian movement in the world. The British Red Cross is asking schools, youth groups and dance groups to help them do this in a new and innovative way, through the powerful medium of dance.

Dance is a universal language that is embraced by all cultures around the world, like dance the emblem of the British Red Cross is understood as a symbol of neutrality in over 180 countries regardless of language, religion or political barriers. By bringing the two together Dance for Life strives to eliminate exclusion by celebrate the diversity of the Red Cross through the diversity of dance.

By making dance accessible to all young people, regardless of their ability, the British Red Cross Dance for Life events, taking place across the UK in 2008, will provide groups with the opportunity to perform in front of their friends and family in a fun environment. The Red Cross aims to inspire the young performers through offering them and their schools more than just a dance event but also a platform todevelop and learn about the humanitarian issues facing our world today.

Last year over 1,000 young performers took part in Dance for Life raising over £20,000 for the British Red Cross. Fiona Delaney, one of the teachers taking part with her youth group Ice Gems, which got through to the final, says: "Dance for Life is awesome and something everyone should experience. With so many of our squad being from under privileged areas we feel it is very important for their self esteem that they see other issues around the world. Dance for Life helped us achieve this as they work in so many ways to help vulnerable people and Ice Gems were proud to know they have done something to help".

She continues:"Most of our kids come from deprived, high unemployment and crime areas and for many this was their first trip outside Milton Keynes. We initially took them to Dance for Life to give them a feel for a competition before they went to the British Cheerleading Association Nationals but it soon became more about building our young performers confidence. Self-esteem is something many of our children are lacking as a result of their social situation, but after winning a Dance for Life event they realised what they can do and what they can achieve.

After initially speaking to community groups within Hampshire the Dance for Life team found that although the over riding aim of the Red Cross was for the event to be a celebration, young people wanted an element of healthy competition involved in the event. I wasn't sure at first about a competitive element as I didn't want to knock anyone's self esteem as we are an event that is open to people that may never have participated in dance before, however by ensuring that all the young performers go away with an award for participating as well as having an overall winner I have found almost the reverse happens, teams end up interacting with each other and congratulating each other and in somecases making lasting friendships.

On reflection of performing alongside other schools and youth groups on the evening Fiona recalls, "The real difference about Dance for Life was that although it was a competition it did not have that feel about it. We were all there for the cause that I feel made all the participants one huge team working for the British Red Cross."

Fiona enjoyed the way in which different issues were portrayed in the dances and the variety of subjects covered, sometimes by youngsters of just seven years of age.

"The dances performed made me sit up and take notice. I particularly remember one dance about the Tsunami by a bunch of First School children. Their routine was so hard hitting, I cried. Part of their routine portrayed the water washing over people and them dying. It was so sad, but the friendliness and atmosphere is something I have never experienced before. Then at the end they had the entire theatre clapping with them!"

With the power of young people dancing the Dance for Life project will enable the British Red Cross to continue helping vulnerable people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are.

If you would like to be involved in this project please contact Laura Deacon on 01962 866833 or email ldeacon@redcross.org.uk or see
www.redcross.org.uk/danceforlife

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Animated: Winter 2008