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Animated Edition - Winter 2005
The point of boys' dance
With a string of successes to its name in the area of boys' dance, The Point, Eastleigh, is forging ahead with an increasingly imaginative programme to involve boys in dance from pre-school to young-manhood. Here Miranda Johnson reports on the range of opportunities there for boys and young men to progress in their dance
Latest in the boys' dance development programme is the making of a high quality dance film during December 2004, in which professional dancer Stuart Waters will work in collaboration with a video director and a music composer to choreograph and produce a film that is physical and contemporary in style. Drawn from two of the area's secondary schools, five boys aged 14-16 with previous dance experience will appear in the film. Based in the dance studio at The Point, it will be shot on location around Eastleigh over three weekends and will be premiered in a special Boys Dance Platform at The Point in March 2005.

It will also be entered into various dance film festivals and generally used to promote boys dance, working as an inspiration to boys and young men to become involved in dance and hopefully attracting further financial support from interested backers.

Stuart Waters believes the benefits to the boys working on this project will be very real. "I've done outreach work for The Point in various schools. Some have been very challenging. I've worked towards a boys' dance platform with a group who didn't communicate well between themselves. There was verbal abuse and bullying and they had very little fitness and body awareness, so for this group to get through ten sessions and perform in front of 300 people I felt was a big journey for them.

"A lot of boys will learn something about dance at school, but what they'll gain from this depends very much on the attitude of the teacher. At another school, for example, (Perins Secondary School, Alresford) the attitude of the teacher made the group a success in a different way. The teacher's attitude was so positive and encouraging that it rubbed off on the boys, which meant I could really develop their creativity and performance without worrying about crowd control and behaviour issues. They worked hard and stayed focused, which led to a strong performance of their ten-minute piece.

"I also think working at a professional level on something like this film can be really inspiring. There are very good opportunities at The Point giving very positive experience and it's this, it's attitude as well as talent, that takes boys on to become professional dancers. Everybody has different experiences of how they got into dance, but performance-led educational companies are an excellent route into dance and that's how I first became inspired, through a dance company called Transitions."

Although undeniably high profile, the film project is only one strand in the rich boys' dance programme on offer at The Point. With its considerable outreach programme in local primary schools, boys as young as four and five have access to teaching from professional dancers. The Point even has a parent & toddler dance class for children as young as three months. Many of the primary school workshops are in a style particularly appealing to boys, including Capoeira and Street dance.

The ladder of opportunity continues as young dancers are encouraged first to join Kickstart, a creative dance group for eight-12 year olds and then progress to Feet First, The Point's resident youth company for 12 to 18 year olds. Feet First currently includes five young men preparing to study dance professionally at the age of 18.

The Point also formed its own all male dance company, Full Force, for the 'Man Jumping' boys' dance project, (itself a partnership between The Point and Hampshire Dance). Full Force is composed of four professional dancers. One young man given an important stepping stone through Full Force is Adam Rutherford, who has just left to join Adventures in Motion Pictures. And another who has benefited directly from The Point's boys' dance programme is 18 year old Thom Rackett, who this September began studying at the London School of Contemporary Dance. Thom, a reluctant dancer just five years ago, has been supported and encouraged by The Point through workshops, projects and showcases like the 'Headstart Boys Dance Platform' which earlier this year involved 86 young male dancers from across the Southern Region and culminated in a sell-out performance. In a scheme paid for by The Point, Thom became one of two designated apprentices to work with Stuart Waters and Full Force - who then helped him prepare for his successful audition in London.

Thom believes that what attracts boys to dance can often be things like street dance and new circus. However, he says, "You need to get off the whole stereotypical dancer thing to get boys interested in dance. They have to become familiar with all aspects of dance. Street dance gets boys in, but it's getting them to move on from that which is important. Street culture has its own agenda, like dressing cool, speaking a language... contemporary dance isn't like that.

"I'd encourage boys to see a performance like the ones at The Point and then try one of the workshops or classes led by the companies. Physical theatre and new circus has made dance more accessible. The Point programmes lots of physical theatre and new circus and provides workshops and classes."

Thom's involvement with Full Force came to an end with his move to London, but there were plenty of other young men eager to take his place with Full Force for performances of their commissioned work, 'Headcase', which premiered there in September. 'Headcase' was the culmination of the hugely exciting 'Man Jumping' partnership between The Point and Hampshire Dance and included workshops in schools, pre-show talks, lecture demonstrations and a Safe Practice session- necessary due to the very physical nature of boys' dance.

The two apprentices who eventually danced in 'Headcase' were Alasdair Stewart and Tim Bartlett. Helen Parlor, the Creative Director of Full Force and a dancer with Motionhouse Dance Theatre talked about the affect this experience had on the apprentices. "The whole process was an extremely positive experience. Tim was studying sciences at Sixth Form College and looking at this as a possible career, but dancing with Full Force I think transformed his view of what he can achieve. Also, we could all see how his other interests brought new things to the piece. Alasdair, on the other hand, already knew he wanted a career in dance, but 'Headcase' changed the focus of his dance. He was very interested in technique, but working with these professional dancers made him realise that technique is simply a (very important) means to an end. What we were doing was really driving the creative side and getting both boys to find what they, as individuals, could uniquely bring to this. And this learning was a two-way process, it was also really important for the 4 professional dancers to remember the rawness, the naiveté - working through improvisation and remembering that stage in their dance careers."

Like Thom Rackett, Helen believes most boys have preconceived ideas about what dance is and she would, one feels, sympathise with Stuart's remarks on the attitude and inspiration of learning with professional dancers. "When boys really begin to dance they find that rather than being something that demands you make specific shapes with your body it's a huge release of energy and creativity. It's not prescriptive, they are able to achieve, to be athletic, to create and learn new lifts, jumps, catches, and relate these to the media around them (film, street culture, music, etc). Both physically and creatively these boys can bring something individual, of themselves, to dance - dance is emphatically not the 'one shape fits all' their preconception can too often make it."

So what does Helen see to be the advantage to boys in becoming involved in dance? "Becoming confident with ideas. Whether or not they go on to become professional dancers, this is such an important life-skill" And she's observed, "an opening up, a new awareness and the ability and confidence to communicate, to learn from both the actual dancing and from talking ideas through with the other dancers."

"The pre- and post-show talks with Point audiences are a wonderful example. You see young dancers talking with confidence in a way they never would have been able to do before the working process - they're intelligent, confident and they're talking to 100/150 people. Finding this within them is a real gift and something dance has given them."

For more information about The Point contact Kim Knight, Dance Projects Officer on or call 02380 627815.

Miranda Johnson, of RM Communications, is communications and publicity consultant for The Point, Eastleigh. Contact

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Animated: Winter 2005