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Animated Edition - Autumn 2007
Transferable skills
Kate Scanlan, former Director of Education at Rambert Dance Company, devised the programme for the first Jane Attenborough Dance in Education (JADE) Fellowship. Here she describes the working practices and some of the long-term legacy of the programme
In November 2005 Rambert dancer Simon Cooper received the first JADE Fellowship, inspired by the life and work of Jane Attenborough. The Fellowship was set up by The Paul Hamlyn Foundation following the tragic loss of Jane in the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004.

Jane was passionate about supporting and nurturing artists, and enabling creative dance experiences for young people. JADE provides a period of bespoke and intense training for a professional dancer in career transition, with a focus on dance education. After 17 years of dancing, JADE arrived at a time when Simon was considering his future.

The starting point for devising Simon's programme was his personal and professional experiences. The first task I set him was a self-analysis of his current skills, contacts and aspirations. I wanted to make him aware of his transferable skills and how they might be applied elsewhere.

I asked him to draw on his experiences of working with choreographers, each with their own creative process and ways of engaging the dancers. This knowledge is informing his approach to teaching. He has discovered his existing experience is relevant to roles as a teacher, rehearsal director or project manager.

The first year provided Simon with a context for dance education. He remained a full time dancer with the Company, so managing a consistent quota of JADE activity was difficult. It was a drip-drip effect; short experiences and one to one sessions throughout the year, in order to prepare him for the unknown world of the Fellowship and education.

'At first I found it very strange to be in the same environment as the dancers but in a different role,' Simon explains. 'Even sitting behind a desk was a new working experience; I was used to moving around in a studio all day.'

I was aware of this sense of lost identity, especially as it coincided with the first Rambert tour that he was not dancing on. So, spring 2007 became a period of intense training. We identified specific computer courses and then set mini tasks to practice and demonstrate his new skills. Simon joked that he would never be able to type as fast as us, so we found a BBC online programme and now he can touch type.

We also ran a bespoke training week at Rambert for Simon and company animateurs. We offered sessions on behaviour management (delivered by Protein Dance), dance in an integrated context (CandoCo) and the creative use of repertoire (Gill Clarke). It was a big learning curve and working alongside the animateurs was particularly beneficial, he said, 'It was great to see how other people work and how they approach their teaching.'

Watching experienced animateurs exposed some confidence issues in the development of Simon's teaching style. I can remember all too well my own first teaching experiences and the fear I felt, what happened if it went wrong? Looking back I can see how these formative experiences enabled me to find my own style, build a tool kit of exercises, creative tasks and ways in which to engage a group. Project work has enabled Simon to develop that confidence.

In spring 2007, Simon taught with animateur/project manager Laura Harvey on Fused, a project with Porlock Hall Pupil Referral Unit, Southwark. It developed his long-term planning, the implementation of behaviour management strategies and how to capture the imaginations and efforts of young people. Simon's confidence has soared. He explains, 'As time went on, Laura gave me more opportunity to lead the group, while she provided support in the background. As with everything, the more you do something, the easier it becomes.'

This autumn Rambert is reviving Christopher Bruce's Swansong, which Simon performed as a dancer. Simon worked alongside Bruce to reconstruct the work. He loved it and his coaching skills were well suited to the role. It is an area of work that he can see himself doing more of in the future.

This experience has inspired the focus for Simon's major project, which will demonstrate his new skill base. Together we have developed a Swansong workshop package for third year vocational students. He has been actively involved in every aspect; looking at how to pitch the idea, the logistics of setting up the workshops, through to the creation and delivery of the workshops themselves.

Following the continued support of The Paul Hamlyn Foundation, there are now two additional JADE Fellows: Andrew Barker at Northern Ballet Theatre and Rene Pieters at Tees Valley Dance. The longevity of the project will have a profound impact on the way companies and dancers view the transition between dancing and teaching. For Rambert, in addition to providing Simon with newfound skills, it has enabled the Company to continue Marie Rambert's vision of shaping the future of its artists.

Similarly, Wieke Eringa, former Director of Learning & Access at Northern Ballet Theatre, observes that the breadth of training during Andrew's first year has already 'had a direct impact on his perception of himself and his career options.' NBT hopes that 'in the long term, we will continue to allow dancers the opportunity to deliver workshops whenever possible and that we will be better placed to support any dancers that would like to learn about education work.'

As Simon approaches the final months of his Fellowship it is with renewed confidence and vigour. He would recommend it highly to other dancers, recognising that his new skills 'can be applied elsewhere, to other positions' and that as a dancer, 'you don't realise how much you have picked up over the years that is relevant in other lines of work.'

JADE has been a breath of fresh air for all involved. We have received incredible support from across the sector and have developed new partnerships with other organisations. Most importantly we have contributed to Simon's future ventures, all of which I am confident will enrich the industry and those who come into contact with him.

Kate Scanlan is a 2007/08 Clore Fellow. Kate can be contacted at katescanlan@hotmail.com and Rambert at education@rambert.org.uk More information about the JADE Fellowship can be found at www.phf.org.uk

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Animated: Autumn 2007