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Who needs a Sunshine Coast when you can go to Summer School?
Date posted: 02 March 2018
Some practitioners will go to the ends of the earth to pursue their passion for dance. Jess Conneely and Gail Hewton are set to travel to Leicester, England for People Dancing's 10th Summer School...
Jess Conneely
With Gail (pictured above, right, leading a seated Charleston routine) from the Sunshine Coast, 80-odd miles north of Brisbane and Jessica (pictured right) a similar distance north of Sydney, in Eleebana, they won't be travelling together but they know each other well. They first met in 2016 at an advanced dance for Parkinson's training weekend Gail presented with Erica Rose Jeffrey and Phillip Piggin. Gail and Jess are planning to meet at a few points beyond Summer School as part of their respective UK adventures and then to collaborate on their return home.

With funding from Arts Queensland, Gail will say goodbye to the koalas, dolphins and sea turtles of her native Noose Heads and head for a week of Summer School at De Montfort University, plus a wider research itinerary embracing some of the leading innovators on the UK community dance scene. Her visits will call on Fergus Early and Green Candle Dance Company; Trinity Laban; Aesop; Kike Gale and the Dance for Parkinson's Partnership; Diane Amans; Rebecca Seymour; Danielle Teale; Paula Turner; and Daphne Cushnie. She'll also be taking in festivals, conferences and workshops, including Sagacity! and Creativity and Wellbeing Week.

Gail explains how she'll be getting together again with Lauren Potter, one of our Summer School course leaders, whom she joined for several of her contemporary dance classes when living in London for six months as part of a year-long holiday in Europe and the UK back in 1990/91.

But while Lauren is leading the school's 'Developing your somatic practice' course, Gail who is a long-time member of People Dancing, is particularly keen to observe practitioners working with older people in various settings and contexts: "I'm looking to develop my career as a leader, teacher and trainer of dance with older people," says Gail. 

"The Summer School offers a great opportunity to gain new ideas for working with older people and to experience other approaches/content for practitioner professional development, as well as develop my international network and contacts," she adds.

While there is quality work happening in Australia for and with older people, Gail believes that compared to the UK, the field is nowhere as big or as developed, seeing the UK as being a leader in the field.

"Fewer dance programmes exist at home and little, infrequent training is offered," confirms Gail.

"We need more trained practitioners and more programme/classes to benefit our increasing ageing population and given the growing body of research demonstrating the many benefits dance offers, and the increasing interest in Australia from organisations, practitioners and those in the community seeking more dance opportunities, the time really is right for this.

"I'm sure the UK has much to offer us back home despite our contexts being different and so, of course, I'll be looking to take back my learning to share with colleagues in Australia."

Jess Conneely (pictured top, centre), meanwhile, will be taking in Summer School as part of her Innovating Dance Practice award, secured last year, to extend and explore her practice. She'll spend some time observing and researching the Dance to Health falls prevention dance programme, devised and managed by the arts charity and social enterprise Aesop, while her visit to Green Candle Dance Company will further fuel Jess' expertise in delivering dance and movement to people living with dementia.

"Working with older people through my own organisation, Dance4Wellbeing, through Arts Health Institute and Dance for Parkinson's Australia, People Dancing has been on my radar for some time and its Summer School looks a great opportunity to experience so many offerings around mature age dance and movement," says Jess.

"It was a must on my schedule and I hope to learn more about my own practice as well as experience the incredible artists and teachers delivering workshops."

Rocking up in Leicester will be something of a homecoming for Jess, an area that has family history on her mother's side going back two family generations. Jess lived in Oxford for six months in the 1980s, as an 11-year-old, while her dance career has brought her back to these shores a couple of times since.

People Dancing looks forward to giving an extra-special welcome to both these award winning dance practitioners coming all the way from Australia to Summer School 2018!