The UK development organisation and membership
body for community and participatory dance
You are here:> Home > Creative Programmes > Early Years Dance
Early Years Dance
The power of early years dance activity and the positive benefits on children and their families are being increasingly evidenced. The early years are some of the most important and creative years of a child's life, with movement and dance fundamental in the development of children.

This page offers support, learning, training and resources for those educators, teachers, parents and families, and anyone, who works within early years and with young children, to develop their dance and movement practice. This includes:

  • The Early Years Dance Network (EYDN)
  • An Introduction to Leading Dance for Early Years online learning programme
  • Articles, blogs and videos to inform and inspire you.
Early Years Dance Network

People Dancing are working alongside Associate Artist Liz Clark from Turned On Its Head to deliver the Early Years Dance Network (EDYN) programme for artists and organisations working in dance and Early Years. The network aims to provide dance artists, practitioners and organisations working in early years, professional development, training opportunities, creative discussion and networking, providing a platform to share current research, strategies, skills and learning from across the UK.

Who is the Early Years Dance Network for?

  • You’re a practitioner, researcher, choreographer, Dance Development Officer, producer, educator, director or performer and you’re interested in developing and delivering quality early years dance experiences based in current early years theory and practice
  • You offer (or want to offer) quality early years dance practice whether that’s programmes of activity for families, resource packs, training for practitioners or performances for early years
  • You are passionate about dance as an exciting, accessible, engaging & inclusive artform.

We offer

  • An annual gathering bringing to-gether the best of best when it comes to practical delivery of early years dance and early years dance theory
  • A developing network of venues, organisations and practitioners who all want to see early years dance flourish and to excel in the experiences we provide for early years children and those who care for them
  • A digital space for you to hear, see up to date practice, to be in-spired and to also contribute to the story of the development early years dance globally.

Sign up to the Early Years Dance Network mailing list here

People Dancing's Summer School. Photo: Rachel Cherry.

>   A word from Liz Clark > Please click for text to dropdown

Dance is a child’s first language, from the moment they are born they are seeking connection to, and communication with, the people around them through their bodies. They are learning about their world and their place in it, using movement as a tool. All around us children are dancing; at home, in nurseries and in schools. They are creating and taking part in miniature dances through the rhythms of life; explorations that may go unseen, or witness by only a few people; a movement exploration of an outdoor space for example, or of an empty cardboard box, or a fascinating feather. They are dancing en masse, foot stomping, body flipping, finger wiggling type dances that make our hearts soar with joy.

Our early years children are biologically programmed to move for healthy growth of their body-brain systems. Neural networks form in the brain through physical experiences, and this process is literally how thought connections are made. This is one aspect that’s entirely unique about early years - it spans such a large and distinctive period of development in our children, in both their brains and bodies. The growth that a child undergoes in the first four years of life is incredible and to be able to input into a childs life at this time is a gift we must never take lightly.

Very young children are masters of movement, innovation and creativity. For us as dancers and people who value what the body does and shows us, this offers such a rich and exciting opportunity and endless material for ideas. If you already work in early years, you’ll know the how many times you (or the practitioners you work with) have been surprised by the capabilities of very young children as creators, choreographers, directors and dancers.

If you work in dance already you’ll know that dance can also surprise in the way it transforms peoples experience of daily life and their relationships. For our early years children, dance can have a particularly profound impact on those who have had a difficult start in life. The non-verbal nature of our art form creates opportunities for connection, creation and creativity. Dance can and should lead the way in early years innovation and it’s our role, as adults, to support and encourage each child to explore their world to their full potential and to encourage each dance as it emerges, to burst forth into life in all it’s glory.

This is not youth dance ‘lite’. This is an extraordinary area of work that you need to go into with an open heart, an open mind and ready to be surprised and delighted in equal measure. Liz Clark.

To learn more about People Dancing's Associate Artist Liz Clark please visit www.ourcreativeadventure.com/aboutliz

An introduction to leading dance for Early Years online learning programme

In April 2019 People Dancing launched An introduction to leading dance for Early Years online learning programme which supports artists wanting to develop skills in early years dance. Created in partnership with Liz Clark (Turned On Its Head/Our Creative Adventure) and with support from the Meadowbrook Trust, this, six-unit online learning pro-gramme has been designed to help you gain knowledge so that you can feel confident about creating environments where babies, toddlers and preschoolers can explore with their whole bodies and all their senses.

Please visit the Online learning area of our website for further information.

Photo: Pam Raith.


Passion for Practice symposium

On Tuesday 19 November 2019, 10.45am - 5.30pm, we deliver our Passion for Practice symposium at Curve Theatre, Leicester, in partnership with Curve, Attenborough Arts Centre and a range of organisations involved in early years practice. The symposium will bring together diverse and excellent practice from dance artists around the UK in a day of sharing practice and training.

Further information to follow soon

 

People Dancing's Summer School. Photo: Rachel Cherry.

Articles and resources
In this section there are a number of resources and articles that inform practice and learning for people working in early years. This section will be updated regularly.
Primed for Life resources

Primed for Life website
Primed for Life are advocates for a wider understanding of the body as a child's first place of learning

All about... dance in the early years
Young children’s experimentation with movements is linked to what we later recognise as ‘dance’, say Anne O’Connor and Anna Daly, directors of Primed for Life Training Associates

Itay Yatuv

Itay developed ContaKids based on his experience of contact improvisation. Below is his TED Talk based on his work:

Animated magazine Summer 2017 article

What happens when we move and play together with our infants?
Movement practitioner, educator, trainer and writer Jasmine Pasch describes her approach to working creatively with infants and their families, and the fundamental role of movement in the early years of development

Animated magazine Winter 2006 article

Alfresco - intergenerational performance
Luca Sylvestrini, Artistic Director of Protein Dance describes the process of making Alfresco a large scale intergenerational piece commissioned as part of Danseopolis, Yorkshire Dance's second community dance festival in Leeds Summer 2005

Animated magazine Summer 2003 article

No right or wrong
Being open to new ideas and ways of working, making space for the conventional and the unconventional: Jane Greenfield talks about changing the face of work for children

International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People

Rise and Fall: Stretching the Imagination of Young Audiences 
Written by Caleb Lee & Chloe Stephens 

People Dancing Blogs & Voices
Dance meets science to explore touch
On meeting a prominent neuroscientist, Kath Kimber-McTiffen, of Wriggle Dance Theatre, could see that the theme of ‘touch’ not only links the arts and science… it might also create a beautiful, interactive dance piece
Sonshine, written and edited by Hayley Grove and Kirstie Beaven - writers, feminists and parents of boys

Introductions: Andrew Coombs
"There are very few men working with early years" meet Andrew Coombs, Artistic Director and CEO of Hackney Children’s Theatre

pacey - professional association for childcare and early years

My home as a playground
Helen Battelley, music and movement, blog on supporting physical development in the home

Our Creative Adventure - blog

Movement - a child's first language
Liz Clark's blog about meeting Sally Goddard-Blythe, author, lecturer and Director of The Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology, who’s work she deeply admires

Get in touch
We are constantly developing new ideas for the sharing of early years dance practice. Do get in touch if you'd like to contribute or tell us about your work - email louise@communitydance.org.uk