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.
Passion for Practice symposium

Spend the day immersing yourself in some of the most relevant, innovative and exciting dance practice happening in the UK today.

Passion for Practice symposium is part of People Dancing's Early Years Dance Network (EDYN). It is brought to you in partnership with Curve TheatreAttenborough Arts Centre and The Mighty Creatives.

Tuesday 19 November 2019, 10.45am - 5.30pm at Curve Theatre, Leicester.

This symposium brings together a wealth of experience and talent from independent practitioners from across the UK, all having a commitment to excellent, innovative dance practice, steeped in childhood research and theory. Together they offer over 160 years of early years dance experience. 

The day is aimed at supporting and developing practitioners and artists working in early years dance and builds on the Early Years Dance Networks strategies and aims in developing dance practice.

It is for dancers, directors and choreographers wanting to use dance with the children they work with or wanting to explore and develop early years participation and/or performance. The day hosts a mixture of practical sessions and talking sessions.

Guest presenters include: Ruth Churchill-Dower, Liz Clark, Andrew Coombs, Anna Daly, Anna Dever, Head of Family Arts Campaign, Kimberley Harvey, Peppy Hills (panel discussion facilitator), Louise Klarnett, Jasmine Pasch, Siobhan Davies Dance and Claire Underwood.

Please see biographies and workshop information below.

Individual practitioners

  • People Dancing Member: £50
  • Non-member: £55


  • People Dancing Member: £60
  • Non-member: £65

Please click on button below to select your workshop choices, register any access, mobility and dietary needs and book your place.

Choose your workshop and book here

 Booking deadline: Thursday 14 November 2019. 


Photo: Leading dance for early years, People Dancing's Summer School. Photographer: Rachel Cherry.

Passion for Practice presenters biographies and workshop information
>   Ruth Churchill Dower

Ruth Churchill Dower is director of the award winning Early Arts: a training network in the cultural and education sectors. Earlyarts' vision is to embed excellent creative leadership practice, so that every leader of learning, whether they are five or fifty five, can achieve outstanding results and fulfil their incredible potential.

To achieve this, Ruth has ensured that Earlyarts works in collaboration with early childhood professionals, artists and cultural organisations, universities and businesses all over the UK and in the UAE. Together, they have a hugely positive impact on the lives of over 20,000 children and families each year.

In 2009, Ruth won the Ogunte Women’s Social Leadership Awards for her work in building Earlyarts to make real change happen in young children’s lives. Ruth is passionate about fostering creative environments, pedagogy and leadership that has a clear impact on children’s learning.

Ruth’s new book, Creativity and the Arts in Early Years – Supporting Young Children’s Development & Well-Being (Jessica Kingsley Publishers) is out in Summer 2019.

Workshop information

Creating immersive, non-verbal dance environments to enhance the agency of young children who cannot talk
Around 1% of children cannot speak or move when in unfamiliar environments. This is due to the high levels of anxiety in those situations causing physiological and biological changes that control social interaction processes in the body and brain. This state is labelled selective mutism (or SM - meaning it happens in selective environments). 

This session will explore the power of dance as a non-verbal language and as a channel for communication between adults and SM children. We will look at how immersive dance can create biological and sensory pathways as an alternative communication route in the body and brain. Ruth will explore how this work may lead to a rebalancing of agency, where children and practitioners can ‘read’ each other and become sensitive to social interaction without using speech. We will discuss the effects of such environments on our neuro-bio-sensory responses and how we might challenge dominant notions around the importance of verbal language and the lack of speech being considered to be a disability.

>   Liz Clark

Liz Clark is an Associate Artist for People Dancing as well as a dance artist who works exclusively in early years and with children with special educational needs. She is Artistic Director of Turned On Its Head, a dance company making dance theatre for 0-4’s, as well as an experienced trainer in movement and creativity. Liz's work is informed by attachment and neuroscience alongside her love of improvisation. She blogs thoughts and ideas about creativity, interaction, dance at as well as leading a Facebook community of dance artists to share ideas and support each other, called Dance Ideas 4 Early Years.

She is passionate about enabling other people’s creativity to blossom, the power of dance to transform relationships and making dance accessible and inclusive.

“Loving our children – dance contributes to our early years children having the ‘best start in life' - how is this statement more relevant than ever today?”

Liz will talk about her recent research “Transforming practice through intimacy and grace” which led her to present her work at conferences such as BECERA ( and Applying Neuroscience to Early Intervention in 2018.

>   Andrew Coombs

Andrew Coombs directs Adrenalin Dance, a company making performance with and for children and Hackney Children’s Theatre, a roving pop up theatre venue. His love for working in early years began when he started working with children by making outdoor performances in London parks, spending 7 years being a goblin in a troupe of faeries.

Since then he has been facilitating dance for children in community settings and schools in London, museums like the Museum of Childhood, galleries and with his adult and toddler class ‘Romp and Roll” for The Place & Barbican. Andrew style of class has been informed by improvisation and participatory dance practices such as Skinner Releasing and Contact improvisation, his dance performance work for early years and love of clowning.

For the last 10 years leading “Romp and Roll” Andrew has been facilitating "noisy dancing" in spaces shared between adults and young children, where he questions“what is dance”for very young children and their adults.  Andrew is passionate about facilitating dance experiences where adults and children have equal licence to play. 

Workshop information
The workshop will focus on keeping our adult playful selves alive and tuned into the dance while simultaneously not losing sight of our young partner. Andrew invites all to explore being a collaborator, partner, carer and educator on the dance floor. 
Andrew will share his style of loud, noisy, full chaotic dancing enticing wary adults and reluctant toddlers, but not a “kids disco”. You will leave knowing ideas that encourage shared learning between adult and child and give plenty of space to follow your own fun on, off the floor, upside down and in and out of contact with each other.

>   Anna Daly

Anna Daly is an independent community dance artist and trainer with over 20 years in professional community practice. An Associate Artist with both Ludus Dance and Earlyarts UK - Anna is experienced in design and delivery with young children, including weekly sessions for Ludus Dance, Early Years projects for Curious Minds, Early Years in Museums and residency projects for Lancashire County Council.
Anna continues to be a professional fidget, having missed out on crawling at a young age, and keeps promising to give up sugar.

Workshop information
A workshop for dance artists and practitioners around the themes and learning of Duvet Dancing. This is a piece created for and with young children from 6 months – 3 yrs. The session involves creative movement play, finding your magic moments, some small performance tasks and sharing our learning from creating this piece in community settings.


Photo: Anthony Briggs.

>   Anna Dever / Arts Campaign

Anna Dever is the Head of the Family Arts Campaign - a national and cross-sector initiative to engage more families in arts and culture. As one of Arts Council England’s Sector Support Organisations, the Campaign provides advice, resources and learning and sharing opportunities to strengthen family engagement across the cultural sector.

Over 850 organisations are signed up to the free Family Arts Standards - which provide best practice guidelines on family-friendly provision. The Campaign also delivers a series of events across the year including a national conference and leadership symposium and runs the annual Fantastic for Families awards which celebrate the very best family work.
The Campaign also manages Fantastic for Families  which is an online year-round listings resource to connect families with arts and cultural opportunities in their local area.  

Workshop information
In this workshop, Anna will help you to reflect upon your current offer for families and assess how you may be able to make changes in order to become more welcoming and accessible for family audiences.  

Using the Family Arts Standards as a basis, this session will consider how effective programming, input from families, better facilities, staff training and partnership working can all contribute to a more family friendly experience and help the venues you work at think about the way they welcome families.

In this session, you can also find out more about the Family Arts Campaign and the free support and resources available to help you become more welcoming and engaging for family groups. 

>   Kimberley Harvey

Kimberley Harvey has been working as a freelance dance artist for nine years. She performs, choreographs and teaches.

Kimberley has performed in a variety of settings for stage, outdoor festivals and site-specific pieces, as well as having her own dance company Subtle Kraft. She is an artist for Candoco Dance Company, which consists of disabled and non disabled dancers. Her role with Candoco includes teaching for them on a national and international basis.

Kimberley was a Dancer in Residence at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital (as part of their two-year GOSH Arts Artist in Residence programme) from April 2017 to April 2019, which involved dancing in both outpatient clinics and inpatient wards for and with children, their families and hospital staff. Engagement could happen in a variety of ways, including watching Kimberley and her colleague Sarah Blanc dancing, dancing with them, choreographing dance on them; or it could be that encountering them around the hospital initiated conversations. As  dance artists, the role  could be many things, such as to bring fun and enjoyment, to distract, to entertain; a chance to be playful, curious and creative in an unexpected setting; bringing (contemporary) dance to people who may not have experienced it before.

She is passionate about working from a place of curiosity and always aims to find ways to ‘meet' and respond to each individual and group she works with. For Kimberley, dance centres around connection, communication and collaboration with playfulness sprinkled throughout.

Workshop information

Kimberley will lead her workshop inspired by her practice as a dance artist, in particular in relation to her most recent solo work, ‘Inky Matter’; as well as her time at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. The session will explore ideas around creating connections with children and their families during improvised performance and participation. You will learn how the children can influence and create content for performance as well as having the opportunity to experience tasks and movement scores (ideas to generate movement) that Kimberley has utilised as part of her work with Early Years.


Photo: Roswitha Chesher.

>   Peppy Hills

Peppy Hills has worked internationally for major dance and theatre companies and as a creative practitioner, trainer, evaluator and lecturer within education, health and community settings.

Peppy is particularly interested in how movement and dance can integrate into everyday learning opportunities to strengthen relationships and support the healthy development of babies and children. Her work specialises in physicality and creative learning in early years settings, and initiatives that engage individuals & communities who are often excluded from a mainstream provision. Peppy is also a qualified Play Therapist and trainee Filial Coach.

Peppy is passionate about creating safe spaces for people to inhabit their bodies wherever they are at in their lives and helping people to relinquish imposter syndrome!



>   Louise Klarnett

Louise Klarnett is a dance artist who has developed an extensive dance and movement practice over the last 20 years working with young babies to the elderly. She leads projects, workshops and CPD training in children’s centres, nurseries, community settings, schools, hospices and hospitals as well as for dance, music and arts organisations.

She is passionate about dance, and how a movement, a sound, a way of playing or being with a child can be gently amplified and expanded upon, moving into a physical, playful, engaged experience.

Workshop information
Louise will share two strands of her work. She will lead you through examples of whole group work, as well as share her approach to one to one work, which can be used when working with SEND (special educational needs and disability) children. You will leave the workshop knowing how both these approaches can be implemented into your setting/class, adapted for both inside and outdoors.

Louise will draw on her work The Magpie Project, supporting mums and under-fives in temporary accommodation in Newham and The Acorn Project, an early years arts intervention programme specifically targeting those facing challenging circumstances including economic deprivation and SEND.

>   Jasmine Pasch

Born and raised in Leicester, Jasmine Pasch trained as a professional dancer at the London School of Contemporary Dance. She later trained as a teacher through the University of Nottingham at the City Literary Institute in London, and went on to gain a post-graduate Diploma in Counselling from the University of London, Goldsmiths’ College.

A lifelong passion for moving, playing and dancing has led Jasmine to develop a freelance career investigating the connections between body and brain development, outdoor play and deep level learning through engaging with the natural world.

Jasmine became an Associate of Early Education in 2015 delivering training courses in infant physical development through play, keynote speeches on learning through the body, and writing for publications.

Workshop information
Children learn all about the world by interacting physically with it right from the start of life. Their learning is dependent on the internal processes of maturation in the body and the brain simultaneously, on their interaction with the environment indoors and outside, at home and in our early years settings, and on the quality of relationships they experience with significant adults, peers and siblings. As they seek to “figure things out” themselves, our role is to listen deeply and to accompany them on the playful path of discovery, exploration, experimentation, and trial and error woven through each and every day. Jasmine’s workshop will help you to explore/play/discover.

>   Claire Underwood

Claire Underwood is a primary school teacher of 12 years; the past 10 being in the Early Years Foundation Stage in settings spanning wide social contexts. Experienced in leadership, coaching and facilitating training sessions Claire shares her deep passion for the Early Years. Also a Forest School Leader for 10 years Claire believes in child-centred learning through open-ended resources and nature. A strong believer in the benefits of active play where children can appropriately meet risk and find out what it is the world that sparks their interests.

Workshop information
During the session Claire will share the key changes in the Inspection Framework and look at the new terminology which is being used in settingsd and schools. Claire will share how this relates directly to good EYFS practice giving examples and anecdotes from her own practice. She hopes to provoke and give you the space for you to reflect on how you will develop your practice, to leave feeling confident to explain and discuss with stakeholders how your practice meets the needs of the children you work with and the valuable contribution you make towards the new requirements for Ofsted.

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

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.

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

Fitzwilliam Museum - blog

Dancing Together at the Museum
Nicola Wallis and Ruth Clarke's blog about what happens if we bring our bodies to the museum … along with our heads and hearts?

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