Newry’s leading performing and creative arts centre, Dance Associate, is moving forward with the launch of an exciting new project for young people thanks to vital funding from local initiatives and organisations.
The Open Space project is the latest community engagement programme to be launched by the Dance Associate team, who are committed to providing inspirational and educational creative opportunities to support children and adults through the performing and creative arts. Dance Associate hopes to provide participants with a new channel to express their feelings and the challenges they are facing during the pandemic.
Designed especially for 11–25-year-olds, Open Space will invite participants to explore themselves and express their identity, thoughts, and feelings in regular zoom sessions with the project’s choreographers, creating an insightful journey of young people’s experiences throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. Essential funding has been secured through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Social Enterprise NI and will be used to fund both the project itself and any necessary equipment that is required.
“We created the Open Space project in response to the urgent needs of young people across Northern Ireland who are struggling to express how they’re feeling. It will take place annually, having been adapted to take place over Zoom due to current restrictions,” says Nina Dibb, Dance Associate Artistic Director. “Our aim is to help participants not only fall in love with the art of dance, but to better see how the performing arts can be a hugely valuable outlet for understanding ourselves, managing our feelings and navigating the challenges of growing up in isolation.”
Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented, “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support the Open Space project through our Organisations Emergency Programme, a vital funding scheme designed to help organisations respond to the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis, including helping them to continue producing creative work and plan for recovery in the long-term. This important project will use the arts to support and empower young people, promoting positive mental health and well-being. Congratulations to all involved.”
The importance of the arts as a coping mechanism is becoming increasingly clear during the pandemic when concerns for mental health are at an all-time high. According to the Young Minds charity, 80% of young people feel that their mental health has deteriorated during the lockdown as they have been isolated from their support networks and denied many opportunities for self-expression. An NHS report confirms that ‘children and young people can feel less anxious if they are able to express themselves in a safe and supportive environment’, which is what the Open Space project aims to achieve.
Supporting the Open Space project is Belfast-based freelance choreographer and tutor, Suzannah McCreight, L/Derry – based artistic director and choreographer of the Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company, Steve Batts and innovative Newry artist and choreographer, Cliodhna Doherty.
Steve Batts will lead an exciting Homeplaces Solos that will see nine young dancers tell their own personal stories of adapting through change with a series of solo pieces.
Suzannah McCreight will be working on exploring the ideas of waiting at home and hoping for something more, 16 dancers begin on chairs, then move to the stairs as they climb to a more released and hopeful dance outside, to reflect the fact rehearsals take place at the participants’ homes rather than in a studio.
Cliodhna Doherty will be working with 10 dancers with interest in fine art, leading them through the process of creating dance diaries and preparing for their final solos and duets with the dancer’s chosen piece of artwork.
Joining them are musicians James Anderson, Neil Burns, and Rohan Armstrong, along with composer Anselm McDonnell who has composed over sixty pieces for orchestra, chamber groups, choirs, and soloists. They are creating pieces of music using improvisation and recording their creations for the project.The Open Space project is an amazing opportunity for young dancers to work with professional choreographers well known to the Northern Ireland dance scene.
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