Creating Opportunities for Cultural Expression through Dance & Music

ACE Dance and Music is a national and international touring company based in Birmingham and are celebrating their 21-year anniversary. ACE are rooted in traditional African and Caribbean forms but through a contemporary lens. ACE are known for their education and engagement work and recently rolled out a year-long project “Diana” with 8 schools totalling 245 students. Tori spoke to Education Manager Iona Waite and Education Officer Chris Radford about the project. 

“We wanted primary school students from less privileged backgrounds to access dance and to be able to get involved in a physical activity that they could look forward to and enjoy. We wanted to have a performance by all the schools at the end of the project, so they had something to work towards. Our aim was for the students to access a cultural understanding of dance, build discipline through focus, use creativity and to master dance techniques. All with an understanding of the connection between dance and music.

“The fact we got all the schools to perform at our base was a great experience for the students to perform, watch, share and celebrate.  We were also proud of engaging the students who are normally disruptive, or struggle to focus, were fully cooperative due to the inclusive nature of dance.

“The dance world is struggling with funding cuts in the arts and schools and how schools are focusing less on the arts. ACE are finding it hard to get schools to buy-in their opportunities and to find funding for dance projects in schools. One school pulled out due to lack of funding, because each school is required to pay a small fee. However, we at ACE strive to find funding for school-based dance projects because it seems more appropriate for the dance companies to scope funding for projects to help support schools. Luckily for us at ACE the Arts Council England and Birmingham City Council are suppurative in our education work.

“Dance is important for schools especially for the schools in the deprived areas like the ones near us at ACE. When we went into the schools we found that many had never experienced dance before, never been in a theatre before and some lacked physical opportunities for exercise apart from PE in school. This Diana project allowed us at ACE to make friends with the schools and communities. We hope to build on these in the future. We believe that dance companies should strive to help give students that don’t have opportunities to dance!”