DiME – Boys Dance in Mainstream Education
DiME: Dance in Mainstream Education
How do I even begin to tell you the journey of Boys DiME?
As a dance teacher it can be hard to make people understand the depths of what you do day in and day out, not to mention the long hours you have to put in, just to see little progress being made. However being a dance teacher in mainstream education I’m afraid is even harder. There are so many hurdles and obstacles you have to get through to allow you to even teach dance in the right way.
I am fortunate to work in a school that promotes the arts and values a broad and well-rounded education for its pupils. Being in this privileged position, and as detailed below, I thought it was important to help promote dance in secondary schools more broadly across the city for more than one reason. Firstly; funding cuts in schools are having a huge impact on arts subjects, secondly; student intake nationally has decreased for both GCSE and A Level Dance, and also school Ebacc subjects are becoming more of a focus along with compulsory subjects of maths, English and sciences, sadly more often than not resulting in the loss of arts subjects in schools.
Within my own school (High Storrs School, Sheffield), alongside a thriving extra-curricular provision, dance as a subject is compulsory within the curriculum in Key Stage 3, and at High Storrs the students have the opportunity to learn the fundamental skills in dance, drama and music, laying the foundations for them to hopefully choose one or two as a GCSE option. I am sure you will agree that an education in the performing arts can go a long way with a lot of other career pathways being supported by the skills learnt through these subjects. I realised the impact that this broad education has on our students, however I also realised that students in other schools did not necessarily have the same access to the performing arts and especially to dance. So, I wanted to create a free access programme to students across Sheffield City who show an interest in dance, but who may not be able to easily access it either in school or outside of school for various reasons – and why not start with boys.
Creating BOYS DiME
I wanted more boys across Sheffield to have the same opportunities that the boys in High Storrs have, so I thought why not set up a free extra-curricular project for boys from across the city using our own facilities and resources. Many boys still feel in the minority within their dance classes, needing the competition and challenge of other boys to work with and feel energised by. That’s the great thing about an all-male company – suddenly you’re no longer in the minority as the ‘token’ male dancer.
I knew that I wanted to make a boys only dance company and I knew I wanted the focus to be on promoting dance in mainstream education (DiME).
After promoting the project on social media and raising funds for about a year, I knew I was ready to recruit other boys to start the company. With the help of the school we reached out to all dance and P.E departments across Sheffield. Now if I’m honest only five other schools got back in touch with me and these schools already have dance teachers who promote dance within their schools, however they could see the benefits of their boys working with others boys across the city with the aim of building up the profile of dance and specifically giving new and exciting opportunities to their boys.
After a successful audition, I picked 19 boys to join the first ever BOYS DiME. The boys rehearsed once a week on a piece called Just Us, which was a collaboration between the dancers and myself with the movement content being inspired by how dance makes us feel. We were fortunate enough to be able to perform and premiere the work at the Phoenix Dance Company Yorkshire Youth Dance Platform, which was an incredible experience for the boys and the culmination of all of their hard work, commitment and passion.
Click to watch clips of Boys DiME rehearsing.
Following this the project was featured live on BBC Look North, the local evening news program, as well as BBC Radio Sheffield, and had since had over 210K views and over 40k shares on social media. Click here to watch an excerpt.
Future plans for the BOYS DiME dancers
This project has made some of the boys think seriously about taking GCSE or even A Level Dance as a study option and hopefully those courses can inspire them to potentially pursue dance as a career option. Either way, it was always the aim of the project that the dancers would help inspire other boys in their own schools to do dance in mainstream education and help breakdown the stigma attached with boys dancing in schools, to share the positive benefits dance can have on their learning, expressivity, communication and physical development, and also to inspire other schools to promote dance and value dance as part of a well-rounded education.
Thoughts and opinions of other teachers about the DiME initiative:
“…A fantastic culmination of an initial idea, hard work and the creation of a company. I joined them for the day of their performance to support. What struck me most was the professionalism of the boys … the boys behaved as if they had been a company for years, there was a togetherness and a supportive atmosphere around them.
The performance itself was brilliant but the reaction afterwards from the boys was wonderful. They were cheering, congratulating each other and talking through the different parts of the performance. There was no sign of 6 different schools; there was just one boys’ company sharing the joy of dance.
High Storrs School
“Dance in schools is important for many reasons in relation to a student’s education, as well as important to me as a teacher of the subject. Dance lends itself to many things such as culture and society and increases the understanding of values of all people by learning traditional dance genres; this helps them with perception and observation which undoubtedly will help them in their future and this is briefly why I think a creative subject in school is vital.
When working on the BOYS DiME project it was utterly brilliant to see boys from the Sheffield region, each with a different dance background come together surrounding a common love for dance. When speaking to the boys they explained how they felt when speaking to other people about Dance as it seems less common within the male domain. They felt proud and less anxious to be surrounded by other boys who had the same passion working on a project which promoted boys dance, but also why it is important in mainstream education. The boys should be proud and hold their heads high, I hope they continue to dance well in to the future, despite other people’s perceptions of boys dance.”
“I have always promoted boys dance at Firth Park Academy and always felt the need to address the stigma with boys doing dance. I think BOYS DiME was a brilliant opportunity to bring boys together across different parts of the city, it gave them a different experience and it allowed them to play a significant role in this process; which will hopefully lead to the development of boys dance in Sheffield.
I think the boys have benefitted in terms of having a male teacher as a role model; working in an all-boys company gave students a different way of moving, the rehearsals were intense, but the students had increased motivation and discipline that tested and pushed their athleticism.
Head of Performing Arts
Firth Park Academy
What some of the boys said
“DiME helped improve my confidence, improving my dance and allowed me to express myself in ways I’d never used previously. It has been important to help breakdown the stigma around boys’ dance and how it is seen by other boys.
Henry Wanless (BOYS DiME)
“For me Dance in Mainstream Education (DiME) is important because it provides a freedom for the art in a place where it is sometimes trapped. DiME has opened a completely new light on the subject. It has given dance in school a new life for me, and I know others as well. As we are a boy’s troupe a lot of us have experienced exceptional obstacles to find opportunities to express ourselves through dance. It can be hard to explain to your friends that you can’t meet up because you are going to dance. Because often people are not educated enough on the subject to appreciate it. And this is why programs like DiME are needed so much in our society. Dance is a life skill as much as it is an art. It can be used to help our mental health due to its ability to clear, and focus, our minds. Like a form of expressive meditation to help us get our head around things. So that’s how dance in mainstream education is a step in the right direction. To educate people and to give them a place to express themselves.”
Dylan Hughes (BOYS DiME)
“As a mother of a boy who likes to dance – and may one day pursue a career in the performing arts – I have seen a massive benefit for my son from the boys DiME program. My son has been in his element working with a group of like-minded boys every week. He’s made new friends, shared experiences, and been much more confident when speaking about his interest in dance. Moreover, his dance technique and knowledge has grown exponentially, and it’s opened his eyes further to the opportunities which dance brings.”
Shelly Hughes (Mother of BOYS DiME Dancer)