News

Major new national dance programme launched to create a new blueprint for working with pre-school children

31 Jul 2019

Applications now open for Little Big Dance: offering four dance artists specialist support to develop high quality touring dance work with and for under five year olds – an age group historically overlooked and undervalued in the arts.

Launching today, Little Big Dance is a major three-year national initiative created by South East Dance in partnership with DanceEast, Take Art and Yorkshire Dance with more than £371,000 investment from Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Arts Council England.

With the guidance of choreographers, producers and dramaturges who specialise in working with very young children, Little Big Dance will support eight dance artists to gain valuable skills by working in a variety of pre-school settings in areas of England with little or no access to the arts.

Using their new skills and experience, the artists will be asked to create and pitch an idea for a new touring work to a Commissioning Circle that includes the Artistic Directors of Dance Umbrella, Edinburgh International Children’s Festival, The Birmingham Hippodrome and the Executive Director of Starcatchers.

Four of the ideas will be selected for production and will go on to tour nationally to venues and pre-school settings, whilst the development of the remaining four will go on to be supported by the Little Big Dance partners.

Evaluation will be carried out by Canterbury Christchurch University’s Dr Angela Pickard, who will contribute to a raft of tools forming a best practice blueprint to support the dance sector in working with and for pre-school children.

Cath James, Artistic Director of South East Dance, lead partner on Little Big Dance, says:

“We know that dance can enhance physical and cognitive development; build confidence and creative expression; and offer young children living with neurodiversity entirely new ways to communicate with their peers. We also know that very young audiences are often overlooked, despite evidence suggesting that children who take part in the arts from a young age are more likely to continue to reap the health and wellbeing benefits into adulthood.

“For all of these reasons and the opportunity to support artists to develop valuable new skills, we are hugely excited to launch Little Big Dance, and hope it will leave a lasting legacy on the way the dance sector views and approaches working with very young children.”

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: “Creating the opportunity for everyone to experience incredible arts and culture is hugely important to the Arts Council – especially for children and young people. And so, it’s really exciting to support South East Dance’s Little Big Dance programme. Creating that opportunity for children under five to work with professional artists and to experience work created specifically for them could have a huge impact on their confidence, health and creativity; both now and in the future.”

Little Big Dance is also supported by Dance Umbrella, Birmingham Hippodrome, Strike a Light Festival, and English National Ballet School.