There is no better feedback than spontaneous reactions from an honest audience! That’s one of the things we love about working with children.
The handwritten notes that we received from the children at Our Lady Catholic Primary School (Hertfordshire) after one of our primary school dance workshops are great!
The name Jess is at the top of these letters. That’s Jess Singer - one of our wonderful dance workshops facilitators. Dance theatre is an extraordinary way for children to explore books.
We spoke to the lady herself about what she does and how she does it. Here is what she told us…
So, how do you dance like chocolate?!
I like to use lots of description and visuals when I'm teaching. For Charlie and the Chocolate Factory the children all come up with movements to create an Everlasting Gobstopper machine. I ask them to think about how machines move, what goes into their favourite sweet and to move their bodies like that! So some children were stretching out gum (to make sure it's chewy enough!), some were crushing nuts with their hands (to put into their chocolate bars of course!) and some were moving their bodies like silky melted chocolate!
Getting the children to use their imaginations during dance workshops is the big thing - it helps with their movement so much!
Which is your favourite book to bring to life?
One of my favourite books to dance with the younger kids is Where The Wild Things Are. I ask them to create their own individual monster and we explore the different qualities a monster could have! Seeing them move their bodies and use their faces and imaginations is great!
I explain that none of them are the same as each other, so their monsters can all look different too, and I love watching them develop this idea throughout the session.
What's the best question you’ve been asked in a school?
After a full day of teaching Year 3's we had a sharing session and the classes all performed for each other. When they'd finished, the Head of Year suggested that now they'd learnt to tell the stories of The Gingerbread Man and The Enormous Crocodile using dance, they could do it with other stories.
One little boy put his hand up and said: "If we make up dances to our other traditional tales, can we put on a show?".
It was really encouraging and heart warming to see the children so enthusiastic about using and showing off their new skills, especially coming from one of the cheeky little lads!
What are your top-tips for children who want to get into dance/the performing arts?
Enjoy it! Join a local drama, dance or singing group - you'll make friends for life and it gives even the shyest of children the confidence they'll need in so many jobs to stand in front of people and talk.
Find opportunities to perform, be it school plays or your local am-dram who need some children. And if you are serious about performing, find a serious school that can take you to the next level.
Until I went to drama school I had no idea that dance could be anything more than a fun after school club, I didn't know that competitions and open auditions existed. It's no guarantee of success of course, but if you're learning proper technique and have that mind-set from a young age you'll have the discipline to attempt to make a life in this crazy performing arts world!!
Who inspires you?
An actress who always inspired me as a teen was Dianne Pilkington, who starred in Mamma Mia, Wicked and The 39 Steps to name just a few. So, I had a massive geek, fan girl moment when I ended up having a drink with her at the Olivier Awards after party in 2014!
So many women inspire me, and not just in performance. Any woman who has the guts and the confidence to say "this is what I want, this is what makes me happy" and to pursue that should be applauded. When so much emphasis is placed on the way a person looks, having role models who chase their dreams is really important to me.
What do teachers say about our 'Bringing Books to Life' dance workshops?
You can read teacher reviews here: http://www.westendinschools.org.uk/dance-feedback
Every year we inspire around 50,000 primary school children to read more and be more active though our Bringing Books to Life dance workshops.
Our Bringing Books to Life dance workshops are popular with primary schools all year round – especially for Book Week and World Book Day celebrations.