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Little Big Dance: pioneering a new blueprint for creating dance with and for under five year olds.

Together with partners South East DanceTake Art and Yorkshire Dance we have launched Little Big Dance, a new national initiative setting out to pioneer a new blueprint for creating dance with and for under five year olds. Little Big Dance stems from the belief that very young children are an undervalued and overlooked audience for the arts in general but particularly for dance.

Over two cycles, during 2019-22, eight artists will be selected to work with children in nursery settings to develop ideas for new dance works aimed at very young children and their families. All of the artists will receive support from a dramaturg and early years development specialists to ensure they take away new skills and knowledge from the experience. All of the artists will pitch their ideas to a Commissioning Circle that includes the Artistic Directors of Dance Umbrella, Edinburgh International Children’s Festival, The Birmingham Hippodrome, the co-Artistic Director of Strike a Light Festival, Starcatchers, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and artists who specialise in making performances for children.

Of the eight projects pitched over the life of the programme, four will be selected for production and will go on to tour nationally to venues and pre-school settings in Autumn 2020 and 2022. The programme will be evaluated by Dr Angela Pickard from Canterbury Christchurch University, who in November 2019 was awarded the Dance Research Impact award from One Dance UK. Dr Pickard will contribute to a best practice toolkit to ensure the wider dance sector can benefit from what’s learned. In this first round of Little Big Dance, taking place during 2019/20, four artists have been selected for development with nursery children in four areas of England with little or no access to the arts.

● Drawing on his experience growing up in Japan, artist and performer Takeshi Matsumoto will work with children in Suffolk and Norfolk to explore origami and the concept of ‘animism’ – the belief that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence.

● George Fellows, co-Artistic Director of Four Hands, will create a new work with children across Yorkshire using a simple question as a starting point: “what would you like to say to the adult world and how would you like to use dance to say it?”

● Stopgap Dance Company, and the dancers from their apprentice company sg2, will be working with children from two nurseries in central Brighton & Hove to create a piece exploring the night-time world of Slumberton’ – using nursery rhymes, Makaton sign language and sensory props.

● Dancer, choreographer and Director of Beeja, Anusha Subramanyam will work with children in Frome, Somerset, to create a piece inspired by the sights, sounds and smells of a train journey in South East Asia.

Little Big Dance is supported with more than £371,000 investment from Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Arts Council England; and by Leeds Dance Partnership, Dance Umbrella, Birmingham Hippodrome and Strike a Light Festival.

You can find out more about Little Big Dance by visiting the South East Dance website.

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