‘Breaking Boundaries’ and empowering Yorkshire pupils through dance at Leeds Beckett
The collaboration involved children from nine schools in the region who were taught by 29 Leeds Beckett student teachers over a number of weeks, culminating in a day of workshops and performances at the University’s Headingley Campus.
The full-day event, which forms part of a wider project led by organiser Dr John Connell called ‘Breaking Boundaries for Leeds and Bradford’s Tender Shoots’, was designed with students, teachers, artists, and anyone with an interest in teaching and raising the profile of dance in schools and the community, in mind. The pupils who took part were aged between 6-10.
Undergraduate Izram Chaudry, who is in his second year of study, said the day had surpassed his expectations.
“The atmosphere was electric,” he said. “The day began with myself and fellow student teachers assisting with an introductory activity and then later teaching the delegates. Being a spectator to the performances was a real highlight as each dance was carefully and collaboratively crafted by student teachers with the pupils and in my opinion were of a standard worthy of Britain’s Got Talent.”
Vicki Blake, a teacher from Shipley C of E Primary, who attended the event with her pupils, said: “Our pupils have been lucky enough to work with student teachers from Leeds Beckett in dance workshops, which culminated in a performance.
“Most of our pupils’ knowledge of dance is from the television so therefore many of them think dancing always has to involve being in partners and moving around a ballroom, which leads to many of our pupils, particularly the boys, being reluctant to join in with the dance aspect of PE.
“It was fantastic for the class as a whole to understand that dance is a form of expression and that they themselves were able to come up with their own routine based on everyday activities.
“The performance aspect of the day was brilliant and, as their PE teacher, I particularly enjoyed seeing the increased confidence with which all pupils performed.”
Izram, who is an amateur boxer, hopes to embark on a career as a lecturer after he graduates. He added that the day concluded with student teachers giving presentations – all part of their ongoing assessment.
“This was an extremely valuable experience as it provided me with an opportunity to get a feel of what senior lecturers have to go through,” said Izram. “It ratified to me that I am worthy of lecturing in the future.”
Physical Education undergraduate Sam Collins, who is also in his second year of study at Leeds Beckett, said: “The young people took it in turns to complete dance performances in front of an audience with lights and music which was very exciting. Some parents and teachers were in the audience too which meant there was a certain amount of pressure and excitement that pre-empted the dances.”
Sam, who is a former gymnast and is an elite international cheerleader, plans to pursue a career in teaching PE at secondary school level.
He said that while he initially felt daunted by the day, as the event progressed and after teaching some of the delegates, he relaxed and enjoyed it.
“It turned out to be great fun and I gained a lot of valuable experience,” said Sam. “It has provided me with so many lessons - one being how to present in front of strangers. Apart from lots of coaching experience, I’d never done this before so it was particularly daunting for me as I used to have stage fright. However, with the help of feedback and advice on how to present effectively, I feel as though my public speaking and presenting skills have improved dramatically.”
‘Breaking Boundaries’ involves more than 400 children from schools across Leeds and Bradford who are working creatively with dance supported by the Physical Education students from Leeds Beckett University.
Dr John Connell, who organised the event, said: “The day was a fantastic opportunity for the young people to experience a higher education institution. Hopefully the pupils, carefully nurtured by our student teachers, may similarly aspire to greater things by attending university themselves and then inspire others to aspire to achieve even more.
“The day’s success goes to the student teachers and what they achieved with the young people performing and the delegates attending. If this and they are an example of the direction for dance teaching then they are to be at the forefront of really breaking boundaries, all down to their attainment, achievement and desire to learn and share their practice.”