3rd Stage Dance Company

3rd Stage Dance Company

3rd Stage Dance Company CIC is an organisation supporting the professionally trained dancer, who has returned to dance after time away. It is largely self-funded and much of it is run voluntarily, although it does participate in some funded projects (Arts Council England or local Council funding). Active throughout the year it ensures regular classes for the public as well as regular project opportunities. Set in the South West of England, based in Bristol and Bath, it provides opportunities for the professional dance company, community dance classes for adults, education outreach workshops in schools and universities, teacher training, choreographic dance platforms, opportunities for the more mature dancer, screen dance and community performance groups.

Description of the arts activity

3rd Stage Dance Performance Company is a collective of, predominantly, conservatoire trained dancers. As such the audience and those who participate are assured a performance and teaching service of guaranteed technical quality.

The above is quantifiable and can be found in the majority of dance organisations, so what sets 3rd stage apart?

From inception this has been very difficult to articulate. Probably because, it seems, it is the only organisation doing what it does i.e. supporting professional dancers back to dance. Treading untested waters, 3rd Stage are pioneers. So what has our 8 years of experience shown?

The dancers have all returned to dance, regardless of duration of time away, they have made that journey, reconnected with their own particular strand of creative DNA. Acknowledged and accepted or are in the process of accepting that dance is a very vital part of their identity. 3rd Stage are aware it’s not an easy journey to embark upon, it requires courage and for some is possible only because they have the support of 3rd stage.

Details of the project participants

3rd Stage take the Social Model, readily known within health care and social settings. They identify systematic barriers, negative attitudes and exclusion by the dance society (purposely or inadvertently) and most importantly by the dancer themselves. This is purely to re-frame not why someone stops dancing, but why they have chosen to not start dancing again.

3rd Stage recognise, that the barrier to 'fixing' a person or 'healing' a person is much higher for someone who has gone through professional dance training, but who then stopped dancing. Often, for these dancers, tapping in to this 'healing process' and re-connecting the 'neural process of perception, movement and emotion' is a step that feels uncomfortable and initially harmful to the mind. We recognise that this 'harm' surfaces as frustration, disappointment, bereavement (of not being able to dance at a particular standard or level), and just reinforces the feeling of loss.

Attitude: 3rd Stage make certain there are positive attitudes towards certain traits or behaviours of the returning dancer e.g. valuing the presence of the person and sharing the experience of dancing with them. From this the person starts to believe and value their own attitudes, behaviours, and quality as a dancer.

Social Support: helping to deal with barriers and resources. 3rd Stage provide professional class, choreography and performance opportunity, without 'performance expectations' or judgement.

Flexible working structure: often dancers who have stopped dancing have had to re-build their lives away from dance; new careers, family, jobs etc. Total understanding of these commitments and appreciation of the life away from dance allows this person to start to weave dance back into their lives again.

The Social Model recognises that 'fixing' or 'curing' the dancer can be harmful to self-esteem and social inclusion resulting in the dancer believing that they are now no longer good enough or broken. It recognises that the dancer should not allow his/herself to be dismissed, either by the general public or by them self. It results in depersonalisation, a sweeping dismissal of the 'identity of a dancer' and ultimately the denial of enjoyment of dance.

Furthermore recognising that a person needs time, often years, is perceived by the dancer as something they don't have in order to dance again (ordinarily because of age), helps the opportunity of furthering their emotional, cognitive, physical and social integration back into the dance place.

This time, space, opportunity and positive regard results in an increasing self-awareness and self- esteem as a dancer; management of over-whelming feelings and thoughts; re-connecting inner resources that have been previously learned, programmed and contained (e.g. Technique, experience, knowledge, creative ideas etc); test the impact of self on others i.e. dancing together, inspiring others, teaching others; test the relationship between inner with outer reality (e.g. believing you can't dance anymore); initiating physical, emotional, cognitive shifts; develop trusting relationships (e.g. between fellow dancers and/or oneself).

Project management

The Director ensures the smooth running of the company as well as assurance that it is in keeping with high standards. As a CIC there are standards are adhered to and all teachers in charge of community activities are insured and comply to our Constitution, Child Protection Policy and Safeguarding Policy and Equal Opportunities Policy for this purpose. Costs are kept to a minimum. Regular dance classes are basic cost and many other activities are free for participants. Signed consent is always sought when sharing findings or recording footage.

Evaluation methods and findings

Evaluation methods are qualitative and the findings are extraordinarily positive. We have been collecting written findings from participants for the last 8 years and they are proving to be very

powerful and the mental and physical wellbeing of participants. Small examples of this follows:

Sara Mather, Dancer:

“Without 3rd Stage I would not have reached the place that enabled me to say for the first time in twenty years, ‘I am a dancer’.”

Anna Heighway, Dancer:

“I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for 3rd Stage. I am hugely thankful for the happiness and confidence.”

Jodie Fry

“........having these rehearsals to focus on has been one of the main factors that's been getting me out of a blooming dark spiral. You've created an environment that is safe and nurturing and inspiring. It’s beautiful, and very very important - to me and I'm sure to everyone else who is battling with their own personal demons.”

Supported using public funding by the Arts Council England