Dance Stars… Virtual Studio

Community Dance Artist Paul Doyle shares the story behind our Youth programme for children and young people, to accompany a series of new videos to get little ones dancing at home!

Since August 2015, I’ve been working as Community Dance Artist for Children and Young People at MDI. Initially this was a temporary position, covering maternity leave for my colleague Jen Hale and the post has since been refocused to deliver educational projects specifically for Children and Young People.

During the last four years, we have tried a great number of ideas and activities to get young people across the city region dancing – some have been more successful than others! Our delivery for young people has included regular classes in MDI’s studios for children including Dance Stars – two after-school dance classes for children aged 5-8 and 9-12 – and Merseyside Youth Dance Company, for 13-19 year olds. We’ve since grown that programme to include our annual Summer Schools, providing three weeks of dance activity during the school holidays for young people.

Our schools programme has grown year on year, with regular delivery taking place in primary and secondary schools across Merseyside. Much of this work is celebrated in our annual Schools Platform, which brings together over 250 young people each year to perform original dance works responding to a central brief. This year marked our fifth edition of the event, taking place at the Capstone Theatre, where 4-19 year olds performed work inspired by World Book Day.

Merseyside Youth Dance Company aims to provide young people with a nurturing environment where those interested in dance can meet like minded-people and participate in regular technique classes and performance opportunities throughout the year.

Our groups of youth dancers have performed at events across the city and North West, including MDI’s own LEAP Festival, Light Night, International Dance Day, River Festival, Liverpool Pride, Halloween Lantern Parade and U.Dance NW. Working with regional and national partners, we arrange workshops and experience days in order to signpost young people to the best training opportunities available, including Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) and the National Youth Dance Company.

Many of the young dancers who have taken part in Merseyside Youth Dance Company have gone on to further study at leading schools and universities across the country, including Northern School of Contemporary Dance, LIPA, Shockout and Dance City.

Over the last four years, we’ve extended our reach over to Wirral, with a programme of events in collaboration with partners ‘over the water’. Working with New Brighton Community Centre and Councillor Christine Spriggs, we provided dance and movement sessions for community groups as part of Love New Brighton Parade from 2016-18 and River Festival Liverpool (2018). We’ve also created a stage for young people from Wirral to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing, both at World Museum Liverpool, and under Luke Jerram’s incredible Museum of the Moon at Birkenhead Town Hall in 2019.

In order to continue reaching the young people we regularly engage with, we’re taking our work online through MDI’s new Virtual Studio. Each week, we’ll be sharing new content on our YouTube channel and social media platforms to keep families and children dancing at home, with  activities for young and old alike.

For young people we have Dance Stars, sharing a new routine and series of exercises each week to get 4-12s moving every Wednesday. Wednesday. The videos will feature a walk through of movement before a performance of the choreography, with on-screen prompts to help kids remember the movement coming up next. All dance tutorials are pre-recorded and free, meaning you can pause, rewind and watch as many times as you need to in order to learn the movement, before dancing along at home!

During this time of self-isolation, it is more important than ever for all of us to spend some time each day keeping active for both our physical and mental health. We hope that the MDI Virtual Studio allows people to have fun, feel good and stay healthy.

If you do get involved in any of our activities we would love to hear from you, please share your feedback, comments, suggestions, pictures and videos with us through our social media:

Facebook @MDIStudio24Instagram @mdistudio24Twitter @MDIStudio24

To all our regular participants we want you to keep dancing and stay safe and for those who are new we hope to see you in our studios soon,

Paul