Hey Paul, can you tell us a bit about what you do at MDI?
I’ve been working as a Community Dance Artist, responsible for MDI’s Children and Young People’s Programme since 2015. As part of this role, I teach and choreograph for Merseyside Youth Dance Company, who have recently been invited to perform as part of U.Dance at The Lowry! I;mn really excited to see them show off their talent.
I also produce our regular Youth Dance Platforms, working with local schools and colleges to deliver dance classes and one off workshops to get them performance-ready. Our Schools, Children and Young People programme stretches across the Liverpool City Region, linking up with regional and national initiatives like the Centre for Advanced Training at The Lowry and National Youth Dance Company.
So your work with MDI is obviously super important to you. What are you fundraising for?
Definitely – it was through MDI that I truly discovered dancing, having attended classes here as a teenager. Throughout my college and university studies I attended classes regularly in the Hope Street studio, took part in community showcases and was fortunate to be given work as a freelancer when I graduated.
Having worked in education, I know that arts subjects are always the first to be cut from the curriculum because they’re often seen by senior leaders and policy makers as the soft option. For some young people (my younger self included), the arts is a reason to get out of bed and go to school. No one gets excited about maths on a Monday morning. If schools are forced to make decisions that result in the arts being cut from curriculum, it is vitally important that young people have the opportunity to engage with the arts and develop as fully rounded human beings by taking part in arts activity elsewhere. I’ve seen MDI’s community programmes change the lives of participants, so I’m fundraising to ensure this work can continue.
How do you know that dance benefits the people you work with?
For me, dance is a powerful tool to help us understand ourselves and the world around us. It provides us with opportunities to express ourselves, to challenge ourselves physically and creatively and over time we are able to monitor progression by looking at what we can do today that we couldn’t in a previous session. You only have to watch babies bouncing and moving to music before they are able to walk, to understand how fundamental it is to our humanity. As we grow up, we are forced to prioritise other things – work, chores – rather than focussing on what makes us feel good.
Dance has the ability to improve our health and wellbeing through physical activity, creative play and self expression. It can connect us with others, help us find solutions to problems and provide key skills fundamental to everyday life. Our participants don’t only experience better health and wellbeing; they build new friendships and develop social groups. Our participants in 50 Moves and Men!Dancing! are prime examples of this.
Many participants who attend classes in the studio are from overseas, and there can often be a number of people for whom English is a second language. Taking part gives these participants new ways to integrate into life here in the UK because movement is a way to communicate in a universal language. In the weekly Contemporary class I teach, there are dancers from England, Spain, Hungary, Germany, Greece, Turkey and USA, creating an exciting mix of people from all backgrounds who enrich the culture of Liverpool.
Many of our studio regulars wouldn’t attempt a half marathon, what made you decide on that?
I started running whilst working as a teacher in a secondary school in 2013. As well as teaching Dance and Performing Arts, I also taught P.E. and delivered cross country running to Year 9 pupils. At the time I was at a bit of a low point and was feeling depressed and unhappy, and running helped to clear my mind. As I noticed this, I started to really enjoy it and took it up as a form of fitness for myself. Each running session would provide me with a new goal to work towards, like running further or for longer than I had before. I challenged myself to take part in my first half marathon as a personal goal, which I managed to do in 2014.
Being able to raise money for a cause that I am passionate about through doing something that I enjoy already is a no brainer for me.
How’s training going?
So far training is going well, with the cold weather proving to be the biggest issue. There’s been no major set backs and (fingers crossed) the only injury has been a bad case of jogger’s nipple. I was hoping to run the race last year (2018) for MDI but whilst on holiday at Christmas I fell off a kerb and fractured a metatarsal which meant I was unable to take part (in my defence it was a very high kerb and there was a pothole where I landed).
How are you feeling about the big day?
I’ve got mixed emotions really – I’m hoping that it’s a sunny day, which will make the whole experience that little less painful. I’ve managed to run 13 miles in training, so as long as I keep my pace then all should go well on the day. I am dreading Sefton Park though, I find this the most mentally challenging part of the race as it just seems to go on forever and I would love to see some familiar faces along the route for a much needed boost on race day.