Posts By: lauraa

Reflecting on The Thinking Body Project

Teacher Lucy Coates worked with Siobhan Davies Dance for 10 weeks as part of our Thinking Body project at Reay Primary School. Artist Jo Rhodes worked closely with Lucy and her Year 5 class to explore the body, neuroscience and curriculum topics.

Here are Lucy’s reflections on the impact of the work on her teaching and her pupils.


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Reflecting on our Takeover of City Hall with Institute of Imagination for Big Dance 2016

by Gorm Ashurst

by Gorm Ashurst

On this bitter cold day I’ve enjoyed remembering the summer highlight for our primary school programme; when we quite literally took over City Hall on 4 July 2016 with 360 KS2 pupils in partnership with The Institute of Imagination (iOi) as part of the London Mayor’s Big Dance 2016.

Embarking on a journey weaving and spiraling through the building pupils encountered workshops and interactive installations within the iconic Council Chamber, Map Room and Conference Rooms.  The activities designed and facilitated by Siobhan Davies Dance, School of Noise, London Brain Project and Kano Computers, and curated by The iOi, took dance and imagination as the starting point, creating a common theme of movement to enable dynamic pupil experiences.  Challenging pupils and teachers’ preconceptions of dance; participants’ experienced computer coding, music making, neuroscience, and choreography with no taught steps, to explore and re-imagine dance in a multidisciplinary environment.  As one participating deputy head reflected; “Immersing children in creative activities enabled their imagination. (There was) implicit learning through play; fusing the arts, science and culture together.”

Dance is a powerful art form and mode of learning; combining physical activity with creative expression. 100% of participating pupils and teachers surveyed at our event said that moving helped them learn and use their imaginations. As society adopts more sedentary lifestyles, and schools maintain traditional forms of learning, our ability to use and apply our imagination using creative approaches will become increasingly important for new skill development and for the health and well-being of our children.  Participating in dance has a significant broader impact on a child’s learning and development; it provides a means of expression, develops kinaesthetic awareness and physical dexterity, builds self-confidence and social skills, sparks curiosity, cultivates new ideas and encourages new ways of looking at the world.   This was recognised by another pupil participating in the event; “(I learnt) that you can express yourself in many different ways and that you shouldn’t be scared to do anything.

As The iOi’s patron Ken Robinson articulated in his talk ‘Dance Is Important as Maths’ for the Cohan Lecture 2016 “dance is deep in the heart of every human culture throughout history… it’s the expression of relationships, feelings and ideas.” His definition of education as a tool to enable students to understand the world around them and the talent within them so they can be fulfilled individuals and active compassionate citizens, highlights the important role dance, movement and imagination can have in learning, enabling humans to explore this relationship between the world around and within us.

The City Hall Takeover provided a moment of awe and wonder for pupils. When schools entering into the iconic building’s spiral heart (staircase), a unique piece of performance was initiated, setting the scene for the theme of the day. The varied multidisciplinary activities enabled all children to engage with dance; whether that was through physical tasks challenging proprioception and spatial awareness with Siobhan Davies Dance or by coding a sequence of actions for a virtual dancer with Kano Computers.  The installations and zones enabled pupils to work independently, make choices and follow their interests with a plethora of provocations to spark their imagination. Pupils were empowered as independent learners, encouraged to explore, tinker and take the lead. As one teacher told us: “Creative and imaginative ways for children to experience elements of dance and music, (through) experimentation with other media, allowed more independent learning and choice.”

Siobhan Davies Dance are excited about continuing to work with The iOi in 2017 at their new cultural venue, and with lots of the schools that participated in the City Hall Takeover through our Thinking Body project. Follow our blog for more on these.

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Welcome to the Primary School Programme blog!


Siobhan Davies Dance primary school programme has been in full swing since 2007.

To date we have worked with 1,542 pupils and 1,650 teachers directly, with a further 4,900 teachers engaging in our digital resources. If every teacher we have worked with teaches content informed by our work to just one class of 30 pupils, we have reached 198,042 pupils so far.  We have big ambitions to reach far more children because we believe in the power of dance to engage, enrich and inspire, and more importantly we believe in the importance of embodied intelligence.

Our approach is a little different from most other dance opportunities. We have no taught steps. Our artists facilitate tasks that enable participants to consider, respond, investigate, experiment, create and structure movement. The empowerment, ownership and creativity that unfolds is magical!

This blog is a space for our primary school specialist dance artists and participating teachers and pupils to share and reflect on their work, with the hope that more teachers, pupils and artists might be inspired to give it a go, or work with us.

Welcome and enjoy!

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And so we begin… Next Choreography 2016/17

Our third year of Next Choreography has begun!

We are super excited to be working with this year’s group of 15 young choreographers and our new facilitator Amy Bell.

4 weeks in and we have defined choreography (!), created solos connected to our choreographic interests, debated ‘uncreative creativity’ with Martin Hargreaves and watched Primal Matter by Dimitris Papaioannou as part of Dance Umbrella. Bring on the remaining 32 weeks jam packed with choreographic explorations, making and experimenting, and sharing through this blog and our Next Choreography Festival! (Save the date: Sat 8 July 2017!).

As Learning and Participation Producer at Siobhan Davies Dance I have been blessed to work with 27 dynamic, thoughtful, inquisitive young artists through Next Choreography so far, and this year is certainly going to be no different.

Watch this space for posts from our Next Choreography 2016/17 participants.


Meet the group (minus 2 participants!)


Excited about watching Primal Matter by Dimitris Papaioannou


Post-performance discussions

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Festival Planning

Term 3 is in full swing and we’re busy planning the upcoming Next Choreography Festival (3 July), which celebrates the end of our course for this year.

Our session with Emma Gladstone (Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Dance Umbrella) last week gave us food for thought as our plans take shape. Emma shared her experiences and approach to programming and producing a festival. This input gave us all lots to consider for our festival; the frame we provide for the work within the event, the audience, what and how we communicate about the festival, and our hook.

As Project Coordinator it’s my job to produce the festival, working with Charlotte (NC Facilitator and curator of the NC Festival) to ensure our participants ideas and experience are at the heart of it.  Members of the group are developing work in progress for performance within a Young Artists Feedback Forum at the event, they are devising an exhibition that reveals their learning from across the year, they are considering the use of each space within our beautiful building to inform our festival programme ensuring we welcome and engage our audience.  I’m so excited about seeing their ideas develop with this focus upon our festival.  The group are brimming with thoughtful intelligent suggestions, which reflect their inquisitive approach to the whole course, and I am delighted to help realise them.

Join us on 3 July!

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