Primary School Programme

Looping, Circling and Perfect Unison at Charlotte Sharman Primary School

Sarah here! I’m one of the SDD Primary School Programme Dance Artists. Today I’ve been working in Charlotte Sharman Primary School who are right next door to SDD. This is my third year at the school and even long before me SDD have had a longstanding relationship with the school. Today  I was working with Reception, Year 1 and Year 5 – all of whom came enthusiastic and full on energy!

In Year 5 they are learning about Vikings so we took a deeper look into the rowing actions of the longboats the Vikings used to travel. We had a look at this video and discussed the action of the oars being ‘circling, looping, and in unison’. Firstly, the students explored the circling action of the oars on their own, using their arms and then other body parts. Then the pupils investigated how they could replicate this looping action not only with different body parts but on different planes of movement. The concept of looping is connected to Matthias Sperling’s Loop Atlas within Siobhan Davies Dance new work material / rearranged / to / be.


We then took it a step further and had the students in teams to see if they could replicate the looping on different planes with different body parts but in perfect unison with their team. It was fascinating to watch and discuss with them their ability to work as a team to achieve perfect unison with no counting, talking, general dance knowledge, or rehearsing. I think they even surprised themselves! Can’t wait to see where this will take us next week! Exciting things in store for this term at Charlotte Sharman.

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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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‘The Thinking Body’ Primary School planning

Hello!  This is a group post from the SDD Primary School Programme Dance Artists.

We have just completed six wonderful days of Research and Development based on Siobhan Davies Dance new work material / rearranged / to / be. Last week the choreographers of the work opened the rehearsal doors and invited us to observe, absorb and ask questions about their creative process.  We felt so lucky to have this insight and be able to discuss ideas directly with them.

The work is full of fabulous and inspirational ideas which we are now distilling to share with primary school teachers and their pupils in a number of London schools and HE institutions.

The overarching theme for our planning has been ‘The Thinking Body’ and we hope to promote the awareness and connections of thought and movement, brain and body, the felt and the imagined.

Watch this space!


Here we are: Sarah Poekert, Jo Rhodes, Marie Forbes and Cheryl McChesney.

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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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