They teach contemporary dance to young offenders and those at risk of offending, to homeless children, to the unemployed, to the disabled – in other words, to the people whom society has written off as hopeless cases. And it works. On August 12th, guests of the Digital October Center had the chance to hear a lecture from Carly Annable-Coop, a Dance Director at Dance United.
On August 12th, as part of the Digital October Center’s Knowledge Stream Project, a lecture was by Carly Annable Coop, one of Dance United’s Dance Directors. Dance United is a non-profit organisation that practices social rehabilitation and personal development through dance, which treats every participant with equal respect and attention, regardless of his or her past.
In 2010, the program’s work was featured in the documentary film “DESTINO: A Contemporary Dance Story”, and in 2011, Dance United was one of 26 charitable initiatives from around the world that received sponsorship from Prince William and Kate Middleton’s special wedding fund (the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge put the list together personally).
Today, the company’s central office is based in London, with Academy programmes running in several regions of England. Dance United’s experienced dance artists also participate in international programs in Europe and Africa.
Their methodology is based on the same principles that are used in preparing professionals for contemporary dance, which means that it requires discipline, concentration, and responsibility. It’s aimed at people who have lost their way in life, and helps them to restore their self-respect, to believe that they have a chance at a normal life, and to find the strength and motivation to study and find honest work.
The Academy program is mainly focused on working with under-age individuals who have committed minor offences – in the very early days of the project young offenders were sent to the Academy as an alternative to prison. Dance United has achieved excellent results in this regard: more than 60% of those who graduate from their program manage to stay off of the police’s radar (the average statistic for social rehabilitation programs in England is 20%). The young people who study there might be having problems at school, might have fallen in with a bad crowd, or might be considered potential delinquents.
The Academy programme is an intensive intervention which features 6 hours of contemporary dance class every weekday and in addition to this, there is a basic educational component. Participants at the Academy are also taught how to eat healthy and take care of their bodies. At the end of the program, participants give a graduation performance in a professional theatre and receive a qualification awarded by the National Open College Network (NOCN) on completion of the project.
Dance United also has experience working with the disabled, female inmates (2001-2007), and homeless children in Ethiopia. It has also participated in programs dealing with reconciliation efforts in Berlin (2003-2005), people torn apart by ideology, and the citizens of Belfast (2007), who are torn apart by religious conflict.
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