12 months ago we embarked on a new fraction of Ascension Dance Company, Ascension Youth. Ascension Youth would be a weekly dance group for young people that looked to channel fun and creativity through movement & dance. It was a leap (pardon the pun), we already knew of several organisations in Coventry that already supplied fantastic dance provisions and yet we felt that we,(Ben and I) had something new to offer.
As young people, Ben and I (AJ) had been part of a youth group called “Alpha”. “Alpha” was a boys dance group that pioneered creativity and expression over some of the more technically dance styles on offer. It honed in on fun and a community ethos whilst providing opportunities for performances and individual growth. I guess it must have created a lasting memory because 12 years later, we embarked on launching our own boys dance groups APEX & VERTEX as well as a girls group that would later be called SOAR.
Now, this wouldn’t be an open and honest blog if I was to lie and say that this new venture hasn’t had its ups and downs. For many weeks, VERTEX & SOAR had 1 participant, we fluctuated between people having taster sessions and very inconsistent numbers but with anything we are passionate about, we sought out advice and we persisted. We continued to refine our delivery, sought our marketing strategy by visiting local schools and spread our social media reach.
Jump forward to January 2020, 6 months later and numbers have increased in both APEX & VERTEX & SOAR. They have all performed their first show at Fargo Village back in December and it felt like we had really cultivated something special. It was time to add the final piece to our Youth group, RISE. We knew that again, the same work would have to be put in place to advertise yet another group, but a feeling that the long term benefits would outweigh the immediate workload, gave us the driving force to push on.
Photography Credit: Laura Marterere
Sometimes you have to trust your gut and take a risk! Before lockdown, Ascension Youth delivered dance sessions to 34 young people across these 4 groups. VERTEX & SOAR had just had their first trip to the theatre to see BLKDOG by Far from the Norm, in its first-month RISE had a dreamy group of 6 girls and we could finally see each group blossoming and making the group their own. It justified the long days, hours spent on marketing to school’s on foot and it gave reason to the constant back and forth via emails.
It’s hard to put into words the feeling of seeing a child achieve something they have been working hard on for weeks, to nail that new move or execute the lift that a month ago they were too scared to even attempt. To see them grow, to laugh and smile. The contrast between week 1 when they walked in behind their parent to week 7 where they run straight in, eager to not miss out on the pre-session game.
I could talk for hours about the personal development that the arts nurtures, the hurdles that dance presents as well as the sense of accomplishment that comes with persistence. The community spirit, laughter, smiles, and trust.
At this point, I stopped writing, because I missed it too much.
As a teacher, you invest so much time in each and every one of the young people in your care. You see them feeling a sense of joy and you pick them up when their confidence is low and have lost belief.
This has been a difficult period for Ascension as it has for everybody. We have seen the confidence in our young people drain away slowly as they struggle to balance working from home and the chaos that COVID-19 has flung them into.
We miss all our young people so much, we miss playing dodge ball and zombie tag, we miss teaching them new lifts and contact work but most importantly we miss seeing all of their smiling faces in person.
But I want to remind them, that they are all part of the Ascension Dance family and we are strong and resilient. We will be back stronger and in the meantime, Ascension will continue to try and bridge the gap via online means.
Sometimes things seem hard, and you have no way of guaranteeing if things are going to get better within the time frame you would like, but I can guarantee you that if you are passionate, patience and have self-belief, eventually, things will get better.
This is not how I imagined our 12-month mark to be like but if the first 10 months of Ascension Youth are anything to go by, the future of our youth strands are going to cause a storm!
From everybody at Ascension Dance to all of our young people, we can’t wait to be back dancing with you in person.