The past couple of weeks I have been in Ireland creating and performing. For part of the time I was working with my old youth drama organisation for their 25year anniversary celebrations to create a piece that would be performed in a showcase of work of old members during a whole week of different celebratory activities. It was such a great experience to be back home, seeing and working with all my old friends who are now really informing the art scene in Waterford. I felt quite unworthy, seeing all of the work and passion that they invest back into the community.
Waterford is a small city but still the third biggest in Ireland and it has a thriving arts scene, rich in theatre, art and music. A really great place to grow up even if I didn't really notice it fully at the time I know now how much it informed me and gave me a great start into the entertainment world. The contemporary dance scene, as it seems to be everywhere in Ireland, is still getting there. Waterford Youth Arts as an organisation is really what gave me my first taste of what it was like to be part of the theatre and be on stage. Being Sarah the-all-or-nothing-don't-ever-call-me-lazy-or-a-failure Blanc, I was a true keen bean
During my ten years with W.Y.A I managed to have a hand in every department. Along with acting on stage I performed in films (haha the most shocking delivery of acting skills you will ever see. I blame the script, lol!!), in various site specific projects, in hospitals, on beaches, parades. I helped out in the production of the shows helping paint sets, make costumes. I worked backstage, stage managed, sound operator. We would organise PR stunts and I also helped out in getting sponsors for the programmes. I learnt how to edit film as well as use a camera.
I really could go on and on about the amount of experiences that I was able to be part of. I know some of it sounds like cheap labour ha - but I was rather eager in trying to be everywhere. I just love theatre and the whole fluffy cloud that surrounds it. I was always allowed to be there even if no-one asked me too. That is what I am most thankful for, because they could have said no but instead they nurtured my hunger.
It was also through W.Y.A. that I first learnt about contemporary dance. Although it was actually Michelle Condon (A choreographer for all the local Pantos and musicals and also founder of Waterford Stage School, which I don't think runs any more) for letting me get diseased by the bug of dance, but It was WYD moves department that gave me my contemporary bug.
It is great to see people who I really looked up to still working within the arts scene there or those like me who have moved away but still always come back with the same fond memories and respect for a great organisation. A huge family.
The person who is responsible for my dirty filthy performing habit is Liam Meagher who wrote/directed my first ever show called 'Zorbas Dream'. Admittedly, he doesn't actually remember that exact show- sad times! However it doesn't matter because I do and he was responsible for inspiring me and giving me the bug to which I now make a living out of. If my first encounter into the arts had not been that good, who knows where I would be. OK maybe that is a little dramatic and airy-fairy as I think I would have found my way some how but he really is an amazing writer/director. He works a lot for Red Kettle Theatre Company, who have an amazing youth theatre programme too.
Anyways back to my week with W.Y.A.- The small group I was given to work with, had a whole range of people with different level of experiences, which I feel gives a sense of the broad spread of the work of W.Y.A. I had one professional dancer Trish Murphy who I met through the organisation many moons ago, who is not only a great friend but is also now youth dance development officer at W.Y.A. Crazy Caz was involved too, who I met through drama classes and is still heavily involved writing and acting in the adult classes. My final three performers were all young fresh blooded enthusiasts who are part of the hungry youth dance scene.
I felt nervous because I wanted to do good as a professional but also because I felt responsible in making sure I was able to give, in particular the three young dancers, something to take away with them after the process.
I think for the 3 younger members it was the first time they were ever part of a dance project outside of their class time. We had 9 hours over three days to create something so it was never going to be a huge production. The one thing I thought I could do was give them class every day as I thought it would be great to learn something from a different teacher. My ethos in all the work that I do, whether it be community arts, youth, vocational is to really try to instil some feeling of grafting and body awareness.
Yes this makes me sound like I think I am the Mother Teresa of dance, I don't but at the time I thought this is something that I know in community dance doesn't really exist because the emphasis is on the taking part but I believe whilst that is great I still want my class to be able to find their 'parallel', for example, and begin to know how to work safely. I hope they enjoyed the process- it was basically three sequences that I taught along with material they made from a task mushed together- ShImples! Pretty basic really. The theme of the piece was 'madness'- I don't know why, it just happened! Mad that eh? I had Caz reading a monologue the whole way through as the dancers morphed in and out of different states of the characters they created.
They were so great and I think we made a nice little piece. I found it really interesting working with such a range of different people and endeavouring to make sure everyone got something out of it. I hope I achieved that!
It also shows me how lucky the kids I work with here in London are. The amount of opportunities available here for young people to engage in dance is absolutely fantastic. From YDE to the CAT programmes to all the educational programmes at organisations like The Place, GDA and Breaking Convention to the individual performing companies who are committed to giving back to the community because remember everyone Dance Is For All!
W.Y.A as a youth theatre organisation is one of the longest running in Ireland. The dance scene in Waterford in particular is young but I think within time it will build. After it has to start somewhere.