Interview

Meet Joanne Williams, Community Engagement Officer

As Community Engagement Officer the Department for Learning, I help make dance relevant. In schools, we link dance to learning in other curriculum subjects and explore classroom themes. We help offer students opportunities to communicate in a different medium, and we help teachers explore how to use movement more creatively, to enhance wider learning.

Dance combines the elements of physicality, creativity and performance and can be used to provide a variety of compelling learning experiences.

We try in all our projects, with communities or schools, to find a sense of familiarity – an access point for participants. We have introduced ballet through storytelling, through boxing and even through reggae!

Participants have also been inspired just by talking to our dancers, or stepping inside a professional studio for the first time.

We work in communities with young children, people with learning disabilities, older people and minority groups, all around the country. These projects give us the chance to engage in dialogue with communities who may not previously have encountered ballet in the traditional sense. For example, in autumn 2012 we invited dance artists from the Birmingham area to re-interpret a ballet piece in another dance style and then share their work with local community groups.

A major part of my role as Community Engagement Officer is linking with communities and individuals and finding out how ballet can impact on their lives. They are often those who previously thought that a prestigious company like Birmingham Royal Ballet would never come out to them, and it’s frequently there that the impact is most striking.