Together at Leeds City Museum


‘Together’ is a joyous dance performance created with and performed by very young children together with their parents/carers at Leeds City Museum. It is a celebration of movement, life and family.

Saturday 9th July, 3pm, Leeds City Museum. Free, just turn up.

Rachel Dean museum project 2

Artist Self-Interview – Rachel Dean

Can you describe the background to Together?

I’ve worked as a dance artist for the last nine years, combining choreography, performing and teaching. Since my daughter was born two years ago I have included her in my practice, aiming to find out how this is possible, what can stay
the same and what needs to change and finding out how the dance that I make can be informed by her. We have enjoyed many hours dancing together in the studio and have performed together several times. This project with Leeds City Museum gives me the opportunity to share for the first time what I have discovered with other parents and their young children.

That sounds interesting but tricky. How have you managed to introduce such a young child into your work?

Improvisation is at the heart of what I do, responding to a particular place and time, so I’ve found that to be a very good fit with the inevitably unpredictable experience of working with a young child. In fact, although challenging, dancing with my daughter has enhanced my practice as I have to improvise – there is no pretending!

What will happen during the weekly sessions?

I’ll bring ideas and structures, parents and children will try these out and find a way for them to work for and interest them and their child. This way we create and discover together. I’m excited about the challenge of the wide variation of ages of the children. I always to try to embrace difference in my classes and I hope that the range of ages will encourage and empower participants to find their own way, it’s clear that a four month old and a three year old won’t be responding to a movement task in the same way!

How will you manage to choreograph a piece with such unpredictable performers?

By embracing that! We will decide on a series of scores (sets of rules) to create structure, but it will be expected that some of the performers (probably the small ones but who knows?) will not follow the scores and through that the piece will be created in the moment of the performance. Framing will also play a role, I perform with improvisation collective Mathilde and we have spent a lot of time developing the role of performers who aren’t taking centre stage in a particular moment, finding out how they can support and frame another performer as the focus of the audience’s attention. We will work together on simple ways to do this, the adults especially.

So do parents play a supporting role then?

Not necessarily, or not necessarily any more than is always necessary when caring for a small child! The project is very much for families to enjoy moving creatively together rather than a children’s class. There are several babies in the group and with such young children it is clear that their participation will be through the interaction with their parent. Contact Improvisation forms an important part of my practice and this project will
draw on the skills I have developed through dancing in contact with another person. I’ll encourage parents to focus on their own interests whenever possible and hope that taking part with their children will help adults to feel more confident about taking a full and creative part in the project and performance.

So what might the audience see?

As we will create the piece together during the project I don’t know yet, but it could be something like this:

Toddlers scatter joyously, noisily filling the previously empty floor. They are scooped up onto their parents’ shoulders and marched off and the room is once again quiet. A mother waltzes with her baby before lying down to rest. A four year old boy sprints across the space and slides along the floor, screeching to a halt before setting off in a new direction. Several more children join him, running and sliding together. A group of adults roll across the floor, their babies crawl after them, catching them up to climb over them. A baby holds onto her Grandpa’s fingers as she walks unsteadily. Parents swing their laughing children in circles. A small girl leads children and adults in her ‘stamping dance’.

What is this project really all about?

The joy of dancing and sharing that with participants and audience, a celebration of the relationship and connection between child and parent/carer and an opportunity for that to develop through playing and dancing together, a chance for the very young to take centre stage and to celebrate and develop their creativity.

How can people take part?

The workshop is now fully booked but people are very welcome to come to the performance at Leeds City Museum on Saturday July 9th at 3pm. There will be more opportunities like this in the future.