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2019 Yorkshire Schools Festival: Bigger, Better & Belting!

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

Central Hall, University of York, came alive across two weekends back in November. Across four packed days, children and young people from across the region came to perform at the 2019 Yorkshire Schools Dance Festival - a total of 1200 performers from 57 schools, colleges and community dance groups. From Barnsley to Thirsk, from Ingleton to Hull... the dance clans gathered to celebrate all that is youth dance in the region.

Laura Nicholson leads a dance workshop for teachers and leaders.


Back in September we announced our 2019 theme, 'Reflections'. Our launch event at the venue included a professional development workshop led by Laura Nicholson, Head of Children & Young People's Dance at One Dance UK. She delivered a dynamic session that explored approaches to the creation of ideas and content when working with young people to ensure inclusion. She gave a snapshot of trends in dance participation across the UK - amidst well-publicised declining engagement, there are some glimmers of hope.

This strand of the Dance Festival was funded through the York & North Yorkshire Dance Network.

CAPA College perform 'Rise' at YSDF19.


When November swung around and the Festival weekends approached, we knew we were in for a treat. The performances were outstanding and with a real diversity of approach... in all senses. Some children had developed work during PE lessons, some during lunchtime or after-school dance clubs. Older performers had worked on the performances as part of their Dance studies. We saw pieces that explored the environment, traditional stories, social media, self-image, compassion in society, a celebration of the individual, cultivating our imaginations, patterns & symmetry, women in history, home, light, relationships, childhood and developing a growth mindset - and that was just one weekend!

Demonstrating and promoting progression in dance
One of our youngest performers with one of our oldest: It's all about progression.

Performers ranged from just 4 years old to 19. We celebrate the spectrum of experience, styles and ability... we can all learn from each other. This photograph perfectly captures our ambitions for YSDF: to promote progression in dance and celebrate the creative journeys each of our dancers embarks upon.

All four festival days were topped off with a finale involving performers and their audience. Watch the film from weekend 1. Watch the film from weekend 2.

You can get a sense of the energy of 2019 by looking at our latest film. We think it captures the richness of experience for the children and young people as they were immersed in dance opportunities. Search #YSDF19 or @yorksdancefest to see posts across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. They capture some of the individual stories and journeys across the Festival days.

We were delighted to be joined by students from Northern School of Contemporary Dance. They offered a vibrant presence to the day with lots of questions about their experiences and ambitions.

Audience feedback has been overwhelming positive with many people commenting upon how enjoyable they found the event as a whole. We know that many people come along just wanting to see just one person perform but end up enjoying all 300 dancers and the packed two hour programme. As in previous years, all festival days were near sell-outs. we engaged with over 4000 people.

"We just wanted to feedback how absolutely amazing all the performances and performers were. It was a really enjoyable afternoon, both moving and inspiring. It was clear how much effort had been put into it, both in the rehearsal, production, and on stage. The children and everyone involved in it should be very proud. A true exhibition of young talent and fun times!"

We're grateful for the continued hard work, dedication and passion of the teachers and dancer leaders that makes YSDF - where would we be without them! 2019 saw dance pieces taken to the next level with jaw-breaking and sometimes tear-jerking performances. We share a passion and commitment with the hardworking teachers and leaders. Their feedback reminds us why we do what we do:

"This event is fantastic for all involved. I think it provides opportunities for performance, creative development and professional development for both the children and young people performing and the dance teachers and facilitators working with the groups. The team who organise it are excellent... their enthusiasm for bringing dance and creativity opportunities to young people is infectious! I have loved watching the festival grow and develop over the years and look forward to seeing it continue in the future!"

Yorkshire Education sponsored YSDF19 and were magnificent partners! Not only did their support allow us to refine the experience, it also allowed us to spread the word still further. We had a good number of schools, colleges and group that took part for the first time. Jordan and the team really demonstrated their commitment to creating rich opportunities in dance and the arts within schools. We look forward to working with them again in the future.


The experience for performers was significantly enhanced in 2019 through the delivery of 'Engage & Inspire', an Arts Council England funded extension to the Festival that saw dance artists and performance companies working with over 1000 children and young people. We put the young dancers in front of the North's best!

We structured a programme of activities across the morning of each festival day that saw participants ENGAGE with dance artists and be INSPIRED by their work. There were workshops from Jon Beney and Casson & Friends, performances by Hawk Dance Theatre and Northern Rascals, a digital dance installation from Brink & Howl Creative, CAT workshops from NSCD, a chance to met the Young Ambassadors from One Dance UK as well as the chance to achieve a Discover Level Arts Award! Things were busy.

"Our children loved the performance by Northern Rascals. It was great for them to see how a dancer really 'performs' and we talked about this. It certainly made a difference to our performance. They really enjoyed the workshop with Brink & Howl and they were completely engaged throughout the session. Our group spent a lot of time with One Dance UK ambassadors and learnt so much about the range of opportunities out there for them if they want to dance. The discussion around why they dance was beautiful and I think they were inspiring each other as well as their teachers!"

We ran an Artist Development Day for people working in the dance education sector to promote and develop partnership work with schools. The day began in fine style with a session observation at a primary school before a day of discussion, shared experiences and fresh ideas.

We hope to repeat similar extensions in future years but are reliant upon funders, sponsors and advertisers to make these happen. Back in 2017 we ran a media campaign in schools - #FreeToDance. Take a look at the film. If you know of a company or organisation that would like to associate themselves with a strong, positive and youth focused event, please get in touch. You can find out more by visiting our Sponsor & Advertiser page.

SEE YOU IN 2020?

Our dates for 2020 are set: 14th & 15th and 21st & 22nd November. Registration for the 2020 Festival opens in March. We strongly advise that you sign up for news and updates to make sure you're the first to know - we're always over subscribed.



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