Summer Experience Goes Online...

Teacher and Dance artist Nicky Norton reflects on our annual Summer Experience…

Each year we try and hold additional activity sessions for our Young people to get involved with; it’s transformed into our Summer Experience where we have three days of dance, music, and fun! Due to the current pandemic, we thought it was more important than ever we offer our Young people and Youth companies something to keep them active and something where they could interact with their friends and family.

This year’s annual Summer Experience took place online via the video chat platform Zoom.  Despite leading lots of online sessions via Facebook Live for our youth company members, this was our first time delivering something where we could see those joining us.  A new experience and one myself, Cherie, and Millie were all a little nervous about!

Deciding on a theme, setting a daily format, and discussing outcomes was the easy bit – how we were going to execute this was a whole other matter.  The biggest challenges we faced were timing and technology.  Oh, and let’s not forget - The Internet!  As I said, content was the easy bit, setting up how we were going to function as a remote creative learning team in 5 different locations with all manner of gremlins to face technically, meant we had to plan intensely, practice lots and also enlist our wonderful administrator Anna Clark to be our technician and Zoom host.  She proved to be invaluable.

Despite all the challenges, the steep learning curve with teaching on Zoom, the time-consuming planning and debrief sessions and the lessons learnt, I have to say, it all went rather swimmingly!

We decided to use the 5 basic senses as our theme and brought in vocal scores and musical instruments as well as dance to explore this creatively. 

We divided the time into a half hour class, small group creative tasks (including solo work) and whole group learning.  One of our main outcomes was that everyone should have a bit of fun, but we were also keen to keep dance technique a priority and so Hannah Sampson led a daily exercise.

An added extra to this year’s Summer Experience was a creative pack we sent out in advance.  This included a ‘reflective journal’ (created by Lily Norton) for people to complete using words, drawing and collage.  In the pack was an instruction sheet on how to make the musical instrument needed for the creative work and a variety of things to help decorate this and their journals. 

As the three days progressed we amassed a quite considerable amount of creative material from two creative tasks and a taught main phrase.  Historically we always invite family and friends to a little sharing of our time together and really wanted to keep this going somehow, so recorded the final section of the workshops and will be making this into a film.

Our dancers amazed us with their focus and engagement and online learning has clearly become an accepted part of their world.  What was lovely too, was the sense of community that grew over these three days with our young people, relaxing and opening up conversations.  Even those that would be disinclined to say more than one word in our physical classes were chatting away.

The whole team delivered a fun, well planned and diverse series of workshops, that with the wonderful support of our parents and fabulous team of volunteers, put proud smiles on all of our faces.  We were exhausted afterwards and acknowledged that online delivery demands so much more energy and planning, with flexibility a tricky thing to navigate.

Having delivered this first online Summer Experience and learnt so much, we have all added important knowledge to our arsenal as teachers and an equally important tool to our inclusive toolkit.

Thanks for reading!

Nicky Norton


If you are interested in our Online Youth Activities head to our What’s On page

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