What’s going on in the heads of Wales’ eight-year-olds? A new family dance production hopes to find out.
Sweetshop Revolution has worked with school children across Wales – including in Aberystwyth – to find out what exactly makes them tick, what are their hopes and dreams and what is important to them post-pandemic.
The result is I Am 8, a show full of fun, joy, hopes and dreams suitable for all the family. It began when dance company Sweetshop Revolution brought school children into theatres and arts centres and asked them what makes them happy, sad, laugh, what do they enjoy doing, what do they want to do when they grow up and what being eight means to them.
They wanted to make a dance show that really engaged young people and their families and felt that there was no better way to do that, than by making the piece about the children themselves.
Director Sally Marie explains: “This show is designed for family audiences, especially families with children between the ages of five and 11 years. To help us create the production we invited children of this age in Barry, Milford Haven and Aberystwyth to attend our Director for a Day workshops at each of our venues.
“We wanted to give children the opportunity to observe a day in the life of a dancer and learn what it feels like to be a director themselves. This itself was a development of 33 dance workshops we held with children of the same age and was inspired by the enthusiasm of a group of 90 school children who attended an open sharing of our work and Q&A session at the end of our original research project for the show.
“We noticed that after having watched a group of highly skilled professional dancers in front of them, the children were full of inspiration for even more exciting ideas that they wanted us to incorporate into our piece.
“So, we took this on board and created our Director for a Day workshops to empower them to know that they can create dance themselves. Children have beautifully unrestricted imaginations, and we hope that we have realised their choreographic ideas as fully as possible.
“As a director, this is exciting because the audience for whom this piece is designed has a direct and powerful impact in developing and devising the work.”
What they discovered whilst working with the children is that being eight means bouncing, and jumping, leaping, being happy, feeling lonely and loving being with your friends; and the company hopes that in I Am 8 they have created a production that encapsulates all those things.
The result includes a mix of contemporary dance, hip hop, flamenco, classical Indian dance and, of course, leap frogs as the team of five dancers inhabit the world of eight-year-olds for a 45-minute high energy show.
Producer and dancer Josie Sinnadurai said: “During our research for the project, we saw that post Covid-19, many children suffered from high levels of anxiety and were timid about moving in the space. According to their teachers, they had lost some of their social skills, and lacked empathy and patience.
“However, we noticed that once many of the children began to engage with our workshops, their energy levels and attitudes changed, they began to smile and laugh and interacted differently with our dancers and each other.
I Am 8 is performed by five professional dancers (Josie Sinnadurai, Marine Tournet, Alexander Love, Joseph Powell-Main and Dvija Melally) and comes to Aberystwyth Arts Centre this Saturday, 24 June at 1pm.