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Grants for the arts: first-time dance applicant gets the green light

  • Date: 25 October 2011
  • Artform: Dance
  • Area: South East
Commotion Dance, 2011 Commotion Dance, 2011, Photo courtesy of Commotion Dance

Over the past six months, our open access Grants for the arts scheme has supported 20 dance projects in the South East. We talked to one first time applicant, Vicki Hargreaves from Eastleigh, Hampshire, who shared her experiences of applying to the scheme for the first time and how the grants will help her work.

Grants for the arts is Arts Council England’s open application programme, funded through the National Lottery. The scheme welcomes and actively encourages first-time applicants. Since its inception, Grants for the arts scheme has helped numerous artists and individuals get their projects off the ground.

From April to September 2011, Grants for the arts has awarded £579,685 to 20 dance projects in the South East. Awards over this period ranged from £2,990 to £190,284.

Vicki Hargreaves is the artistic director of a young all-female dance company called Commotion Dance, based in Eastleigh, which makes contemporary dance work for young people. She set up the company in September 2010 with three dancers, and they are now an associate company at The Point. This spring, she was successful in getting a £6,250 Grants for the arts award.

Vicki describes the process of applying to the scheme: ‘We applied for the grant back in April, and we were asking for money to support the first research and development (R&D) of our work for young people. We realised there’s a lot of theatre for young children but not dance so we wanted to create a new piece of contemporary dance for children.

‘The creative producer at The Point was able to support us with the application. That support was invaluable, as was that of the local authority Head of Culture and from Arts Council Dance Relationship Manager Denise Woods (Perry). The other thing that helped us was talking to other people and understanding things from their point of view rather than being in a bubble and thinking that we could conquer the world.

‘In our application, we asked for a two week intensive period to develop a 30-minute pilot show. We did our R&D back in June, and it turned into a 40-minute show. We were really pleased with the result.

‘The work is called Ready or Not, and it’s a dance piece aimed at 3 to 7 year olds. It’s set in a playground, and it follows the relationship of three characters. They don’t know each other at first, and then they realise that their friendship can grow – then someone is left on their own. We started to look at hide and seek and the emotions you feel when you play those games. We use a lot of props to help get audience interaction.

‘What that grant has given us is time to work with collaborators and to gather our resources. We had a music composer come in and we worked with two artistic mentors. One of the people we worked with helped us on the artistic elements for three days. He brought in his expertise with the props we were using and worked with us on how to engage with a child-friendly audience.

‘The grant also supported us throughout June to run 55 workshops in 10 primary schools in Eastleigh. The workshops aim was to encourage dance in schools and highlight our company and what we were doing. We worked with The Point on this, going to some schools we’d never been to before. As a result, we were also offered more work with two of the schools.

‘The final sharing was held in Eastleigh. We had 30 VIPs there – promoters and venues from all over the south. We got great feedback, and we had a number of people who said they’d like to see it again. We have five pencilled dates from that sharing, which is great.

‘Our next step is to develop the show further and to tour. We put in our second application, which asks for three weeks for rehearsal time and some more time with the collaborators. We realised that we need more time with composer to make a solid work.’

‘We are now looking for another dancer to join the team and will be holding an audition on Sunday 11 December. For more information please contact us at info@commotiondance.co.uk.’