Propeller Spotlight: Blue Moose Dance Company

Following the completion of the Rural Steps project in North Yorkshire, Blue Moose Dance Company have created a legacy document to help Youth Dance Artists. The toolkit includes podcasts, case studies, templates and guidance to which they will continue to add. We speak to Director Sarah Hall.

Where does the Blue Moose Dance Company come from?

The Blue Moose Dance Company was founded as a community interest company (CIC) back in 2015. Co-founders Sarah Hall and Zanna Dennis met as part of the Big Dance North West Link Up Project. They clicked straight away. Both were developing their own portfolio of work and had a similar ethos, so united their passion to create new opportunities in the industry. Their first project delivered creative dance as part of primary school PE lessons alongside developing their work in youth dance.

Sarah Hall, who is also a lecturer of dance at UCLan, first came to Propeller in 2017 for her students’ sake. The dance industry is full of freelancers and she wanted to prepare her students with the necessary enterprise skills. Upon finding that we support UCLan staff members too, she met with business mentor Steve to discuss the future of Blue Moose. It was at that point that Blue Moose split into two prongs; the existing CIC for community-focused work, and a LTD company to raise profits for the CIC.

Blue Moose works with freelance artists, which allows for flexible working. This means that each opportunity can be delivered by artists with a special interest in the area too. Collaborating with other dancers keeps the vibrant artist community strong, enriches the opportunities created by Blue Moose, and keeps them connected in what could otherwise be very isolated work.

Sarah Hall

Dance During the Pandemic

One of Sarah’s passions is delivering youth dance programmes, which includes running the long-standing Preston Youth Dance Company.

 “The pandemic has obviously changed a lot of things and it’s changed the way people work. We’ve been working over Zoom for the past 6 months, which has been surprisingly well received. The young people we work with have seen their sessions as a way to stay connected and after a day of online lessons for school it helps to release pent-up energy, let’s them express themselves and has a positive impact on mental health.”

The effects of the pandemic are far-reaching and recent discussions talk about artists retraining in different work. When asked about this, Sarah advocated the many reasons we can benefit from dance and expressed the need to ensure there was still an accessible offering.

 “Not everybody learns through traditional academic methods delivered in a classroom. Dancing is a way to approach issues in a practical way, developing new perspectives and means of communication. Being creative gives people more confidence and helps develop leadership skills. You’re often working with others to find new ideas or solutions to problems and no-one’s opinion means more than another’s.”

Whether or not the pandemic impacts upon industry growth in the future, it’s important to support each other in current times. For many new facilitators, it can be difficult to navigate opportunities and access the business support they need.

Reaching Others

There’s a lot of ways to go about it and every situation is different. This is why an important aspect of dance facilitation is to learn from others. But if you’re the only dancer for miles, how can you do that? Rural areas in particular have less access to quality career opportunities, which is where ‘Making It Happen’ began.

Blue Moose wanted to show isolated communities what dance could lead to by exposing opportunities, providing inspiration and showing how the work can be relevant to everyone. This led to the idea of showing real-life examples of what it is like to be an artist. In 2019 they created a podcast commissioned by Great Place: Lakes and Dales to support those starting a career in dance.

“Freelance work can get quite lonely; people often work by themselves and frequently spend a lot of time travelling from place to place. The idea of a podcast came from being able to use commuting time to connect with others and learn about each other’s’ practices. We wanted to share and celebrate real life creative careers that are happening right now. Doing so in a podcast was ideal as it is a format that is accessible and readily available.”

Making it happen toolkit

The ‘Making It Happen’ Toolkit

This year, Blue Moose added to the Making It Happen careers resources with the Making It Happen toolkit. This toolkit was created as part of the Rural Steps project, for youth dance activity in isolated parts of North Yorkshire. They have also created a second podcast series.

The project was funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England and made possible support from Yorkshire Dance, the York and North Yorkshire Dance Network and Craven District Council. Not only did the project support dance activity for people aged 9-18, it also sought to support artists’ professional development. One of the project outcomes was the development of the ‘Making It Happen’ toolkit, hosted on the Blue Moose Dance Company website.

“The toolkit is something I really wish I had when I started out. It’s vital to learn from others. When I started out, I asked a lot of questions, shadowed established artists and learned from others any way I could. Dance is a performative art and it’s the sort of thing you learn by doing. The toolkit helps with that. It’s full of examples and advice from people working in the industry right now, and doesn’t show just one approach. We’ve also included templates and guides for new artists to use. There’s many ways to do things and this toolkit supports artists to carve their own way, with resources available to get them started.”

What’s Next for the Blue Moose Dance Company?

Now that the Rural Steps project is at an end, Blue Moose are hosting the toolkit on their own website. This allows them to continue adding to the resource and keep it alive. Free to use, it’s a resource that new and established dance facilitators alike can benefit from.

Sarah is also currently developing a member’s section for artists and schools within the Blue Moose website. This area will offer teaching resources, monthly classes and mentorship, but also provide the means for artists to come together as a community.

“We need to do more to stay connected. We’re not competitive; we want everyone to come together and work together and the way to do that is to lead by example.”

To access the ‘Making It Happen’ toolkit, visit the Blue Moose website. You can also keep up to date through their social media channels:

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