Vicki McCorkell is a Trustee at DanceSyndrome. She is an experienced practitioner in the Arts and a good friend to DanceSyndrome Founders Jen and Sue Blackwell. As DanceSyndrome celebrates our 5th anniversary as a charity, we have been reflecting on the history of the organisation and Vicki has written a short blog about her own involvement, not just recently but right back at the start of it all back in 2009.
I remember first meeting Jen and Sue Blackwell in 2007. Back then I worked for a company called Full Circle Arts, managing their Arts Mentoring and Young Artist Development Programmes, supported by Arts Council England and under the Artistic Direction of Chris Hammond, a great mentor and thinker, missed by many.
Sue had emailed to ask whether a mentoring place might come available for Jen and we arranged to meet at the cafe at Contact Theatre. Jen, then in her mid 20s me in my early 30s connected immediately over hot chocolate. Jen like many of us was so clear on who she was and what she wanted, but struggled with the ‘how’. “ I want to dance Vicki, to make a life and career in dance and develop my own company”… It was her passion, why couldn’t she follow and progress further in what was at her very core?
Jen would have gone to dance school like those who go on to become professional dancers or dance facilitators, she would have gone to university like many of those serious about studying in the field of dance, but at the time, Jen couldn’t find one single place one single course in the country that would be accessible to her and provide the type of learning, training and support she needed to progress. Jen knew she had to work hard and that a different route was needed.
Weeks later Jen and I met again to speak more about her goals, the journey, the importance of the right support, health, individual dance practice, group practice, strength building, technique, seeing dance and networking in dance. Soon after Jen began a year mentoring placement with Louise Katerega. Jen had already identified exactly who she wanted as her dance mentor and found an excellent mentor in Louise. We all worked well together, kept the communication open, reviewed how things were going. Through Louise lots of accessible, inclusive, challenging and professional training came about, individual and group practice and signposting to additional opportunity.
It was around this time that Jen’s company the company she dreamt of and named DanceSyndrome began to get really serious about the future.
In 2009 I was asked to work with the company on facilitating a development workshop based on coaching practices and principles, some of the usual GROW and Compelling Futures exercise. in other words we all just had a great time in a room, imagining, asking important questions, listening to one another and visualising the future for DS. We explored what the path might look like, where we were now, identified strengths, needs, opportunities, roles and responsibilities.
I left Manchester shortly after this time and returned to live in London but remained in contact with Sue and Jen. Every now and then we’d meet for coffee, a gin, or a glass of bubbly and catch up about how the company was developing.
Ten years on and gosh so much has changed, a great deal of hard work and commitment by all. The company continue to develop and gain the recognition they deserve. Jen and DanceSyndrome have presented and performed at several conferences and events, won awards, gained attention from leaders and celebrities and have a strong team, practice and programme in place.
In 2016 when I told Sue and Jen I was moving back North an invitation came to join the board of trustees at DanceSyndrome, I was delighted and glad to continue my involvement. They’ve achieved so much in 10 years and have an exciting future ahead. I have much more to say about their work, the validity and importance of it in today’s society and for ‘our’ arts and cultural sector, but I’ll end with….
Huge well done Jen and all at DS!
If you are interested in the history of DanceSyndrome, we have been sharing lots of memories on Facebook and Twitter using #DanceSyndrome5Years. We are also releasing a book with a brief history of the charity and stories from people whose lives have been impacted by our work. If you might be interested in pre-ordering a copy of the book, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.