Dance Residency at Knotty Ash Primary School
In November 2019 Ariel Fung and I spent a week making new dance theatre with the Deaf and HoH children at Knotty Ash Primary School in Liverpool.
I first visited Knotty Ash Primary in June 2019, upon successfully receiving a response from Kath Sweeney, the Head of Deaf Resource Base at Knotty Ash Primary, following my outreach emails to schools across the country. Along with Ariel Fung, I visited for one day of workshops we delivered to various different groups of children.
I found the staff extremely kind and generous, and the children were fantastic to work with. As a matter of fact, not only did Kath arrange for my workshops to fit in with the timetable at the time, she also made sure we had a nice cosy hotel to stay in the night before, as we travelled up from the Midlands.
This event established my connection with the school for future projects, and upon receiving a commission a few months later to run more school residencies, I did not hesitate in choosing Knotty Ash as my first school of choice for this project.
The children made a new piece called “We are the Revolution” a performance in response to my “Sign Criminal” piece, that I presented with Ariel and Nao Masuda, a Japanese percussionist who played the Taiko drums, on the first day of the residency.
This is what Kath had to say about the residency:
"Dear Billy and Ariel,
I just wanted to let you know that the impact of your work with the children has been remarkable, both during the week you were here and after you had gone.
Over the course of the week, we saw some of our most shy pupils transform into confident stars of the stage.
Luckily enough as we had Annual Reviews taking place on the day of the final show some our our parents were able to see their children performing.
The parents were literally taken aback at what they saw - their children displaying real confidence and pride in a project they had helped to create - they worked as part of a team and each and every pupil believed in themselves and fully supported one another.
The dad of a profoundly deaf pupil could hardly believe that it was his daughter up on stage! He said his daughter had never before wanted to take a lead role in a production of any kind but over the course of the workshops she had arrived home from school each evening buzzing about the Deaf dance teachers.
The whole week was an incredible success, true inclusion at its very best. I must tell you that nearly all of the children you worked with went on to create their own dance piece for the school talent show - the staff were amazed at how the children were able to transfer the skills they had learnt from you to choreograph their own piece.
Thank you all so very much for a transformational week - we will remember it for many years to come and would love to stay in touch in the future."
Kath Sweeney’s testimony proves the value of Deaf dancers acting as role models to inspire Deaf children to be more confident in their identity.