Pioneering new dance for very young children: Little Big Dance – the story so far

Since kicking off our national Little Big Dance programme in November 2019, dance artists Siobhan Hayes, George Fellows, Anusha Subramanyam and Takeshi Matsumoto have been busy getting to grips with the developmental milestones that can influence how under five year olds see the world.

With the help of Dramaturg Lou Cope and Early Years Specialists Hannah Lefeuvre and Skye Reynolds, our first Little Big Dance artists are learning about the building blocks needed to create captivating dance experiences designed specifically for very young children and their adults. 

Here, dance artist Siobhan Hayes, Assistant Artistic Director of Stopgap, is working with two Brighton & Hove nurseries, reflects on what she’s learned so far and how this is shaping ideas for the dance piece she is developing. 

My experience as an artist is in making inclusive dance works for adult audiences so being involved in Little Big Dance is a real departure for me. This is the first time I have had the opportunity to make work for a very young audience and the process so far has been really fulfilling.

I’ve been working with brilliant early years practitioners and have particularly appreciated the chance to teach alongside Artist and Early Years Specialist Skye Reynolds. Her ability to quickly read a child’s behaviour or response to an idea and then respond to it herself is amazing. I’ve also really enjoyed the opportunity to work with Dramaturg Lou Cope. Her direct yet supportive insights into my work are incredibly helpful and will no doubt have an influence upon how I make work in the future.

The project I’m creating with the children and the dancers from Stopgap’s apprentice company sg2 Adventures in Slumberton explores the theme of sleep. It follows one character - who is initially afraid to go to sleep - into their dream world where we meet some characters who help them overcome their fears/worries. The result is that they end up loving sleep and can’t wait to get back there to have more fun with their dream friends. As well as giving very young audiences a chance to experience high quality inclusive dance, I’m hoping to give the children a really fun experience, a sense that dreams are an adventure and sleep isn’t something to be afraid of or worried about.

In late February, two of the four ideas for dance works currently being developed will be selected to go on to be produced for a national tour. Watch this space!

© Kate Flurrie
Pioneering new dance for very young children: Little Big Dance – the story so far