YDance artists have been busy in HMYOI Polmont this year, working with young men and women as part of the CashBack for Change project. We’d like to take some time to shine a light on those young men who have been part of the most recent Extend course.
Extend is a qualifications programme where young people are put through their paces to gain an Award in Dance Leadership (accredited by Sports Leaders). Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the project got off to a “reimagined” beginning, where the Dance Artists utilised the “Email a Prisoner”scheme to connect with the young men. Emails were exchanged where the young people were able to get to know the Dance Artists before they would meet face-to-face, and the Dance Artists would create bespoke dance training/fitness plans for the young men in order to get them active through dance.
YDance also created short dance tutorial videos that were played on Inside Radio (small TV screens in the young people’s rooms). This allowed the young people to put a face and voice to the names of the artists they had been emailing, and turned Gillian Montgomery and Aimee Friel from YDance, into something of a celebrity within HMYOI Polmont. Once restrictions eased, and Aimee and Gillian were able to work in the institute in person, they were often met with cries of “I’ve seen you on my telly!” or “You’re that mad dance wummin!” echoing through the halls.
Through weekly dance sessions, the young people developed core life skills in planning and organisation, communication, problem solving, teamworking, self-belief and self-management. They learned about positive behaviours and tools to become more patient, supportive, inclusive, and respectful towards others and also learned to assess their own skills and behaviours and put plans in place to improve them.
“What surprised me most was, it’s so much more than dancing. It’s becoming fit and healthy, it’s working together as a team, its literacy skills, it’s being creative.”Participant feedback
As part of the qualification assessment process, the young men designed and planned their own dance sessions that included a warm-up, a movement activity/game, a dance sequence, and a safe cool-down activity. These sessions were then delivered to their peers, displaying leadership skills and qualities such as confidence, motivation, and time-management.
“My favourite part was challenging myself with the dance leadership assessments. I enjoyed learning how to put all the leadership skills we were taught into practice through teaching the other guys.”Participant feedback
“I wish that you came into the prison more often. Look at what we’ve achieved with you coming in once a week, imagine what we could do if you were here a few times a week.”Participant feedback
In December 2021, at the end of the first 12-week block of sessions, the young men produced a sharing for a small audience at HMYOI Polmont. They shared the dance sequences and choreography that they had helped to create and also reflected on their experience on the project as part of a panel Q&A.
Aimee Friel, YDance Artist had this to say:
“The young people at Polmont HMYOI have been an absolute joy to work with! It is the highlight of my week. They come into the session with so much energy, enthusiasm, and ideas. We have met some big characters who we will never forget. We’ve built up such a strong relationship with them. Because of this, they now give anything a go and never say no to trying something new. This was a long time coming for some. Not only are we teaching dance, but we are also trying to change perceptions- we are trying to address the tacit assumptions that come with dance, including many which can lead to toxic masculinity. Months ago, at the start of the course, some of our participants refused to lift one another due to it being seen as too feminine. Months later and they are performing duets with all forms of touch in front of an audience. They are now proud to be dancing in this way and they see the value in it. They have become much more resilient, confident, open-minded and trusting of others during this process. We are so very proud of them.”Aimee Friel, YDance Artist
Find out more about YDance’s CashBack for Change project here