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DMU student enhances local children's lives through dance

A passionate Dance student at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has helped to enhance the lives of local children with learning difficulties and disabilities.

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During her final year at DMU, Darcy Kitchener has discovered a love of introducing dance to those who wouldn’t necessarily seek it out or reap its benefits.

As part of the Teaching and Leading Dance module on her Dance BA (Hons) course, Darcy has just finished a placement with West Gate School in Glenfield, Leicester; a special school for pupils aged four to 19 with a wide range of learning difficulties and disabilities.

Darcy helped out with six autistic children aged 12-16, experimenting with different types of movement and enhancing their senses by using props like plastic bags to sound like leaves rustling and drinking straws to simulate stepping on twigs.

She worked to break down the pre-conception that dance is only about copying a taught routine. Instead, she guided the children towards movements they could develop and explore themselves.

The 20-year old said: “I find it so rewarding working with children who wouldn’t usually experience dance unless you took it to them.

“Dance has so many benefits. It helps people to better express themselves, harness their creativity, improve their social skills and become more agile.”

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Darcy performing at DMU's 2015 Dance Festival at Curve

The positive change she witnessed at West Gate School made the challenge of working with children with different learning difficulties and disabilities worthwhile.

Darcy said: “When I first started my placement, we were advised not to form the children in a circle as they could find it unsettling and threatening.

“But after a couple of sessions, the children formed a circle instinctively, meaning they felt safe and happy in the class. It was such a heart-warming thing to see.”

Last year, Darcy also completed a six-week placement at a community space in New Bardon in Coalville, Leicester, where she had the chance to work closely with a six-year-old autistic boy.

She said: “This was a very challenging placement, but by the last week the little boy had joined in the technique section of the class and was happily skipping around the room with me.

“I also got to lead parts of the senior class in modern and contemporary dance, which is great for my progress as a community dance artist.”

Darcy’s next exciting move is volunteering at Let’s Dance International Frontiers at the end of April, a 10-day festival at Leicester’s Curve theatre showcasing emerging talent.

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She is also taking part in the Utrecht Spring Dance and Theatre Festival in Holland at the end of May, as part of DMUglobal trip.

Darcy said: “This festival is a great opportunity for international networking and has a wide variety of contemporary art to engage with.”

Darcy will be ending her degree on a high with a performance in the University Dance Festival at Curve Theatre in June.

Opportunities like these and the support from DMU are what make Darcy keen to stay in Leicester once she graduates.

She said: “I absolutely love my course! It feels like a microcosm of the arts industry, forming a community and support network in itself. Our tutors are big on us getting experience and are always sending opportunities our way.

“I want to stay in Leicester and take advantage of the great venues it has, particularly the Attenborough Arts Centre, as I strongly respect and agree with their ethos and inclusivity.”

Posted on Wednesday 16th March 2016

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