Overseas trips lead dancer towards globe-trotting future

A dance graduate who criss-crossed the world to take part in projects in India and Tokyo says the experience has given her a new global vision for her future career-path.

Shannon Coote is studying for her MA in Performance Practices at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) and joined other students on a community dance project in a slum in India earlier this month.

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In an exhausting marathon of travelling, within two days of returning home from India the 21-year-old had boarded a flight to Tokyo to join a second overseas project, this time working with Japanese students.

“It’s made me really appreciate that although people have different views and cultures, you can find common ground and bring them together through dance,” she added.

“These trips have really strengthened my love for dance and my belief in the art form to bring people together regardless of different culture and language. I’m so glad that I chose it as a career.

“Before, I did think that England would be the place for me but now I really do feel that I could continue to travel and use dance as a means of communication and exchange. It has shifted my career viewpoint.”

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Shannon, who grew up in Northampton, graduated from DMU with a Dance degree last summer and signed up for the university’s Square Mile India project in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s largest city.

She and five other DMU students joined Leicester-based Moving Together Creative Dance Company to visit the slum of Ramapir No Tekro in Ahmedabad.

There, they taught a range of Western contemporary dances, including Zumba, to children and to a group of women who make a living by collecting rags to sell for recycling.

A few days later, Shannon was in Tokyo supported by Nottingham-based Dance4 national agency to join a project run by Sioned Huws, a choreographer in residence, to help her work on her exploration of Kakinaizawa Shishi-Odori - a traditional Japanese deer dance.

They worked on their Odori Dawns Dance (the same word translated in Japanese, Welsh and English) in the Morishita Studios and did a presentation to an all-girl arts student group at Joshibi University.

Shannon said: “We got to see some of their exhibitions, including the Co-ume Lab, which is a small gallery run by students of Joshibi University. What’s special about it is that it is led by the students for the students.

“They’re not dancers but they still got very involved in our work which was really good to see.”

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A weekend workshop was the main focus and the resulting performance will be brought back to England for the Nottingham Dance Festival in March and be the subject of a Cultural Exchanges talk at DMU.

“In India we were working with much younger children as well as women, and they would copy everything you did,” said Shannon.

“In Tokyo, it’s been more about collaborating with Sioned and the other dancers to find our own individuality within Shishi-Odori, spending a lot of time with each other and finding ways to communicate as a group through dance. Some are quite good at English but with time and body language, we really got somewhere.”

Also involved in the Tokyo project were fellow DMU dance graduate Louisa Robey, who is now doing an MSc in Cultural Events Management, and dance tutor Marie Fitzpatrick.

Shannon got financial aid and organisational support for both projects through the #DMUglobal scheme, created to give students the opportunity to broaden their horizons.

“It’s a really great scheme,” Shannon said. “It offers students that opportunity to go and experience their interests in an international context, something that they might not have been able to do without DMU’s financial support and contacts around the world.”
Posted on Friday 3rd February 2017

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