DMU for Life's Alumnus of the Month for January is Emily Jackson, a 2011 graduate who studied a BA in Dance. Since finishing her degree, Emily has gone on to found her own non-profit organisation 'Moving Together', which provides dance education and community arts services within Leicester and across England.
We spoke to her about her time at De Montfort University Leicester and how she was able to successfully establish her own business so soon after graduating:
"I think what first hit me when I visited DMU for an open day was the amazing quality of the facilities on display. When I started in 2008 the PACE building for performing arts had just recently opened with a variety of fantastic spaces for performers to develop their craft. Having such a great environment to work in is so important to creative development for students.
"I also found that the course content was a good blend of practical and theoretical learning, I had always thought about becoming a teacher someday, so it was important to me to embrace the theory elements alongside performing. The course leader at the time, Sally Doughty really helped to sell me on DMU too, there was so much enthusiasm from the teaching staff it really made me to want to study here."
"My time at DMU really gave me confidence in myself as a person and allowed me to develop my skills beyond the classroom with loads of volunteering opportunities in the local area. I loved having the chance to work with primary schools around Leicester, but I think the student experience is even better now with initiatives like DMU Global which allows students visit and volunteer in places all over the world.
"One of my best experiences was working at a women's refuge near Bede Park, which really inspired me to think seriously about dance as a future career and is also where I met my business partner Rachel with whom I co-founded Moving Together. After finishing our work at the refuge and third year, we decided to train to be dance teachers and apply for funding from The Mighty Creatives to create a business plan for Moving Together. We were then able to secure a larger funding pot as a result and start developing links with Curve, DMU and other local organisations to facilitate group dance projects. We were actually involved in one of the earliest DMU Local initiatives, so our time at De Montfort came full circle in a way.
"We've now been in operation since 2011 and over time we've built up a really strong foundation of relationships with our partners in Leicester and the UK. We're now a team of six and deliver 32 projects each week, ranging from work in schools to 11 projects focused on people over 55 across Leicestershire and now Northamptonshire.
"We recently partnered with the Aakash Odedra Company, an international dance company, as an official 'Education Producer' for some of their projects. One of the key developments we've been involved in was their 'Dance for Diabetes' initiative focused on tackling high-rates of the illness in South Asian communities. We're also involved in a 'Dance and Dementia' workshop, along with helping graduates get into the industry, and running special needs programmes promoting dance and arts learning.
"In terms of national reach, Moving Together is now working with the David Ross Education Trust as a consultant to provide dance education services to 34 academies across the country.
"I think that we've been able to reach where we are today because of our passion for dance and the impact it has on the lives of the people we work with. It can be challenging to build a business or career in the arts, so I feel it's really important not to lose that passion for what you do. If you focus on the benefit your work can have on the wider community, it helps to you to persevere when you run into obstacles in your personal or professional life.
"Every summer we host a show at the Curve where we bring together the many groups we work with to showcase what they've worked on over the year. For me it's moments like this that really bring home the importance of what we do and remind me why I devote so much time to running an organisation like Moving Together."
Posted on Thursday 30th January 2020