During October half term I took my neurodivergent son along to a local community hall to see Meta4 Dance Company perform their new show Jumpers for Goalposts.
We recently shared a blog post about their Arts Council Funded project here.
We were also invited to attend a pre show workshop. My son (L) is eight and he was glad to bump into a friend from school as we arrived in the (brand new to him) community hall space.
The workshop was led by co-artistic director Charlie with support from co-director Lily. Charlie brought high energy, patience and humour to the instruction. The teaching was easy to follow and the children learnt lots of new skills.
L was there for the fun of 'something to do in half term'.
He didn’t really realise he was weaving together a piece of movement/ dance; a performance. For him, the important thing was he was having fun and being empowered to use his own ideas and creativity.
His idea of performance is being in a chorus that sits on the floor in the school hall and watches older children perform a Christmas play each year. This is the only access he has to 'acting' or taking part in a performance. This is a rich enough experience for a sensitive child but in order to build cultural capital it's down to us as parents to find complementary experiences to give him a deeper wealth of experiences.
As we well know, the pandemic brought a unique set of challenges for children and young people and for us as a family along with many others.
I’ve noticed a few times as we chat about memories, the cultural experiences L had pre-pandemic are completely wiped from his memory.
As new opportunities like this one from Meta4 Dance become available and we re-build our confidence, it’s heartwarming to see L engage and ask questions about culture and creativity.
Jumpers for Goalposts - The Show
I very much enjoyed the characterisation and the energy of the short show. There were some incredibly strong performances. At just over 30 minutes long it was a great 'bite size' introduction to dance performance for L. He was mesmerised all the way through and I think having the intro to the performers before they were characters was brilliant for him.
As I was clapping and cheering for the actors at the end of the performance, I asked my son why he wasn’t clapping. I presumed it might be overwhelm or sensitivity to the noise...
“Mummy I don’t think I understood it so I couldn’t clap.”
We followed up the conversation at home and I realised his cultural experiences of football were playing it and watching it on tv. I explained, usually when we clap it’s a mix of clapping because of the effort performers have made and our enjoyment. L is quite literal in his thinking and he doesn’t like loud sounds so I expect a mix of both mixed with understanding permission put him off clapping this time.
His cultural reference point for dance is BBC Strictly Come Dancing. He’s forgotten all the other experiences we’ve had including dancing at our wedding in 2019.
The power of the experience Meta4 Dance brought for him was obvious as he asked me;
“Could we do that again, could they come to school, I’d like to learn more. Can we go to another show like this one somewhere one time.”
Thank you to Meta4 Dance for the opportunity to join them at a family friendly workshop and show. It was both insightful and accessible to us. They are making brilliant things happen in local communities and I look forward to supporting and following more of their work.