Criteria for identifying talented dancers
Read how a joint project identified children talented in dance performance, supported teachers in their work, and organised continuing experiences once children's expectations were raised.
This success story describes a long-term, joint project for the talented-in-dance performance involving Laban's Education and Community Programme (ECP) and the Excellence in Cities (EiC) Gifted and Talented primary coordinator for Lewisham. Criteria for the identification of talented performers in dance were developed. These were tested and refined in consultation with primary teachers. A workshop was given to Year 5 pupils in four local primary schools from which participants were selected, using the criteria, for a further ten week programme of after school dance workshops for the gifted and talented at Laban.
The aims of the organisers were to:
- identify and test the selection criteria for the talented in dance
- support in-service training for primary teachers and develop good practice
- provide access to the facilities of a professional conservatoire and contemporary dance classes to pupils who might otherwise not select themselves for dance activities.
Four schools were invited to participate. An hour-long workshop was delivered to all Year 5 pupils in each school by two specialist dance teachers, organised by the ECP. One taught while the other observed alongside the classroom teacher, in order to identify between five to eight talented children using the selection criteria. Eventually, 26 children were selected to participate in the longer project, consisting of 10 workshops at Laban in a high quality dance environment, taught by a specialist ECP dance teacher. The aim was to develop technical dance skills alongside creative understanding. Live accompaniment was provided at the workshops to provide a professional atmosphere and enable a particular focus on technical working. Each primary school was responsible for transporting the pupils to Laban. This involved a considerable investment in time for the teaching staff; evidence of their recognition of the value of the project.
This is a good example of how a higher education institution or similar centre of expertise can cooperate with schools to the mutual benefit of all concerned, providing help with identifying talented children, supporting classroom teachers in their work and being able to organise continuing experiences once expectations have been raised in the children.
It provides a model for establishing a pilot project in order to draft and redefine criteria, and demonstrates the importance both of having a strategy for continuing development and of maintaining a flexible approach, so that unexpected outcomes can be accommodated. It also shows the importance of being able to trial selection criteria in practical circumstances, with the other personnel involved who might later have to apply them.
The project identifies useful criteria for how organisations might choose schools for similar projects. The use of an open class as a performance venue was a non-threatening context. It illustrates that there are talented pupils who might not be identified by teachers in ordinary circumstances and demonstrates the potential for differentiating between those characterised as talented in follow-up projects and the basis on which this might be done.