In 2015 when I applied for the One Dance UK Bursary I had just entered into a new phase in my dance career. I had been aware of the academic questions arising from my practice in community dance and health settings for a few years and I had finally made the decision to move from a full time role in Learning and Participation, to a freelance portfolio career as an independent dance artist, in order to begin a Community Dance masters degree at University of Roehampton. In one fell swoop I took on both the challenge of academic study and the task of building a stable freelance teaching portfolio.
This transition was challenging for a number of reasons – I had a head full of ideas but lacked the confidence to initiate them; I needed guidance on how to promote myself independently and talk with clarity and strength about my practice; I was embarking on an academic challenge which called into question all that I had experienced so far as a teaching artist and forced me to reflect on my practice, my values and what I wanted to do next as an ambassador and leader in dance. One Dance UK’s Dance Teachers Bursary programme could not have come at a better time!
I applied for the bursary to gain advice and support, as well as for the opportunity to reflect with other like-minded artists, to develop networks and contacts and to find inspiration from those working in the same field.
What I have achieved in the year since my mentorship began has been more than I could have imagined. The individual mentorship I experienced with the wonderful Kerry Nicholls (Kerry Nicholls Dance) was invaluable for giving me strength in my integrity and confidence in my unique artistic voice within the dance world. She enabled me to navigate the external world by first enabling me to sort through my internal world. We analysed, reflected and questioned all it is to be Danielle Teale and following these sessions I launched my website as an online portfolio to represent my experience, values, thoughts and interests. This was the first step on a shift in my ability to articulate my practice and manage the portfolio of career opportunities which began to grow.
In my mentorship with Protein Dance I have had the privilege of working with them as Artistic Director Luca Silvestrini prepares a new two dancer version of ‘May Contain Food, May Contain You’ for rural touring. It has been a fantastic chance to see the way a very human and universal topic can be translated to high quality performance, connecting people and everyday activities with dance.
As an experienced dance, health and community practitioner and with the support offered by this bursary, I am now empowered to find opportunities through practice based questioning and discuss them with the One Dance UK team as a continued provider of support and champion of my ideas. The mentoring has made me reflect on how important it is for dance artists working independently to build resilience through supportive peers and networks. Sharing with other artists enables us to explore new ways of working, find strength through identifying areas of challenge either physically or emotionally, and finding collaborative and positive solutions. I would encourage all independent artists at whatever stage in their career to find a mentor (or two!) Whether it’s through Once Dance UK or independently.