RJC Dance nominated for the UK’s largest diversity award

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RJC Dance is excited to be celebrating its 25th anniversary. We are a culturally diverse community dance organisation reflecting the case for diversity, Youth development & education is at the heart of our work. A National Portfolio Organisation supported by Arts Council England and Leeds City Council. RJC Dance is gifted in engaging diverse boys and girls from all backgrounds and offer young people an authentic experience that focuses on how dance can unlock their potential, their creativity and style rather than limiting their dance experience to the perfection of technique. Our work comes from a Black British perspective, drawing on Reggae, Jazz and Contemporary/Carnival dance styles.

The organisation is based in the Inner North East wedge of the City at the Mandela Centre, in the heart of Chapeltown Leeds, the top 10% of the most deprived areas in the UK (according to the Government’s Index of Multiple Deprivation) young people in this area need positive activities, alternatives to crime, choices and opportunities to build their skills set, confidence and self-esteem.

Young people make up the core of our current work with over 200 diverse young people attending weekly dance sessions at the Mandela Centre. We achieve excellence while assuring the healthy development and wellbeing of our young dancers; this is developed via our varied programme of work such as weekly dance training, choreography and rehearsal sessions. RJC Dance is committed to vitality, active participation, creativity & renewal; we inspire, nurture and develop the next generation of well-rounded young, artists & arts practitioners through talent development.

Our work over the years has demonstrated effectiveness by providing young people with accredited, progression routes into further education, the arts and creative industries, alongside a programme of social and personal education. The training provided by RJC Dance is thorough and comprehensive, activates the full potential of young people and equips them with valuable transferrable skills. This is most evident in the fact that members of our alumni have gone on to achieve university degrees, trained and worked at institutes such as Phoenix Dance Theatre, ACE dance and music, Shock Out Arts, and The Dance Company UK, carving out successful careers in disciplines such as teaching and choreography.

RJC Dance participate in various youth dance platforms and is regularly invited to perform at corporate events, cultural festivals, including Leeds West Indian Carnival and Black History Month. We also take part in International Youth Exchanges, a project focused on the spirit of cooperation, social wellbeing and empowerment of young people: breaking down racial barriers to prevent and combat prejudice and all attitudes leading to exclusion, in turn developing a sense of tolerance and understanding of diversity for all participants, thus promoting good will and positive communication between citizens of the globe.

Every year RJC Dance produces and presents a varied and diverse programme of work supporting young people’s continuous social and personal education together with creative development which includes:

• ‘Celebrate Mandela – the legacy ‘
A 2-hour extravaganza performance showcasing a variety of diverse artists using dance, spoken word and music. RJC Dance young people perform alongside these diverse professional and local artists. This annual project provides an opportunity to share with local audiences and Young people, the positive impact Nelson Mandela has had worldwide as well as highlighting our connection to South Africa. Participants and audiences learn about the special legacy of Mandela and the connection to the City’s development as a leading, multi-cultural City of the north. This didactic event sets out to identify the links between the struggles for social equality in Leeds, UK with the South African experience.

• RJC Dance Youth Provision Annual Christmas Show
Held annually at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, we organise a performance designed, choreographed and presented by young people which showcases the performing talents of our diverse young people in the local area and across Leeds. Performed to a full house the audience is immersed in diverse styles of performing arts and encourages performers and audiences to see the vocational opportunities that exist across the creative industry sector. Local diverse audiences get the chance to visit a prestigious higher education institution, perhaps for the first time. It provides a public platform to celebrate diverse young people/ diverse communities and their contemporaries in other dance and performing arts organisations. The programme includes singing, spoken word and new collaborations in film and video, fashion and design.

• RJC Dance Youth Provision Annual Presentation Evening
The event acknowledges and celebrates the achievements of RJC Dance Youth Provision members. Members & their parents, carers and guardians attended this full to capacity event together with RJC Dance Board Members, local sponsors and the Lord Mayor Elect of Leeds. We have developed a long standing relationship with local sponsors who regularly sponsor the awards which range from The Nelson Mandela Award; for the youth member of the year who wants to make a difference to the youth provision, RJC Dance and all those around them. Someone who has no problem teaching and assisting others as well as learning from others. Someone who is always willing to help and expects nothing in return. This person works hard and brings a special quality to the youth provision ; to The Taja Ward-Simmonds Award * : for the youth member of the year who is generous of spirit and gives time with others, who endeavours to involve and consider everyone, contributing to a warm and friendly environment around them.

*In Honour of Taja Ward Simmonds, a Youth Provision member who joined at the age of 8yrs old and sadly passed away at 17yrs from an asthma attack. Taja was also a volunteer for the organisation.

A special thank you to Abacus Blinds, ANKH Electronic Communications, AS Frames.com, Calder Screenprint Ltd, CMM Events, Harrison Bundey, Rhonda Ward & Family, The Athalia Durrant Fund, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Worldwide Travel Solutions all who regularly sponsor the awards.

• Herd Farm Annual Residential
Herd Farm Activity Centre is a Grade ll listed building set in the idyllic surroundings of the Yorkshire countryside. By taking diverse young people out of the inner city environment, the residential helps them to connect with the natural environment as inspiration for further learning alongside the appreciation. This Residential boosts leadership skills, teaches responsibility, self-motivation as well as providing great satisfaction and pride in their achievements.

RJC Dance reflects the creative case for diversity, and continues to develop a creative language via Urban, African Carnival dance styles. Due to underrepresentation of diverse, professionals in the sector, our ambition is to increase the percentage of diverse young people participating in dance education gaining employment in the creative industries. We access and engage males, with a particularly focus on young males, currently 32% of our Youth Provision consists of BME males. 2016 saw the first all-male Carnival dance troupe, RJC Dance Youth Provision’s ‘NU BLU’, performing in front of an audience of over 150,000 at the Leeds West Indian 49th Carnival.

RJC Dance provides an inclusive learning environment, we have grown and developed over 25 years in response to the expressed needs and desires of our community. Young people, diversity and inclusion across gender, ethnicity and socio-economic boundaries remain central to everything we do.