News: Linda Jasper steps down from Youth Dance England

Tuesday 8 March 2016 by Carmel Smith

Linda Jasper. Photo: Brian Slater.

Linda Jasper, the Director of Youth Dance England will step down as the organisation merges with the Association of Dance of the African Diaspora, Dance UK and the National Dance Teachers Association to become One Dance UK at the end of the month.

“It has been a remarkable 12 years setting up a new organisation, from scratch, to address the brief from Arts Council England and Department for Education to improve dance opportunities for children and young people across the country,” said said. “The real joy has been meeting the thousands of young people who took part in our performances, courses, conferences and events; their energy and passion for dance has driven me on! My work for YDE would not have been possible without the support of many regional and national partners without whom we could not have reached the hundreds of thousands of young people who have engaged in our programmes. Special thanks go to my colleagues and board members who have been so supportive of the work and myself. I look forward to seeing One Dance UK’s work with children and young people develop and grow, and give Andrew Hurst all my best wishes in his role as the first Chief Executive of One Dance UK.”

Youth Dance England (YDE) was initiated through Arts Council England working with the Department for Education to address the issues concerning the lack of opportunities for children and young people to access high quality dance and progress in dance, regardless of their backgrounds. Since 2004 it has created new networks and national programmes reached over 500,000 children and young people. It was produced publications and a teacher qualification, with Trinity College London, to support young people’s engagement with dance.

IN 2006, YDE created the first national network to support children and young people’s dance working with nine organisations across the country and a further eight educational partners to instigate a network of school dance coordinators. A government commissioned review of the state of dance education and youth dance produced in 2008 by Tony Hall then CEO of the Royal Opera House, led to YDE being awarded the first major public investment in youth dance of £5.6 million.

In 2008 YDE launched the U.Dance national performance framework with the aim of providing every young person with the opportunity to take part in a dance performance each year. So far it has involved over 165,000 young people. The framework has been taken up by YDance in Scotland and National Youth Arts Wales. As part of the project, an annual U.Dance national festival brings together some of the best youth dance groups from across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Now in its ninth year applications to join the festival continue to grow and in 2016 it will take place The Lowry, Salford (8 – 10 July).

Other initiatives included a training and mentoring programme for young choreographers, Young Creatives; National Young Dance Ambassadors – a young leaders’ initiative and Dance Links with the National Dance Teachers Association (2006-2011), a nationwide programme funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, to make links between schools and dance organisations and increase the number of young people taking part in physical activity.

YDE also successfully advocated for the inclusion of dance on the PE curriculum in England and represented the children and young people’s dance sector in government consultations and reviews on education, cultural education, music education, health, physical activity, school examinations and school accountability measures.

Richard Alston, Chair of Youth Dance England for the last seven years, paid tribute to “the truly amazing Linda Jasper”. “It has been my great pleasure to wholeheartedly share Linda’s joy in the creative achievements of young people- to watch with delight what young dancers do and to watch with awe what Linda and her team have managed to organise in the Nationwide Events of U.Dance and the creative maelstrom of the Young Creatives programme,” he said. “The support and nurturing of talent in dance across the country has been an absolutely phenomenal achievement, touching on the lives of tens of thousands of young people. I’m proud to have been involved and feel lucky to have worked with such a tireless and generous team who have been supported all the way by their totally admirable Director. Linda is a one-off and she has changed the face of Dance for Young People in this country. We have so much reason to be grateful. Thank you Linda.”

Photo: Brian Slater

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