DanceEast wins major education technology grant

Brendan Keaney, chief executive of DanceEast,

Brendan Keaney, chief executive of DanceEast, says that the grant for digital technology will transform their education programme - Credit: DanceEast

DanceEast has been awarded a major grant to help develop new digital teaching resources which will then boost the company’s education outreach work.

The dance facility, based on Ipswich Waterfront, has received £334,000 from Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Arts-Based Learning Fund to support the development of an innovative digital teaching model – using technology to bring exciting learning concepts to life through dance.

Brendan Keaney, DanceEast’s chief executive and artistic director, said that it was one of their ambitions to transform dance teaching within primary schools across the region.

He said: “We first started exploring how this might be possible in 2016, developing a model that blended in person and digital experiences, to create a whole new way of learning.”

The Jerwood DanceHouse, home of DanceEast, on the Ipswich Waterfront

The Jerwood DanceHouse, home of DanceEast, on the Ipswich Waterfront - Credit: David Parry

He said the project was supported by an initial Explore and Test grant from Paul Hamlyn Foundation to help children develop confidence and skills while engaging with and interpreting complex and exciting curriculum subjects.

“Five years on and despite the devastating impact of the pandemic, we are determined to build on the knowledge garnered from the widespread re-evaluation of the role of digital technologies in education and the arts – allowing the exploration of even more innovative territory."

DanceEast will be working with lead artist, Tom Hobden, along with digital partners Collusion and Summer Isle Films – engaging with at least 28 schools across East Anglia.

Tom Hobden said: “We are onto something really exciting here, repurposing the traditional school hall into a digital space – bringing the best culture to every child”.

DanceEast is at the forefront of digital dance developments in the UK, and this grant forms part of a package of ground-breaking projects. These include a collaboration with BT and a range of partners on a DCMS-funded project 5G Edge-XR, using a blend of virtual and augmented reality (XR), to create life-sized dance avatars in classroom settings.

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In 2020 the dance company also secured funding from the Jerwood Foundation and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, to create a Digital Dance Playground within the Jerwood DanceHouse.

These new facilities provide green screen filming and broadcast quality lighting and camera equipment, as well as an on-site editing facility.

Brendan Keaney said: “We are incredibly grateful to Paul Hamlyn Foundation for this transformational grant, which will enable us to realise our ambition to use rapidly evolving technologies to ensure all children can access the highest quality of dance teaching. 

“As we transition out of lockdown measures, there has never been a more important time to level the playing field of opportunities for children and nurture their creativity. The support of Paul Hamlyn Foundation will allow us to explore some exciting new digital territory, creating a dynamic future for dance and boundless possibilities for children across the region.”

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