What Does Being An Eight-Year-Old Mean in Wales Today? Find Out With Touring Family Dance Show – I Am 8!

Sweetshop Revolution has worked with school children across Wales to find out what exactly makes them tick, what are their hopes and dreams and what is important to them post-pandemic. The result is a show full of fun, joy, hopes and dreams suitable for all the family touring to Memo Arts Centre, Torch Theatre and Aberystwyth Arts Centre this Spring.

I am 8 began when dance company Sweetshop Revolution brought school children into theatres and arts centres across Wales and asked them what makes them happy, sad, laugh, what do they enjoy doing, what do they want to do when they grow up and what being 8 means to them. They wanted to make a dance show that really engaged young people and their families and felt that there was no better way to do that, than by making the piece about the children themselves.

Director Sally Marie explains: “This show is designed for family audiences, especially families with children between the ages of 5 and 11 years. To help us create the production we invited children of this age in Barry, Milford Haven and Aberystwyth to attend our “Director for a Day” workshops at each of our venues. We wanted to give children the opportunity to observe a day in the life of a dancer and learn what it feels like to be a director themselves. This itself was a development of 33 dance workshops we held with children of the same age and was inspired by the enthusiasm of a group of 90 school children who attended an open sharing of our work and Q&A session at the end of our original research project for the show.

“We noticed that after having watched a group of highly skilled professional dancers in front of them, the children were full of inspiration for even more exciting ideas that they wanted us to incorporate into our piece. So, we took this on board and created our Director for a Day workshops to empower them to know that thy can create dance themselves. Children have beautifully unrestricted imaginations, and we hope that we have realised their choreographic ideas as fully as possible. As a director, this is exciting because the audience for whom this piece is designed has a direct and powerful impact in developing and devising the work.”

What they discovered whilst working with the children is that being eight means bouncing, and jumping, leaping, being happy, feeling lonely and loving being with your friends; and the company hopes that in I Am 8 they have created a production that encapsulates all those things. The result includes a mix of contemporary dance, hip hop, flamenco, classical Indian dance and, of course, leap frogs as the team of five dancers inhabit the world of eight-year-olds for a 45 minute high energy show, followed by the opportunity for the young people in the audience to climb on stage, meet the dancers and try out some moves of their own.

Producer and dancer Josie Sinnadurai said: “During our research for the project, we saw that post COVID-19, many children suffered from high levels of anxiety and were timid about moving in the space. According to their teachers, they had lost some of their social skills, and lacked empathy and patience.

“However, we noticed that once many of the children began to engage with our workshops, their energy levels and attitudes changed, they began to smile and laugh and interacted differently with our dancers and each other. We believe in the ability of dance to empower and inspire and we felt that this was the perfect time to give these children an opportunity to be creatively involved in this project and reconnect with their bodies and with each other. Initially for the piece we did 33 workshops across Wales to find out what the children had experienced during Covid. A lot of them were also very shy. You could see it and it was quietly heart-breaking. Yet, a year later, you can see them so much more at home in themselves and life; it’s beautiful.

“We hope this project will have a legacy of inclusivity in the arts for children of all backgrounds, as well as introducing new audiences to dance. We’ve been very lucky here in Wales to have so many incredible people and organisations help us with I Am 8. We can’t wait to share it with families across Wales.”

Sweetshop Revolution produces dance theatre with people at its heart. Whatever the subject matter, the company endeavours to make shows that are questioning, alive and entertaining and can be enjoyed on multiple levels. Directed by Sally Marie, designed by Minnie Sandbach and with music from composer Frank Moon, I Am 8 is performed by five professional dancers (Josie Sinnadurai, Marine Tournet, Alexander Love, Joseph Powell-Main and Dvija Melally), each bringing their own specialisms to the piece.

I Am 8 is at Memo Arts Centre, Barry on 24th May, the Torch Theatre, Milford Haven on 7th June and at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on 24th June. The company hopes that following this short tour, I Am 8 will return to more venues across Wales in 2024.

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