At the end of last year, we were delighted to have Emily Briggs, a dance and drama student at Edinburgh College, join our Creative Learning team as part of her final-year placement. In this article, Emily reflects on her experience exploring interdisciplinary education at the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
Growing up in Shetland, where dance opportunities were difficult to come by, I channelled my creativity into music whilst in high school and reaped many benefits from living somewhere with such a rich and valued musical culture, even participating in workshops from visiting members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. My studies this year (on Edinburgh College’s BA(Hons) Dance and Drama course) have strongly emphasised cross-art form collaboration, and I soon realised that my musical experiences have informed the way that I understand and make dance.
With this in mind, I was keen to use my work placement as an opportunity to further investigate the relationship between dance and music, challenge the apparent disconnect between the art forms, and explore the creative potential of interdisciplinary educational environments. The SCO seemed like the perfect fit, having run several successful Creative Learning projects which recognised the value of movement in children’s early musical experiences. I was delighted to be able to assist in the production of the new online versions of both Dots & Lines and Moving Music. My placement was varied, from visiting the Dots & Lines filming days at the Traverse Theatre to editing teaching resource packs and investigating effective methods of evaluation.
Dots & Lines and Moving Music have opened my eyes to the world of embodied listening
I was met with highly-skilled, open-minded people committed to sharing the joy of the arts with as many as possible, further fuelling my pride for our industry and fervent belief that it must be protected
I knew from my first day that my time with the SCO would be educationally fruitful, having observed on the set of Dots and Lines such a respectful approach to artistic collaboration between freelancers Ana Almeida and Caroline McCluskey, the participating musicians, the creative learning team and the production crew. Working with various members of the team throughout the process has allowed me to quickly progress from arriving with an abstract curiosity about integrating music and dance to leaving with a bank of real-life practical steps for my own teaching and creative practice to make this happen. Additionally, several conversations I have had along the way have signposted me to areas of personal research, helping me to advance my theoretical knowledge of interdisciplinary arts education.
I was very inspired by the educational approach of Dots & Lines and Moving Music, both of which seemed to capture the playfulness of a child’s imagination by allowing them to visually, aurally and kinaesthetically engage with creativity in all forms as part of their music education. Furthermore, it was refreshing to observe a learning environment in which a child’s creative voice is valued as an essential contribution, and in which children are encouraged to hone their artistic autonomy alongside technical ability from an early age.
Whilst these two projects stem from a musical perspective, the concept of getting children moving creatively through imaginative play is directly transferrable to the dance sector. Introducing the principles of improvisation to young children is often a challenging prospect for dancers. Throughout these projects I saw Ana and Caroline remove the ‘enigma’ of improvisation, with their work inherently promoting the idea that finding new ways to move your body can bring the freedom and fun of the playground to the classroom. In addition, the musical focus of the projects was by no means a hindrance to me as a dancer, but rather offered new perspectives. Dancers use music and sound almost every day, often deeply connected to the ways we generate choreography and find artistry in performance. That said, basic musical knowledge seldom forms part of a dancer’s training. Dots & Lines and Moving Music have opened my eyes to the world of embodied listening, and I believe it could present a wholly applicable future opportunity to develop active, studio-based musical education for dancers without any time spent behind a desk.
As one of my first experiences of professional workplaces within the arts, I was met with highly-skilled, open-minded people committed to sharing the joy of the arts with as many as possible, further fuelling my pride for our industry and fervent belief that it must be protected. As someone emerging from higher education during a rather grim period in all our lives, I would urge any young person interested in working in the arts to embrace your innerchild and start experimenting. Our imaginations are more important now than they may have ever been, and I couldn’t think of a more welcoming community of people than my fellow lovers of creativity.
I would urge any young person interested in working in the arts to embrace your inner-child and start experimenting