Day 2: Kulturvermittlung Symposium: Jane Hackett, Creative Learning, Sadler`s Wells

(c) Renata Behncke/

Sadler`s Wells is located within one of the most diverse boroughs in London: Islington.  Jane Hackett the creative learning director of Sadler`s Wells, gave the attentive audience at the Kulturvermittlung Symposium the social context. On the one hand, in Islington, there are high income households, but there is a lot of government social housing as well.  There is no stable community.  Many people come and go and there are over 56 languages spoken within this London borough alone.  Sadler`s Wells encourages the public to join creative education classes and projects.  It reminds the public that everyone can dance.  Dance is rhythm and movement and everyone has that.  If you put music on in a room full of toddlers they will dance.  Sadler´s Wells starts with that and nurtures our intrinsic need to move with rhythm.
(c) Renata Behncke/
      There are various programs that Sadler´s Wells creative learning department Connect develops.  These include  Sum of Parts, in the Company of Elders, Deaf Debating Dance, as well as a thorough access scheme that supports people with physical, sensory or cognitive disabilities, so that they can fully experience the performances
    In Austria, she collaborated with the Festspielhaus St. Pölten to develop a concept, a project model, that was similar all inclusive aspect of participatory and open access learning at the Sadler`s Wells in London. "Alles Bewegt", was an incredible performance that integrated older and very young people, 3-80 years old as well as teenagers and adults through episodic parts into an fantastically diverse performance.  Everyone was separated by colour of costume, then within the actual dance everyone wore their own clothes in this colour.  This made a diverse explosion of colour and styles, a feast for the eyes.  Live musicians played and there was a feeling that even though the performance was improvised to an extent, it was also well prepared.  The idea was to break open the boundaries of dance to include everyone.  I found myself mesmorised and realised my own fixed views of how I had thought dance should look and be.  In the 40 minutes of "Alles Bewegt" my idea about dance cracked open and I came away with my mind full of possibilities where before I had seen only dead-ends.  Why not have a punk dancing with a ball-room style on the same stage?  Why not have a 3 year olds and the next moment 80 year olds expressing themselves to the full.  Most of all, I felt hopeful that perceptions don´t take so long to change, they can be broken in a moment and another reality can stretch forth like a kaleidoscopic colourful path that was once dark, rough and muddy.  
Der Standard Foto (c) Hermann Rauschmayer
Jane Hackett, who has been both a professional dancer and a teacher emphasises that the creative learning learning department Connect is not at one side, it is right at the heart of what Sadler`s Wells  does.  It influences the other departments and provides sign-posting for other projects.  There are several essential elements.  Connect always works with a writer as well as live musicians. Nitin Sawhney is an associate artist at Sadler´s Wells, that has worked in collaboration with the dancers.  He articulates the current environment:
"London’s heartbeat has changed. Within that heartbeat lies a feeling, a collective consciousness, the uniting hum of disparate voices waiting to be heard" (Nitin Sawhney)
  One other essential element is that they get the comments off the actual participants and include them in the performance.  The performance that the participants work towards, acts as a catalyst.  Following the performance, so that they can feel like there is some kind of continuity to that community that has been built, they organise a collective screening of the performance in Sadler`s Wells. 
     With such an enriching experiences, no wonder universities are flocking carry out research studies with the department.  However, Jane Hackett, through experience found that many of the universities had a hypothesis that they wanted to prove through the Connect participants themselves.  This proved to be quite frustrating, so instead she turned it round and interviewed four universities who could participate in a research project.  
    Those emotive stories that bring tears to the eyes, cannot be used when talking to the Houses of Parliament.  Along with a body of inspirational moments, it helps them to have statistics and theory, so that you can talk to officials.  Furthermore, what Jane has discovered is that by collaborating with universities then there is an ability to develop a deep reflective practice.  “This has made us (Sadler`s Wells) more disciplined and reflective as a result”.