Artist in Residence (AiR) Holly Smith tells us about her journey with Greenwich Dance
“I began working with Greenwich Dance in December 2021 as I was beginning my journey as a freelance artist. I worked on their This Girl Can classes, a project funded by London Sport to empower women and girls and since then have been involved with their Summer in the Park events and helped out on their series of Lindy Hop Socials. I’m currently delivering dance for older people at risk of loneliness within their Dance for Wellbeing classes programme as one of their Artists in Residence. My approach to the Dance for Wellbeing classes is to really meet participants where they are at. Whatever level of mobility, curiosity, creativity they are coming with to embrace it and to mix it in with my own; and aiming to give people a dose of inspiration, joy, fun. I’ve also been using the 5 steps to mental wellbeing and connecting this to our activities, so it includes a chance to connect with others, being physically active, learning something new, giving to others and being present.
AiR has allowed me to really dive into and expand my practice, particularly in working with older adults. It has enabled me to try out new creative ideas, ways of working and different stimuli. It’s given me time and space to connect with other artists and be inspired by their practice whilst gathering tools for my own work.
I work closely with Alliey Gee, the Greenwich Dance Community and Engagement Producer, and AiR has made me feel like the process of working together has been more collaborative and hands-on than in other programmes. We’re consulted on what classes are running, how we picture the running of the work and what spaces and people we would like to work with. It also feels like we have a lot of support when there are questions or things we’re not sure on.
The AiR programme has made me feel a lot more involved in the Greenwich Dance team. Rather than connecting with the team maybe once every few weeks, or for 5 minutes before a weekly class I connect with them throughout the week and often in person. It’s given me ownership of my classes as I feel trusted and supported to lead them how I see best.
I also have more time to connect with participants in personal ways, like talking before and after class and being able to hear their thoughts, feedback and what’s going on in their world. There’s still a little bit of running from one place to the next but I know that connecting with people is a vital part of the wellbeing work and to know it’s had dedicated time and is encouraged is great.
Being contracted long term also means that I don’t feel like I can only engage with our participants and communities during class times. Knowing that my time is paid for the day means I can invest time either side of the class to get to know the space and people better without worrying that I’m working for free. Through it Greenwich Dance has also invested in my training, and I will be taking the People Dancing online training module on working with older people in dance.
I hope to continue working with Greenwich Dance and to continue opening up our work and approach to more communities across South East London. It would be exciting to meet new people and new groups and to create some long term links with people who would benefit from our work.”