Audience development – learning from young children

I am lucky to work in a sector which I care deeply about, and with clients who I admire, respect, learn from and enjoy working with.

But now and again a very special project comes along, one which really goes to the core of why I love doing what I do. Still in the City is a project that has inspired me and opened my eyes to new possibilities. It has given me the chance to work with such creative people, so passionate and dedicated to their craft. And it has given me the chance to see an art form through the eyes of very young children. 

Still in the City by Ensemble Dance Co is an improvised and interactive contemporary dance performance aimed at under 5s and their families. Not only is that unusual in itself, but children are also welcome to join in and to take part, in whatever way they wish and they feel comfortable. The tour has included three theatres and five libraries across Norfolk and I have been working on marketing these performances.

Dance Performance Flyer_EMAIL-page-001

The audiences’ feedback has been extraordinarily positive and powerful. Some of the comments received have included:

  • “Moving and magical”
  • “It made me happy” 5 stars (child, age 3)
  • “It’s the best performance I’ve seen for children, even over the ones I’ve paid for in the theatre”
  • “Gentle, soothing, beautiful, engaging”
  • “Very skilled performers, reacting to the spontaneous movements of the children, earning their trust to interact”
  • “Charming, funny and beautiful!”
  • “Beautiful and unusual – it’s the first time I have seen people have the chance to join in”

I took my daughter to one of the library shows and she was captivated and intrigued, and that evening said “I want to see the dance again” – praise indeed. To see such beautiful dancing from dancers Teresa Manjua, Jenn Vogtle and Giuseppe Claudio Insalaco and to experience musician Hej Jones’ powerful and at times haunting music was a treat; but to see it alongside such pure and earnest movement of children, joining in with no self-consciousness or judgement, was magical.


Hayley Matthews, founder of Ensemble Dance Co, was always clear in her ambition of making professional dance for and with young children without it being dumbed down. The project has proved that an art form sometimes viewed as inaccessible *even* to adults, need not be. It can be opened up and enjoyed by everyone in their own way. Just as children were invited to share the space with the dancers, the dancers were invited to share the space with the children. The openness, trust and joyfulness shown by the children is something I will remember for a long time, and hope that I will see again.

To find out more about Ensemble Dance Co visit their Facebook page.

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