Forming friendships through dance.
As professionals, we can recognise that young people in today’s society face multiple pressures, many of which are pushed by expectations, the idea of fitting into a social norm, or mirroring what is around you. The desire to fit into a social group or friendship circle may tempt even us adults to wear a mask in the hope of being accepted.
At G-Expressions, the only masks we encourage one another to wear, are those on the stage.
The part a social network plays in a young persons life;
Having a strong social network is an essential part of a young person’s journey through adolescence, so much of what we know is learned from those around us, the behaviors and manners we witness, and the influences we are surrounded by. Wood (2009) explains that ‘Social networks are not only important in terms of emotional support but also crucial in giving people more opportunities’ (p89). Wood also goes onto explain that a social group is created by individuals who have ‘Specific and shared norms and values.’ (p90)
In the instance of our young people, the shared norm and value would be dance, and the desire to pursue the passions within it. However it is a desire that comes from their own needs- Pushed and decided only by them.
Through my dissertation study (A study which investigates the impact of delivering dance through youth work programmes), I had the opportunity to explore with young people, the real impact of their weekly sessions together. Was it just an opportunity to have fun? A chance to get out of the house and distract from life’s busyness? A chance to do what they enjoyed doing. Or was there something deeper, attracting them to these groups. Was the need for such a community more than what may meet the outside eye? As explored in my first blog post (More than just a dance class), I believe that we are indeed that.
But it isn’t down to me to say.
My research study provided me with the opportunity to learn more about the relationships that we witness grow within our studio. The relationships which had been created by a shared norm, but in fact, had been built on so much more.
“I like the sense of community, everyone supports one another”
“There’s a family feel to the company”
“It’s the best thing I’ve done, becoming part of the team”
“My children are more accepting and acknowledging of diversity due to being a part of G-Expressions. Their kindness knows no bounds as they have been welcomed into G-Expressions so openly, and formed friendships which would otherwise not exist. G-Expressions teaches valuable skills beyond dance… they’re building their social skills and ability to be around others and building friendships that will support them in the life paths”– G-Expressions Parent.
While we don’t hold credit, to helping young people to form relationships and social circles; we witness these relationships grow and flourish with our own eyes. The value that these activities and social groups have within a young person’s journey of self-discovery and sense of belonging is evident, and the influence of being involved in such circles have a more profound impact than just having fun or filling time.
“It’s a really good feeling… to know you belong somewhere”
As we go into a new phase of this global pandemic and overtime ease our way out of the normalities that we have become used to- it can be argued that these social circles hold more of an importance than ever for the lives of young people. A lot has changed within the lives of our members and those who use our services. But one thing that is guaranteed not to have changed; is the place they hold within our organisation and the value of the friendships they share. Through the uncertain times ahead, we continue to be here to support young people, providing a place of fun… a place where they can pursue their shared passions.
And a place where everyone belongs.
For further reading and information about the importance of social development for young people, please see the suggested reading list below;
- National Assembly for Wales; Children, Young People and Education Committee; Mind Over Matter (2018); https://senedd.wales/laid%20documents/cr-ld11522/cr-ld11522-e.pdf
- Youth Work National Occupational Standards Introduction; http://www.nya.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/National-Occupation-Standards-for-Youth-Work.pdf
- Youth Work Strategy For Wales; https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2019-06/youth-work-strategy-for-wales.pdf
- The Art Of Youth Work; Kerry Young (1999)
- Delivering Good Youth Work; Gina Ingram, Jean Harris, and Maḥmūd Ḥassān