YDance (Scottish Youth Dance) held a special celebration day in December to applaud the achievements and hard work of the young people who had taken part in the company’s Take the Lead programme; a community project which aimed to increase ambition and aspiration in young people through fun and inspiring dance sessions.

The event, held at Greenwood Academy in Irvine, saw around 50 young people aged 10 to 21 who had attended weekly dance sessions in Garnock Valley, Irvine, Kilwinning, North Shore and Three Towns, come together to take part in dance workshops and perform to an audience of friends, family and invited guests.  

YDance started the three-year Take the Lead project in 2017 thanks to funding from Cashback for Creativity, part of the Scottish Government’s CashBack for Communities programme; a unique scheme which reinvests the proceeds of crime back into communities across the country to benefit Scotland’s young people.

Take the Lead ran in North Ayrshire and HMYOI Polmont in partnership with North Ayrshire Council and Active Schools. Using dance, the programme aimed to increase ambition and aspiration by building young peoples’ confidence, capacity, health and wellbeing, and help them develop the behavioural, social and emotional skills needed to engage and progress into further learning and employability. As part of their involvement, young people also had the opportunity to gain various awards and qualifications. In its three-year lifespan, Take the Lead worked with over 700 young people.

One Take the Lead participant said:

“Take the Lead has made me the person I am today. If it wasn’t for YDance I don’t know where I’d be, it’s been a real confidence boost for me. Before YDance I wouldn’t want to leave my bed and look at me now – I am one of the open and confident people.”

Kelly Shearer, Head of Participation at YDance said:

“The main aim of our dance artists who worked with the participants over the last three-years was to create a safe and nurturing space where the young people could express themselves and thrive. Taking away the verbal aspect of communicating can be very freeing, especially for young people who find it difficult to express themselves. Dance is inherently social and by working in groups with their peers, the young people naturally became better able to communicate and compromise effectively.”

She added:

“Many of our participants were young men in HMYOI Polmont who have few to no qualifications. Take the Lead has given them the opportunity to work towards an Award in Dance Leadership qualification (accredited by Sports Leaders UK) that develops important life skills such as communication, organisation, motivation and teamworking that can be used in all aspects of their lives.”

“We know through our evaluations that 91 percent of Take the Lead participants feel that their confidence and skills have increased, 90 percent feel their wellbeing has improved, 89 percent feel they have developed more positive behaviours and 91 percent feel more inspired and have increased aspirations. The Take the Lead Celebration Day was a fitting way to celebrate how far these young people have come.”

Take a look at our Take the Lead photo gallery.