SkyeDance on the Isle of Skye hire Ross Cooper as new Dance Development Manager
13 March 2014
Former professional dancer Ross Cooper joins the Isle of Skye's local community dance organisation - SkyeDance, at the start of 2014. The ISTD interviewed Ross and some of the SkyeDance team.
The start of 2014 saw the Scottish Isle of Skye’s local community dance organisation hire former professional dancer Ross Cooper as their dance development manger. SkyeDance began in 2004 with the aim of promoting excellence in dance in Skye and Lochalsh. Ten years on, SkyeDance is thriving and looking to their dance future. We got a chance to ask Ross a few questions about SkyeDance and what it means to be working there.
What are your priorities for SkyeDance as the newly appointed dance development manager?
To continue to develop the surprisingly excellent provision for dance in Skye & Lochalsh.
What new elements do you feel that you can bring to SkyeDance?
My passion is for dance as an art form and mode of expression as well as a fun way to build confidence, strength and fitness. I’d like to give my students the opportunity to experience all aspects of dance, giving them access to a deeper technical and aesthetic understanding. I’d also like to broaden SkyeDance’s remit, offering classes to adults and styles such as Ballroom and Contemporary.
What attracted you to working in a remote dance community?
Skye & Lochalsh is a beautiful area and a great place to live and work, yet I was attracted by the responsiveness of Aros and Skyedance’s commitment to new ideas and approaches. I’ve taught with SkyeDance before and was impressed by students’ energy and attitude. I remember thinking, “here’s a group of dancers I could develop something with”. (Aros is the local Culture Centre that provides a venue, administative and management support to SkyeDance.)
What does it mean to you to be working with a small community and group compared with your larger projects?
Though the population of the island is small, Skye’s dance community is thriving with over 150 students participating in our dance classes every week. Dancers here have a lot of enthusiasm and raw talent which, with experience and knowledge, can be shared through beautiful and unique performances. It means a lot to me to be able to facilitate that transformation.
As an experienced dancer and choreographer can you highlight the importance of working with qualified teachers and communities/dance organisations?
Every time you teach a class you learn more about communication and motivation and, in all disciplines, if you have practised at a high level, you can inspire your students to aspire to similar heights. This year, we will bring Steinvor Palsson and Royston Maldoom OBE as guest teachers and choreographers.
What do you think are the benefits of professional dance qualifications, such as those examined by the ISTD?
Qualifications like the ones offered by the ISTD are the foundations that prop up the dance sector. Without the validation and quality control that these organisations provide, we would have far fewer well trained dancers and teachers than we do.
---We also talked to the SkyeDance team about their work---
With the appointment of Ross Cooper what does SkyeDance hope to achieve?
We hope to be able to develop the range of classes we can offer, especially the adult programme. We want to develop the work of the SkyeDance company and to build its repertoire of professional work. We also wish to raise the profile of our work on a local, national and international level.
How do you aim to grow the organisation? And what direction would you like it to take?
We aim to grow the organisation into one of Scotland’s leading dance organisations; an organisation that acts as a ‘dance hub’ promoting the joy and benefits of dance to the widest possible audience.
Was SkyeDance modelled on any other remote community dance or arts projects?
No – SkyeDance has developed in a very unique way to meet the challenge of providing quality dance experiences to as many people as possible within such a remote and geographically challenging locale.
What is SkyeDance’s standard of “excellence in dance” as advertised on the website?
All classes are run by teachers who are specialists in their fields. That the dance experiences offered reflect the highest standards of inclusion possible. That the quality of our youth company work enables our young people to shine on a national platform. That young people who wish to have the technical skills required for them to continue their dance study either professionally or at university.
What kind of dance history does the Isle of Skye have that you know of?
Skye has a strong tradition of Scottish country, Ceilidh and Highland dance going back centuries. SkyeDance has introduced contemporary and creative styles in the last 10 years.
How do you stay in contact with your community of dancers?
Through our website, Facebook, and email. Social media is a popular method of communication with the local community. It is a quick and efficient way of passing information and creating a buzz around events.
What do you find most beneficial from working with professional and qualified dance artists and dance organisations?
They enrich the programme of study and experience SkyeDance dancers are exposed to. Other dance artists also come here to learn from, and collaborate with, our dance artists so it is very much a two way process.
Do you think it helps having a link with a Cultural Centre like Aros?
It is vital. The more arts organisations collaborate, the better the holistic arts experience for everyone. Aros run a programme of dance performances which are planned in collaboration with SkyeDance. Aros is also a venue for some of our classes and workshops.
Do SkyeDance and Aros culture centre collaborate on many projects or dance events?
Yes. Aros run a programme of dance performances which are planned in collaboration with SkyeDance. Aros is also a venue for some of our classes and workshops.
What advice could you give to other remote communities who are starting or working on a dance project?
Know your community. Plan and advertise your work effectively. Encourage everyone to get involved. Create a buzz around your dance event. Enjoy!
Are you part of a local or community dance centre? Why not write to or email the ISTD with a question or story about where you work or dance. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.