An interview with Maria Ryan, Creative Learning Director at The Place.
Q: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, Maria. Please do tell us about your role at The Place.
I had trained at The Place in 1991-1995 and I hadn’t had access to any dance or the arts more generally during my school years. My current role is as Creative Learning Producer, and I’ve been in this role since 2017. I started working at The Place in 2011 as maternity cover for the Children & Youth Dance Manager. As a result of a restructure I was offered the Creative Learning Producer position, and the main activity is work with Camden schools and local community organisations, as well as producing youth events and coordinating contextual events alongside shows in the theatre.
Q: What do you enjoy about your work here at The Place?
I enjoy just being around all things dance! The studios, the students, the theatre, artists, young people dancing… I love that people who have been to The Place, often return at different times and in various capacities. Everyone is passionate about what they do, and they do it with care and integrity. I have made many good friends dancing and working here.
Q: Your role very much connects you to the community around The Place, within and beyond the borough of Camden. How do you feel you are impacting on this community?
We know that dance can boost confidence and self-esteem, as well as teaches life skills such as teamwork, concentration, memory, spatial awareness, discipline, as well, as contributing significantly to your physical and mental wellbeing. We are hoping to provide access to opportunities that are aspiration raising; that will broaden the horizons of what is possible for children in our locality. The work we do seeks to ensure that the people we work with feel seen, heard and respected. That art and culture can be very much created by them, for them and with them.
I would like for every child in a Camden school to know that The Place exists in their neighbourhood and that they can come and watch or take part in dance here.
Q: You recently facilitated a project with Clean Break called Now You See Me - can you tell us about it?
The Place has worked with Clean Break, an organisation for women who have been through the prison system, for many years, providing artists to deliver dance classes annually for their members. We have run two projects so far, with the pandemic putting a halt to the most recent project, but we were finally able to complete this in July 2022.
We worked for two hours each week on solo movement that was explored through creative tasks. This movement would then be filmed by Roswitha Chesher, a renowned dance filmmaker, to create a short film for the exhibition. Large A1 images would be framed and hung at The Place theatre bar and each image would have a QR code next to it, so people could then watch the films on their smart phone or iPad. We had a Private Viewing for the group, their family and friends and our organisations. The women also created some of their own poetry which we also framed as part of the exhibition.
It was a very moving occasion, as the women had not seen their images or films until this time. It was a celebration of the beautiful work they had created but also of their confidence in moving, and self-belief that they had developed too, that was so special.
We plan to run this project again next year, and with all that I have learnt this time, I am so excited to work with more women at Clean Break and see what phenomena they create next time.