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Creatives & Teachers on the Same Page

Rosehill College dance teacher Lydia Rasmussen & Creatives in Schools participant Alexandra Page. Photo: Supplied.
Photo: Jayesh Ravji/Yeshe creative.
Photo: Jayesh Ravji/Yeshe creative.
A look into the rewards of feeding the future of creativity by going straight to the source - Aotearoa's youth.

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Passion courses through Alexandra Page’s blood.

Sure, she has talent. Her dance ability has already landed her on some of Aotearoa hip hops leading crews including Parris Goebel’s Royal Family, Street Candee, OTB Collective and a growing list of highly regarded dance battle events.

But it’s not talent that kept Page dancing and learning despite blowing out her knee. It’s a love for what she does.

“I don’t really believe my creative career has begun yet, I’m still gathering knowledge and I currently spend the majority of my time with dance as a student. So I suppose, that’s what I’m doing now, and will forever do, learn!”

And when passion is the driving force, that’s when the student becomes the teacher.

Page is one of a growing number of New Zealand artists and performers who are taking advantage of the Creatives in Schools programme, an opportunity for teachers and creatives to work together to provide engaging learning experiences for their students.

With funding open for up to $17,000 per project - it opens the door to professionals in a diverse range of art forms to get involved. 

No brainer

For Page, it was a perfect opportunity - so perfect, she’d already started it before applying for the grant.

“I had been working with Rosehill College’s dance teacher Lydia Rasmussen in her OTB dance collective for some time and already had been coming into Rosehill to share my knowledge of Hip Hop and Street Styles.

“So it seemed like a no brainer to jump on the chance of working at Rosehill more, especially with this grant taking the financial strain off of the school and dance department.”

The feeling was mutual for Rasmussen, as the pair meticulously set out how to best make their mark, unleash their students' creativity and build a knowledge base that goes beyond movement.

“The Creatives in Schools programme is amazing. It releases some of that financial burden on the schools, connects students to industry professionals, brings increased arts exposure to their classroom, and also helps the creatives to survive in the profession whilst encouraging them to share their knowledge and skills with the next generation."

More than just moves

Having Page down for 100 hours of input with around 100 Year 9-13 students at the South Auckland secondary school has been about more than just movement. Other classes may teach calculus and chemistry but Rasmussen is full of “immeasurable” praise for Page’s ability to teach their students culture - and one that is relatable to them.

“Alex is incredible. She’s only just turned 22 but has dedicated so much of her life and time to learning all she can about the culture and history behind Hip Hop and Street Dance styles. She is such a role model in so many ways, honestly. Alex holds nothing back, she is an example that age isn’t an excuse to not know better and be a trailblazer.

Alexandra Page. Photo: Jayesh Ravji/Yeshe creative.

“Alex has helped them to be more conscientious about recognising the fact these art forms are part of Black culture and that we are guests in that culture. Being able to tie that historical, contextual knowledge into practical lessons helps them to develop a wider respect and understanding of the style and culture it comes from.

“At the start, the students just wanted to learn cool dance moves, but now they take very seriously their role as the preservers of the culture and generally are engaging more deeply in their learning and process. 

“They’ve come to expect that any person teaching them now includes historical/theoretical knowledge that supports the practical movement being taught, and that they can explain their whakapapa.”

Page has been thrilled with the way these young people have embraced the kaupapa, taking them from passive consumers of the culture to actively involved.

“The political and social proximity Pacific and Māori people feel to black culture is undeniable, the students are aware of the Polynesian Panthers and therefore the Black Panthers too. Through this project, we want to show them Hip Hop and Street Dance comes from that same political and social movement!” Page enthuses.

“Knowledge is power, it’s liberating. It means they can critically think as they consume TikToks and Music Videos, they don’t need a leader to tell them what to do with their dance, we want to give them as much knowledge as we can so they can decide and fulfill their own potential.”

 

Alexandra Page in action in The Blank Kanvas Battles.

Rewarding experience

Page has found the experience entirely uplifting, raising the bar on her own personal expectations.

“The biggest thing I feel the pressure of is making sure these students succeed! I’m aware of the privilege it is to have this grant and so I really wanted to make sure I make a difference.

“The students are incredible human beings, they welcomed me into their classroom and didn’t judge me. I can confidently say now, half way in, we are one big Rosehill College dance family.”

Rosehill recently took 14 of their students to Auckland’s youth dance festival, Youdance - a rewarding experience for all involved.

“To see the transformation from uncertainty and nervousness to excitement, empowerment and optimism made us both so proud,” Rasmassen beams. 

Page adds “it’s the biggest highlight so far! They got to actually be around other supportive schools and experience themselves shining on stage. At the end of the final showcase night, three of the students performed a haka for Lydia and I.

“I cried, I truly believe that is of the highest honour and a moment I will hold close forever.” 

Teaching a creative skill is always about more than just learning to mimic. Page has been blown away by how the Rosehill students have taken initiative, adding their own touches to choreography, rehearsed it themselves and then sought feedback.

“The students LOVE Alex,” declares Rasmussen. “More than that though, they enjoy us interacting together and team teaching them. We are a team with different strengths and they are very used to having us both give feedback and be available for advice - so much so that I’m pretty sure they think Alex belongs to us now!”

Lydia Rasmussen. Photo: Jayesh Ravji/Yeshe creative.

Page describes the Creatives in Schools programme as truly rewarding, and thinks it is helping her develop her own creative journey.

“I would definitely advise finding a teacher who you connect with! Enjoy every moment of it and take the small wins, celebrate every triumph. Young people, as it’s always said, are our future. There are many moments when I’m ‘teaching’ but truly I’m letting the students guide me, they know themselves and all I need to do is give them the tools to shine.

“I’m super fresh, still learning, but finally through the support of great people I can step out as a creative individual trusting in my own personal skill, training and creative vision, and this is exactly what I hope to pass on to the Rosehill students!”

 

Written in partnership with Creatives in Schools. Funding applications are currently open - to find out how to get involved, click here.

 
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