Doodle Dance was founded by Jo Cone of JoConeDance. Jo’s passion for supporting people to have ownership in their own learning came from a long history of working with children, adults and older adults with a variety of barriers to expression, or being heard.
Jo’s daughter was born with hip dysplasia meaning surgery and being placed in a full body plaster cast. Jo found she and her daughter could not access the pre designed early years sessions on offer. In response, Jo created Peek a Boo Moves, a multi arts and play session that had gentle structures and adaptable content designed around child development, allowing her daughter and the other 1-4 year olds to inform each session. Jo recognised the importance of the adults in the room, and seeing their needs to bond, to share concerns, and create friendships, Jo continued to adapt and develop the sessions to be a supportive place for parents and carers too.
Through her work, Jo developed a community of parents and grandparents in the heart of Emsworth and the number of sessions grew. Jo’s work expanded further into the community through running Easter Hunt trails, holiday activities, Story Trails and family workshops. Jo’s work also started to grow again within her wider community practice where her older adult work gave her a hunger to develop intergenerational work, her work in schools saw the need for more creative active lessons and her teacher training resulted in a desire to develop cross curriculum provision and support to teachers. Jo’s visiting lecturing to Chichester University reminded her of her enthusiasm in supporting other artists too.
In 2015 a local parent attended Peek a Boo Moves with her daughter. Nicky was a Reception teacher at a local school and on asking Jo to create a project with her children to support Mark Making (early drawing and writing) Doodle Dance was born…
Creativity was the key component of the 10 week project, but after the success of the first project, Jo was hungry to explore more of the anatomical and neuroscientific development that had to take place so a child could become a confident mark maker, and move onto writing and drawing. A six month research inquiry allowed Jo to take what she had learnt and further imbed and develop the content of the now autumnal year R programme ‘On your Marks!’
The programme, now in a number of local schools, allowed children to feel secure with repeated activities and a gentle structure whilst content allowed individual expression and activities that worked with a child’s natural imagination, playfulness and curiosity of the senses.
Listening to teachers, parents and the children, Doodle Dance extended its provision into nurseries and also developed projects and workshops to provide older children with the opportunity to express themselves, develop their learning and have their voice heard.
As her work load grew, Jo knew she needed a team of artists to contribute towards the development of Doodle Dance. When dance artists Sally and Faye joined the team, Jo saw that the balance of creativity and research allowed each artist to develop the work in their own way, whilst still providing supportive content to a child’s development and wellbeing. Doodle Dance also needed to be supportive to the artists’ wellbeing and Doodle Dance recognised the importance of a particular focus – the impact that motherhood can have on a freelance dance career. It’s important that artists too can Make their Mark!
Further exploration into the artists’ needs and an evolving curiosity, Doodle Dance started to question what other settings outside of school they could support children and their parents/carers. Jo’s artistic direction started to inquire into how a child can make their mark in different surroundings or circumstances and ‘Leading to a Curious World’ was devised.
With the success of Arts Council England funding as well as other support, Doodle Dance is moving towards becoming a not for profit organisation enabling it to develop work with children with additional needs, working with children in hospital care, as well as supporting military families and creating community theatre exploring the bond between child and grandparent.
So now the world is a far more challenging place to navigate and the wellbeing of children, their families, teachers and artists are even more vulnerable. Supporting people to be adaptable and creative will support us all moving forward in a world with limitations. Teachers still want the support of the arts to enhance the curriculum and artists want to nurture, maintain and develop their work.
It is in response to this that Doodle Dance is using its creativity, resources, knowledge and Arts Council England funding wisely and creatively to provide for artists, teachers, parents and carers to support more children in their well being and to still enable them to have an expressive voice, to Make their Mark!
Whether you are a parent/carer, teacher, Nursery Manager or dance artist we would love to hear from you. We are always interested to discuss bespoke delivery, CPD, blog contributions, arts/children well being campaign support or project collaborations and commissions. Together lets support more children to ‘Make Their Mark!’Get in touch