Hip hop gives hope in the 'hood

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Girls in danger of dropping out of school will have the chance next session to sit a qualification in hip hop.

Worth six SCQF credit points and developed jointly by Angus College and dance charity Showcase the Street, it is hoped the qualification will help re-engage the girls in learning.

Initially, only 15 youngsters from Arbroath will have the chance to study for the award, with Showcase the Street planning to make it more widely available after this pilot.

To pass the 60-hour course, the girls will have to learn basic hip hop dance moves including "bounces", "body ripples" and "butt spins"; use their imagination to plan, research and create a choreographed piece; and perform. Equally importantly, they will have to behave.

Fergus Storrier, a community policeman and chair of Showcase the Street, said: "We'll be working with a group of girls who have not been attending school or who have behavioural issues. We want the course to act as a vehicle to re-engage them, but we will be setting ground rules. We don't want simply to take them out of school and that's all they do. There will be a clear understanding that this is an add-on, conditional on carrying out their normal school work."

The course, felt Mr Storrier, would provide girls with another much-needed vocational option. He pointed out that the "more choices more chances" group of young people who end up not in education, employment or training used to consist of three males to every female; now it was 50-50.

Iverene Bromfield, curriculum manager for communication, arts and social sciences at Angus College, said: "This qualification will be of use anywhere where people are trying to enthuse and inspire youngsters. It will promote a "can do" attitude and give them a sense of achievement on which to build."

Chloe Henderson, 16, started to dance her way out of trouble two years ago when she began attending dance classes at Showcase the Street in Dundee. She was on the verge of getting thrown out of school. "I really enjoyed going and wanted to keep going there, but my mum and dad were quite strict and said if I didn't get my head down at school I wasn't going to dancing. Getting to Showcase was my goal."

It also provided her with something constructive to do with her evenings instead of getting "steaming every night".

Recently, Chloe found out she had passed seven Standard grades and she is now training to be a hairdresser with a local business. She still attends classes at Showcase three nights a week and on a Tuesday she volunteers, helping instructors, which she hopes will lead to a Millennium Volunteer Award. "If it hadn't been for Showcase, I'd still be the same old person that I was," Chloe said.


Keeping in step

When a group of teenage girls came to community policeman and voluntary worker Fergus Storrier and said they had nothing to do in the evening in Arbroath, he started the charity Showcase the Street to provide them with affordable dance lessons and a space to practise in.

Since its inception in 2004, the charity has expanded. It has premises in Dundee as well as Arbroath and runs classes out of halls in Blairgowrie, Brechin, Forfar and Friockheim, with lessons starting in Carnoustie, Monifieth, Newtyle and Birkhill next month.

Mr Storrier estimates Showcase works with around 1,000 young people through dance classes (hip hop, contemporary or Irish), music lessons, their recording studios and film-making facilities.

As the name suggests, it is about unlocking the talent of young people who walk in off the street. "We have used the arts to engage young people," said Mr Storrier. "We have taken a side of life that sometimes young people don't consider an option - because, in a commercialised setting, dance can be expensive or the formality of these places makes them intimidating - and used it as a positive option.

"Showcase is about providing all young people with positive, affordable and quality alternatives."

Dance classes cost Pounds 2. The most talented students can move on to audition for the charity's dance company. This year, there are 22 in the company aged 14 and over. In October, the group will visit New York to attend workshops at the Hip Hop Dance Conservatory.

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