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Teenage dance of discovery

singing and dancing at a theatre near you is Scotland's newest drama initiative for young people.

Launched at the Adam Smith theatre in Kirkcaldy last month, the Scottish Youth Music Theatre (SYMT) is set to build upon the work that has been developed with young people over the past five years in Kirkcaldy, and at Stirling's MacRobert arts centre.

Each venue already has a string of music theatre productions to its credit, with a schedule of workshops and intensive rehearsal that would stretch the most seasoned professional. Productions are "open access", so youngsters don't have to audition to get involved.

"We are not trying to be the kids from Fame. The performance is important but the journey is vital," says Janet Robertson, director.

Watching the latest production at the Adam Smith theatre - the Leiber and Stoller review Smokey Joe's Cafe - it becomes clear what music theatre can offer young people in the way of teamwork and emotional self-expression.

The young women exude a smouldering sultriness. More notable, however, is the transformation that relatively simple choreography works on teenage boys.

"Once boys are choreographed and given a 'physical' element to their singing, they connect with their emotions," says Ms Robertson.

She is evangelical about the educational potential, not least for the less academic. The workshop and performance environment, she says, instils emotional lessons and a feeling of responsibility for each other.

A former educational consultant with Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, she is developing links with local councils and theatre groups.

South Lanarkshire already has one project in the pipeline.

Work with schools is also a priority, with projects already on offer for children and twilight training for interested staff.

In the meantime, the young people are promoting the SYMT network. They hire minibuses to go and see each others' productions, and make connections with groups in other parts of Scotland.

* www.scottishyouthmusictheatre.org

Laurence Wareing is a writer, producer and trainer

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