Welcome to Curious e-Motion, the very first podcast from Curious Motion!
I’m Sam McCormick – a dance artist, based in Calderdale, West Yorkshire. I’m the proud director of Curious Motion, a company I set up with fellow creative, producer Susan Burns.
We are all about people, and we know that creativity supports us all to live a full and happy life. We believe that sharing stories increases a sense of connection and community promoting honesty and kindness. These qualities matter more and more as we face the current global pandemic.
Curious e-Motion is a way for us to connect with you! In this first series, expect to hear all sorts of fascinating stories from people in arts and culture – the people who create it, shape it, present it, and enjoy it!
I’ve had a lot of fun interviewing our guests and I’m so excited to share the episodes with you. And I thought that for this first episode, as our guests have been so open and honest sharing their stories, it’s only fair that I share my story.
Calderdale is a really vibrant and creative place, but there does seem to be less activity in the lower valley, so I wanted to do something about it! The story of Curious Motion starts in Elland, a small market town in the lower valley.
Two years ago, I created ‘Brews & Grooves’ an over 55s arts programme for local people to get together to dance and enjoy a nice hot brew and a catch up! Leading on from this, and following conversations I’d had with residents and local businesses around the lack of access to creative opportunities, I started a festival – Welland. It’s been a great way to meet so many brilliant local people.
My focus on community and participation came from my personal experience of how dance supported me to be who I am today.
I grew up in St Neots, in Cambridgeshire. Dance helped me get through an anxious childhood and a pretty turbulent time as a young adult! I was naturally VERY shy and struggled to communicate who I was and what I believed in for a long time. My self-esteem was pretty much on the floor for a lot of my youth and dancing was really the only outlet I found where I felt like me. That might sound a bit cliché, but it really is true!
I was lucky enough to have an incredible dance teacher at my secondary school. Mr Griffiths saw something in me and encouraged me to pursue dance as a career. I didn’t undertake formal dance training, such as the usual ballet/tap/modern exams that many children do, instead I just danced in Mr Griffith’s after school clubs. (Ok, actually I did do disco dancing exams for a bit but the competitiveness was not for me so that didn’t last long!).
I knew from a young age that dance was my choice as a career and contemporary dance really fit with my need to express myself through movement. So, I went on to train professionally, first at Bretton Hall, which if you’re from West Yorkshire you may be familiar with but if not, it was a university campus for creatives in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Idyllic really but I’m not sure my anxious 18-year-old self really appreciated that at the time!
Then, I undertook conservatoire training, which is more focused on performance, at the Scottish School of Contemporary Dance in Dundee, and finally I undertook my MA at London Contemporary Dance School. Yes, that’s 3 degrees and 7 years of training, a bit more than your average arts student, but I would never change it for the world!
I learnt so much from these experiences and always knew that I wanted to provide that same space of freedom, joy, and authenticity for others that dance gave me. So, I did a range of things, including performing, and dance film work, but I fell into teaching naturally – I love teaching and even used to practice teaching when I was a kid, so it’s no surprise really.
I spent five years in London where I did all sorts of teaching work, including for English National Ballet, delivering workshops based on their touring productions in schools and theatres across the UK. My favourite was Swan Lake – it transported us to another world every time. I set up classes in Lewisham, and taught in schools, church halls, and pretty much anywhere where there was space to move!
Then it was time for some fresh air, and less financial pressure – renting in London on a freelance arts wage is super hard! I made the move back up north in 2015, choosing Calderdale as it was close to where my husband Matt grew up and we couldn’t resist the South Pennine countryside!
Around this time, I began working for inclusive dance charity, Flamingo Chicks, who I still work with today. Flamingo Chicks is an amazing charity who support disabled children and their families across the UK. This sparked my interest for exploring how I could support those with chronic conditions or illnesses, and health inequalities in general.
I got that familiar itch to set up my own work again and, long story short, this brings us to 2019 where my over 55s project and wellbeing festival had been running successfully for a year in Elland. In December 2019 I decided it was time to go further, so, Sue and I got our heads together over several afternoons in Halifax, and Curious Motion was born!
Curious Motion is a dance and arts not for profit organisation that provides soul enriching experiences. We want to empower communities, address health inequalities and support people to thrive through creativity. Check out our website for more about us.
Little did we know what 2020 would throw at us, great timing hey!? But this year we’ve done our best to embrace change, and ended up delving into the world of digital! We moved ‘Brews & Grooves’ online via Zoom, created virtual dance workshops for schools, we’ve started an online gallery of mindful motion films, and now it’s time for this podcast!
I can’t wait for you to listen to our guest interviews. In this first series we hear from some friends of Curious Motion, including artists, dancers, project managers, rehearsal directors, and movement practitioners.
There’s Laura Johansen, who boosted Calderdale tourism around the HBO and BBC series, Gentleman Jack – if you haven’t watched it yet, we highly recommend it!
We’ve also got the amazing Angela Whiley who has worked extensively in Elland, including managing the ongoing library redevelopment.
Angela shares with us how she survived the most difficult time in her life. Most of us will experience significant challenges in our lives, and I’ve always found hearing from others about how they dealt with theirs has helped me when I’ve been struggling. Expect this episode to do this for you too.
Nathan Johnston is a dancer and performer who this year has been exploring how to open up about his own mental health, and shares with us how he has supported other men to do this. This is an important conversation I know you will love.
It’s been a real joy chatting to our guests. I am absolutely brand-new to interviewing, I’m much more comfortable facilitating a dance workshop or using movement to communicate, so this is a pretty vulnerable experience for me too.
I believe vulnerability leads to positive change and vulnerability is courage, so I’ve been leaning into it, breathing deeply, and trusting in the process!
So, here we are – embracing imperfection, sharing stories, and supporting you, our listeners, to feel inspired, empowered, and reassured that you are not alone.
I do hope you enjoy hearing these interviews from the world of arts, culture, and life in general!
Please do subscribe and leave us a review! You are a valued member of the Curious Motion community, and we’d love to hear what you think.
You can find us on social media too – just head to the show notes for all the info.
Finally, we’d like to thank the funders who have helped us make this podcast possible – the Coronavirus Community Support Fund distributed by the National Lottery Community Fund, the Adventure Programme, and the Community Foundation for Calderdale. This support means so much, thank you!
Ok, it’s time for our guest interviews, but just before you go… a huge thank you for listening and remember to tune into your body, be kind to yourself, and stay curious!