I will remember 2018 for many things, primarily as the year of courage. No, not shown by me but by all the brilliant children I have worked with over the past year on Joseph and Nativity! The Musical among other projects.
Tomorrow we say goodbye to our second company of Nativity! The Musical. The kids in this along with the other productions brought a refreshing honesty and relish to the rehearsal room. What struck me beyond their brimming talent and heavenly cheek was their total transparency and lack of filter that we adults so frustratingly cling onto. I wondered at what point do we all become aware, start to question the moment and start to calculate a response instead of just speaking the truth, the harsh truth and nothing but the truth!
They danced with their hearts beating loudly, pure unbridled joy emitting from their beings and sung with such freedom that you couldn’t help but be moved. Whenever I work with kids I try not to patronise them, to not choreograph down to them, instead I push and challenge, to encourage, to play and explore. I have found this pays dividends.
They are also, so I discovered, a great if somewhat blunt critic. If I am choreographing something that doesn’t quite work they will have no reservation in telling you so. No dressing up the matter or hidden agendas, instead just the plain truth or a mere glance of disapproval.
I also find their sheer commitment a wonder. Recently I was sat watching a preview of Dick Whittington at the back of the stalls. At the end of Act One I choreographed the children to dance in the aisles. Now, this was a quieter matinee and the back few rows were quite empty. One girl was positioned to the rear where it was sparsely occupied. This, however, did not affect her efforts and she danced as if her life depended on it. She moved me so much, the uncomplicated pride she had in her work even though few could see her was quite simply beautiful to watch.
There is that old saying not to work with children or animals, more fool them I say. My advice would be to grab every, if somewhat brutal opputunity to do so. My 2018 was richer for knowing all of them and I only hope I can carry some of their knowledge, joy and courage with me into 2019. As Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist when we grow up”.