UCLan Dance graduate and Creative Director of audition based Youth Company 'SkyeDance’ Meara O'Donnell-Webb has been nominated in the One Dance UK Teaching Awards 2017 for most Inspirational Community Dance Practitioner.
One of only 3 nominees, Meara was astounded at the news, as this prestigious Award recognises talented dance practitioners who encourage children and young people to engage in safe, inspiring and creative dance practice. She said:
“My greatest achievement since graduation is being shortlisted for One Dance UK’s teaching awards as Inspirational Community Dance Practitioner. I am one of the top 3 in the country and I am absolutely honoured. “
After graduation, Meara initially fell on hard times as she struggled to find employment in this exceptionally competitive industry, however, refusing to give up on her creative dreams, her bid to succeed finally paid off. She said:
“I was unemployed for 6 months, searching for the career in dance I had worked so hard for.
So many people laugh and snigger at the thought of dance ever being a ‘real job’ and I needed to prove to people the importance of it.
“At uni I made sure I attended the workshops, applied for the voluntary teaching jobs, helped out in workshops and took every opportunity I could to expand my knowledge and experience in the dance world.
She added: “After all this time, I found a graduate job with SkyeDance on the Isle of Skye as a Dance Support Officer before I progressed up to the Dance Development and Project Manager, a role I have now been doing for nearly 2 years. “
Managing SkyeDance's professional dance programme for 12-18 year olds, which gives young dancers an opportunity to perform and experience workshops with new artists outside of the Island, Meara also delivers dance classes, workshops and events within the Skye and Lochalsh community in Scotland promoting dance in rural areas. She said:
“I deliver and manage the regular dance timetable, teaching classes in Ballet, Tap, Modern, Contemporary and Creative dance.
“I work with students from as young as 4 up to 18 year olds and deliver workshops within Primary and Secondary schools as well as community groups.
“My role is to make dance accessible to all on this rural island, so this means bringing new and exciting dance artists to visit and also making my own practice as exciting and engaging as I can.
She added: “We have just started a ‘dance across the generations’ project in a care home in Skye alongside the primary schools. We bring the young and old folk together to enjoy dance and music, with the help of a cuppa and a biscuit.”
In addition to her recent One Dance UK Teaching Awards nomination, another of Meara’s greatest achievements to date, was the moment her first ever student made a welcome return. She said:
“Seeing my first ever student that I sent off to dance college come back and perform at our recent showcase was amazing.
“She blew away the audience with how strong and beautiful her dancing has become and inspired those young dancers below her to be ‘just like her’.”
Reflecting on her time at UCLan, Meara said her lasting memories of studying Dance Performance and Teaching are the “amazing” people she met along the way.
“We worked as a family to support each other through our degrees,” She said.
“I always remember how kind and supportive our teachers were, pushing and nurturing us to be the best that we could be.
She added: “I feel that this course set me up to be the teacher I am today, helping me to encourage and engage young people in the art and creative practices of dance. “
Winners of the first ever One Dance UK Teaching Awards will be announced at the Birmingham Hippodrome on Sunday 16th July, during the nation’s annual youth dance festival - U.Dance 2017.
By, Donna M Sladen