In order to highlight the importance of dancing, acting and singing on the mental health of our youth, The Belfast School of Performing Arts have conducted a survey which showcases the dramatic impact the Covid 19 pandemic has had on performing arts students in Northern Ireland.
The study, which surveyed 166 parents and 102 students, discovered that 100% of students surveyed said that dancing, acting or singing makes them happy, and that 98% felt that taking part in those disciplines also made them feel confident.
Tina McVeigh, Managing Director at BSPA, says “The results were startling and really highlighted the important role dance and drama plays in the lives of many young people. Like the general population, many of our students are struggling, during the last year we have been open just nine weeks for face to face classes and have had to take our classes online. Both our students and teachers have embraced these changes as best they can but we believe it has had a detrimental effect on our students. Recently we have seen a drop in attendance to our zoom classes as lockdown lethargy has really set in. I’m confident that our students will return to face to face classes as soon as they can but when that day comes we will have a lot of work to do to get them back to the levels of confidence that they had pre-pandemic. These young people have been dealt another huge blow with the announcement that singing is now banned in schools, after the first lockdown this was allowed and I am struggling to see the sense. This is not the case in the rest of the UK, and with no evidence to back this decision up I fear it is one that has been made in error and once again those who participate in the arts are being made to suffer. Despite a previous submission by ourselves which was requested by the Department for Communities on the impact of the pandemic on performing arts, we are still fighting for our voice to be acknowledged.”
“We decided to carry out a survey so that we could better understand how our pupils are feeling, how their parents see changes in their children and crucially, what we can do to help.”
Peter Corry, Artistic Director at BSPA goes on to say;
“We believe that the role we play is important and goes far beyond teaching young people to sing, dance and act. Taking part is not all about becoming a stage star but about building confidence, creating friendship and developing skills that can really help young people as they grow in all areas of their lives. Much like sports, the disciplines of dancing, singing and acting have a huge impact on the general well-being and happiness of our young people and I believe that now, more than ever, our students need these activities to be reinstated. An important fact highlighted is that 99% of students and 97% of parents said that attending music, singing and dancing classes has a positive impact on other areas of their lives. Parents (98%) also feel that attending these classes plays a crucial role in their child’s development. It’s clear to us that we need to take action – the well-being of many of our students relies heavily on how we move forward from here. I would urge the executive to reconsider their decision and reinstate all forms of performing arts for students in a safe manner allowing our young people to feel the pleasure and joy they so badly deserve.”
As a result of the survey BSPA have initiated a series of workshops, which will initially take place initially via the medium of Zoom, with leading Performance Mindset Coach, Brenda Shankey. Brenda predominantly works with performers in London’s West End at the Urdang Academy of Performing Arts, and is also an expert in Children’s mindfulness.
Brenda explains; “I work daily with performing arts students dealing with issues that range from, lack of confidence, stage nerves and anxiety to panic attacks and overcoming general fear. Throughout the pandemic all of these issues have been magnified and the return to rehearsals will certainly be hard for many.
“I am delighted to have been brought onboard to work with the team at BSPA to help the teachers and the students learn new tools to help deal with a return to normality – whatever that will look like, in the hopefully not too distant future. Many students will have lost confidence in themselves, perhaps lost interest in some of the things they once loved, these workshops aim to start to rebuild the performing arts child from the ground up.
“We will work on a series of techniques that will help each student focus on the moment and all of these techniques can be used in any area of their lives, not just when performing to create a greater feeling of calm and embracing the moment.”
The survey also showed that 55% of parents believed that their child had lost confidence in themselves and 43% said that their child was harder to motivate and has lost interest in activities they once enjoyed.
The Belfast School of Performing Arts is Northern Ireland’s largest performing arts school and this year marks its 10 year anniversary. Over 700 students, aged 3-19, of all abilities, regularly enjoy classes in singing, dancing and drama coaching.
Students receive exceptional specialist training from fully qualified performance artists and teachers in a safe and encouraging learning environment.
BSPA takes pride in teaching much more than just performance. This unique environment nurtures close friendships, self-confidence, determination and an array of transferable skills that help students succeed not only on stage, but in their day to day lives.