article index

Press Article

Early Years Educator magazine.
February 2001

How to Move with the Times:

Pre-school children
Creating Community Through The Arts

Gill Horitz, Arts Development Officer at Bournemouth Borough Council, explains how, with the help of a professional dance worker, a group of mothers and children discovered creativity in moving together.

Giving parents and children, as young as two years, the chance to take part in movement sessions guided by a professional dance worker, is both a learning experience and a way of introducing the Arts. To move the body creatively, with self-expression is to experience the sense of transformation at the heart of making art.

The aim of Bournemouth Borough Council's Arts Development programme, Creating Community Through The Arts, is to provide creative opportunities for people of all ages, as participants or audience. 'Moving Time Together', a four week course for mothers and children, led by Jasmine Pasch, was one of a number of creative projects planned with local people and agencies in West Howe, Bournemouth, over the last year.

West Howe was designated as a public health action area which resulted in the development of a Public Health Action Plan. And in 2001, the community will benefit from Government funding up to £700,000 over the next five years through the Sure Start initiative.

Working with professionals

Convincing people that the arts has something to offer everyone, will be advanced by the involvement of professional artists, like Jasmine Pasch, respected in her field and experienced in working with people of all ages and backgrounds. Jasmine knows how to open-up positive possibilities enabling people to discover achievement, and from one seminal learning moment, understand how to achieve more.

Apart from developing projects through her own company Phew!!Arts, Jasmine works as a trainer and workshop leader for Jabadao, which promotes 'movement work, which helps people of all ages to listen to their bodies and learn from and enjoy their physical being in the midst of everyday life'. Lottery funding over the last three years enabled Jabadao to develop an extensive Early Years Programme, which addressed 'children's evident need to learn through their bodies as well as their intellects.'

Getting started

When I approached Jasmine about ways of introducing dance in West Howe, she explained the child-centred approach of working with parents and children together, within their relationship. A social worker put us in touch with a weekly group of young mothers and children who meet to discuss issues about their lives. Jasmine and I visited the group. Jasmine's approach was slow and cautious; she did not provide easy descriptions of what the course would entail but rather explained how movement would grow out of the group's own dynamic.

Some women were apprehensive and others admitted they wanted more structured dance activity but enough people showed interest for a series of four sessions to be planned. A local school provided the venue, and two crèche workers were provided for anyone wanting support with very young children, or babies. As it turned out the workers became part of the group working with the children within the workshop.

Stimulating imaginations

At each session Jasmine offered a range of group activities supported by colourful props:a giant balloon,a Lycra sheet,a giant sunshine parachute and coloured streamers to enliven the senses and brighten the small carpeted space, and also to stimulate ways of moving together, without focussing attention too much on anyone in particular. Jasmine closely observed the children's interests, taking note of their cues at their own pace, and so provided starting points from which to structure activities.

In the first session,for example, a small boy found a red balloon bigger than himself which Jasmine had ready to use at some point, and he initiated a game with it. So as to involve everyone in the his game, Jasmine introduced a colourful sunshine parachute which led to further discoveries being made, that a small body might disappear through the hole in the middle and be found underneath when the parachute was lifted high. Falling over and rolling about in the silky waves on the floor led to the suggestion that mothers should roll in the waves, and from this emerged a close physical contact game.

This became a favourite each week, and Jasmine was able to make subtle suggestions for other relationship play between mothers and children. Jasmine emphasises how important it is not to force the pace of physical contact initiated by the children which forms the core of relationship building activities between children and adults.

Initially children climbed onto their mothers for comfort, but this developed into climbing over, crawling under, pushing through, making tunnels that 'collapsed', bridges that 'wobbled'. New ideas emerged each week. Fake groans from the adults served to motivate them to further experiment. Shrieks of delight told us what the children had to say about this activity in their own words. At the end of the first session the boy put the giant balloon back into Jasmine's rucksack and was visibly thrilled by the sound of air rushing out and the sensation on his skin.

Jasmine occasionally introduced a theme to structure the activities; for example, one week there was a seaside dance where people threw each other into the sea or swam in the Lycra sheet. On another occasion teddy bears, brought in for a teddy bears' picnic, decided to run away to the circus, and Jasmine's plans were quickly altered to take account of the children's ideas, interests and energy levels.

At breaktime at the end of session three, Jasmine noticed the children dressing up in the Lycra sheet. This had been used at first for gentle swinging activities, and had progressed to brave bouncing high in the air. This was the cue to introduce glittering coloured scarves for the fourth and final week. The imaginative appetites were whetted. Children by this time were visibly more confident and outgoing, and ready to play spontaneously. Jasmine explains, 'In this session they were just bubbling over with ideas. It was a joy to see such a noticeable progression in such a short time. In this session a visiting clarinet player joined us and played beautifully for our emerging princesses, butterflies, Superman, a river, a beach and rainbow warrior.'

Broadening Experience

Michael Mead, a young dancer linked to Dorset Dance Forum, attended the sessions in an 'apprentice' role, to learn from and support Jasmine's work. He noticed how Jasmine took the lead from the children and helped guide them to develop that lead. He said, 'I think the way she teaches really empowers the children to develop confidence in themselves and their own creativity. The sessions effortlessly flowed and it was good for me to learn from. Jasmine said it was good to have a man in the sessions to balance the energy of the group. And the mothers and children accepted my presence and I felt very much a part of the group.'


At the end of each session, children and mothers sat in a circle to share what had been most enjoyed or noticed: 'magic moments', Jasmine called them and this feedback, sometimes only brief words, helped her plan the next session. Being invited to speak aloud what may be only vague thoughts may be daunting but when it becomes a routine activity, it reinforces the importance of listening to and valuing other people's ideas. Refreshments at the end of the sessions gave further time to chat together and review the recent shared experience. Important moments, Jasmine believes, 'because they help overcome the isolation many young mothers feel, and is time for the youngsters to play together and interact with their peers.'

At the end of the course, one mother described how the course had been a chance to pause and watch her child. As the lycra sheet floated down to earth, she began 'to see things through a child's eyes'. She noticed her child's enjoyment from touching and playing with the silks and it reminded her of her own enjoyment of velvets and other materials in the 1960's.

Another mother said she attended the course in order to find ways to make her child happy and to learn how to do things that children enjoy. And someone else said it made her think about things that are simple and often forgotten. She remembered what it was like to be a child again, not just Mum.

Movement play is a way of becoming articulate, by expressing and shaping the body's feelings. Beginning this process, as a child of two or as a parent, gives the spirit permission to appear 'in public', even if with only eight people in a small unfurnished schoolroom.

Ensuring Good Practice

As a pilot project, funded by Bournemouth Lottery, this work emphasised the importance of rooting the following aims at the core of arts development planning:

  • to develop arts training programmes for workers (in this case, in movement play for local nursery staff and others working in the field) to encourage good practice and provide links with current thinking.
  • to encourage agencies, organisations and project participants to understand and respect the value of working with experienced arts practitioners.

In the recent MORI poll for the Arts Council of England 2000, 75% of people agreed that more effort should be made to make the arts 'accessible to people like me'. This kind of project, as part of a spectrum of activity, is a way to provide a vital experience from which to grow a personal connection with the arts.

Gill Horitz
Arts Development Officer, Bournemouth Borough Council

Contacts and useful websites:

  • - for information about Jasmine Pasch and her work
  • - for conferences, courses, publications
  • - information for parents and children about child development


  • Foundation for Community Dance
    Cathedral Chambers, 2 Peacock Lane, Leicester LE1 5PX
    tel: 0116 251 0516
  • Hampshire Dance
    tel: 02380652712
  • Dorset Dance Forum, 27 West Borough, Wimborne BH24 1BS (01202 884340)
  • Regional Arts Boards for support in developing projects

Further reading:

  • Hopping Home Backwards - a new approach to movement in the early years, by Penny Greenland.(Director of Jabadao)
    Published by Jabadao
    ISBN 1-903819-01-6
  • Developmental Movement for Children by Veronica Sherborne, describes relationship play
    Cambridge University Press
    (ISBN 0-521-37903-2)
  • The Meaning of Movement: Developmental and Clinical Perspectives of the Kestenberg Movement profile. Kestenberg Amighi, Loman, Lewis and Sossin
    published by Gordon and Breach
    (ISBN 90-5700-528-X)
  • The Nurture Assumption, Judith Rich Harris
    Published by Bloomsbury
    (ISBN 0-7475-3599-X)
  • Movement Play - new video from Jabadao

Information about Jasmine Pasch

Jasmine trained as a professional dancer at the London School of Contemporary Dance, and subsequently trained as a teacher of adults, followed by a post-graduate training in counselling which included studying child development. Widely travelled, with a freelance career spanning twenty years, Jasmine works with people of all ages and abilities, and started her own company phew!!!arts company in 1997.

Photographs by Dorset Dance Forum

This article was first published in the February 2001 edition of Early years Educator magazine, the monthly journal for nursery nurses and teachers.
Reproduced with permission of Mark Allen Publishing Ltd.
For information and subscription details, call free on 0800 137 201.

[ Article Index ] [ Contents Page ] [ Top of Page ]