• Dance Mama

Ain’t no party like a me party

Last Friday saw me running around London like a large, enthusiastic golden retriever and not just because I was excited about #crufts. I had my own mini-festival celebrating #IWD2019 culminating in the launch of my Mentor Mama programme.

What mentoring is really about for me is a celebration of the potential of the individual – and enabling people to see that everyday should be a me-party!
James Cousins Company 'Epilogues' (Image: Camilla Greenwell)

First stop was to visit actress and accidental activist, TracyAnn Oberman (@TracyAnnO) in Covent Garden giving an inspiring talk about how she is acting as a lightning rod for debate over anti-Semitism. Not that this is in any way my area of expertise, but it was hugely inspiring to hear the challenges of having your voice heard as a woman – something that strikes a chord with me in regard to giving amplification to many women (and men’s) stories here on dancemama.org


Next stop was the highlight of the day – watching James Cousins Company's Epilogues at The Place. It was wonderful to return to this fantastic organisation where I spent a considerable amount of time training hundreds of young people as Programme Manager for their Centre for Advanced Training.

These matinee performances for parents and their babies are 100% directed towards the parents, however a relaxed environment is created in the front of house and the auditorium to allow babies to be as comfortable as possible so that they can enjoy the show - Lia Prentaki, Youth & Family Producer, The Place

As I entered this very familiar building, (which has had some wonderful nips and tucks in its interior since I departed back in 2011) I entered the bar of the Robin Howard Dance Theatre to be happily greeted to the sight of the audience of parents and children under 5. The ever-brilliant Lia Prentaki, Youth and Family Producer, programs at least one performance like this per season. She carefully constructed the environment, being a #dancemama herself, to ensure that the audience were put at ease.


Lucy McCrudden (aka @thedancemama) and #dancemama Lia Prentaki, Youth & Family Producer, The Place

Under 5s play area in the bar of The Robin Howard Dance Theatre, The Place

There is a children’s play area set up and she gathered the audience to make them aware of changing facilities and moments in the performance where there would be blackouts for their health and safety. James Cousins himself was present at this moment, stoically taking in the comfortable atmosphere being created. Everything has been thought about.


Lia commented, ‘As a parent of two and a person that loves going to watch dance I recognise how difficult it is to continue going to see work when a baby arrives. So when we started addressing that issue here at The Place I was delighted.  These matinee performances for parents and their babies are 100% directed towards the parents, however a relaxed environment is created in the front of house and the auditorium to allow babies to be as comfortable as possible so that they can enjoy the show.


'There is space to leave buggies, at box office, little bit of light when possible I the auditorium, space for bags and baby paraphernalia, relaxed feeding and breastfeeding atmosphere etc etc.  Baby cinema has done this for many years, with great success, but not always great care. I remember watching a film with my baby (a number of years ago now) in a freezing cinema, wrapped up in blankets upon blankets.


'This made me not repeat the experience and it became my mission to ensure that all aspects of the experience are taken into consideration when planning our Parent and Baby matinees. In terms of the work we choose very carefully the work that we put forward to this audience. Having had a pilot year and tried a few different types of performance we have a clearer understanding of the type of environment that would best work for the babies so that their parents can get that much needed cultural fix. James’ work is extremely high quality so anyone watching it is in for a treat, we just wanted to make sure that parents with small ones don’t miss out!’


James Cousins Company 'Epilogues' (Image: Camilla Greenwell)
A parent and baby matinee is a relatively simple offer to be able to implement within a run of performances at one venue, and allows access to people who find it difficult to get childcare in an evening - James Cousins, Choreographer

Watching the work was an absolute joy, with Cousin’s sumptuous complex movement vocabulary, married with outstanding performances from the dancers who danced with incredible focus whilst embracing the context, which at times did involve the odd ‘Dada’ and gurgles from the youngest audience members.


James commented, 'As a company we feel really strongly that we want our work to be seen by as many people as possible. A parent and baby matinee is a relatively simple offer to be able to implement within a run of performances at one venue, and allows access to people who find it difficult to get childcare in an evening. Thanks to The Place this is the first time on tour we have been able to offer this and hope that it proves popular and easy to continue to offer in the future.'


James Cousin's Company 'Epilogues' (Image: Camilla Greenwell)

To have programmed this event on #IWD2019 couldn’t have been timed better, and it is great to know that more opportunities for parents and their children are coming up within the artistic programme in this way, as well as the multitude of opportunities for young people to get involved in dance over Easter and beyond.

Dance is and should be for everyone

It was a real pleasure to be back there and privilege to spend time with colleagues in the industry who are being progressively inclusive with their offer – dance is and should be for everyone.


Finally, after much on-the-hoof social media campaigning, I skipped back to Covent Garden to take part in a mentoring session with the Head Start programme for The H Club Foundation.

Brilliantly timed with the launch of my own mentoring service.


The H Club Foundation is a fantastic scheme for people early on their creative career. Here I was able to offer my skills as an interviewer for some of the passionate individuals who are developing careers across the creative arts including fashion, design, direction and comedy writing. I really enjoy helping others to see and realise their own potential, and it was just divine to spend an hour connecting to them.


@thedancemama outside H Club

Finally, I hit ‘publish’ on the site (with another round of social campaigning) on my Mentor Mama page to publicly release into the world my service. I have mentored hundreds of individuals throughout my career; from young talented people at the start of their journey, to teams I’ve led and colleagues I have worked alongside.



Building on my private client base I can offer one-to-one (Soundboard) and group mentoring (Squad), which can be a one-off session, or series of sessions. I also extend this to organisations (synchroniser) which could be start-ups or emerging choreographers who want to be better informed to support parents in their company, or more established organisations who want a fresh approach. More information on prices and what to expect can be found here.



What mentoring is really about for me is a celebration of the potential of the individual – and enabling people to see that everyday should be a me-party!



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Images: Pari Naderi, Pierre Tappon, Ben Broomfield

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