DAZL dance group set to celebrate 21st anniversary by transforming the former Middleton Community Center into a professional studio

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Dance Action Zone Leeds (DAZL) was founded in 2000 with a small grassroots group, but now works with around 6,500 people a year on as popular a basis as possible.

From street dancing to jazz, there isn’t much that you won’t find here and where you will find it – it’s a guess.

Proud not to be a city center organization, DAZL, and its team of dancers, teachers, choreographers and health specialists work in 23 of Leeds’ 33 city wards and do outreach work to promote the benefits of dance, health and fitness – as well as the career opportunities they could create.

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Young dance leader Kaci Emmonds in the refurbished dance studio at the Dazl Dance Center at the Middleton Community Center in Leeds.

At the heart of the DAZL team are young dance leaders, who attended DAZL sessions as children or adolescents and who are trained at the professional qualification level to give something back to the organization, creating for them. tour of the opportunities that have been offered to them for future generations.

And to mark the 21st year, DAZL is set to make its biggest mark yet.

Leeds City Council has struck a deal with DAZL to take over the former Middleton Community Center and turn it into a purpose-built professional dance studio – and that’s exactly the kind of legacy DAZL wants let.

Ian Rodley, is the director of DAZL. He said: “I am passionate that everything shouldn’t be in the city center. It’s about bringing the arts and culture to the heart of communities. All of our amenities are within walking or within walking distance. of this community.

G to D; Chrissie Emmonds, community facilitator; Kaci Emmonds, young dance leader and Steph Dobson, health and wellness worker at the Dazl Dance Center at Middleton Community Center in Leeds.

“What an amazing thing for a real art school to be in the heart of Middleton, which is one of the city’s most disadvantaged areas – big in terms of inequality, low employment rate. It’s great. that Leeds City Council made us take on this (community center) It is an aspiration for the people who live here.

Renovations are underway and are expected to be operational by April and after the lockdown and restrictions are lifted later this year, a celebration is planned.

The lockdown forced DAZL to change the nature of its work which, before COVID, was very people, group and performance based. He focused on using culture and the arts in different ways to improve mental health.

The Garden Grooves have moved to suburbs, villages, backyards and housing estates to do doorstep dancing. The program covered 80 streets over the summer and filmed video clips that provided material for online film series sessions via Zoom, solo filming and podcast production.

Ian Rodley, Director of DAZL.

The age range that DAZL works with is generally between three and 25 years old, but the troop also works in nursing homes anchored with the elderly and people with Alzheimer’s and dementia; the Five Ways recovery program which helps people overcome substance abuse and women who have experienced domestic violence.

Mr Rodley added: “It’s a whole range but mostly children and young people in the city’s most disadvantaged communities, looking at areas that face the greatest hardship and the greatest inequality.”

To make sure DAZL really reaches the young people it wants, sessions are free or cost a maximum of £ 2. However, if a child cannot pay, he is not turned away.

For that, they have access to some of the best dance schools in the country, as DAZL acts as a progression route in collaboration with the Northern Ballet, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Phoenix Dance and the Northern School of Contemporary Dance.

He said: “We use them as progression routes for young people. For those who want to progress or who want to get into a dance school, we have people at Leeds City College, at the Northern School, they are on cruise ships, vacation camps but wouldn’t have done that on their own.

“The only way to do this is for a city of dance to come together and work together. “

Mr. Rodley himself is proof that the DAZL model works.

He explained, “I am literally one of those young people. I come from Belle Isle, my mother is a single parent and cannot afford to send me to dance school. I am living proof of the DAZL model and have taken over the director. Staff have come from these communities, trained, got qualifications, and went to college or work on the program.

“We have a whole generation of people with an arts degree doing something they love that has never been on their radar. “

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