The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) has collaborated with Emma Watkins, best known as Emma the yellow Wiggle from iconic children’s entertainment group The Wiggles, to produce a short film aimed at young children from pre-school age and above.
The film, which features Watkins returning to dance class to see her friends (as well as Dance Informa’s Dolce Fisher), shows step by step some of the new safety measures that children might encounter. From leaving parents at the studio front door, to hand sanitising before entering, right the way through to dancing with social distancing, Watkins prepares children for how they will safely return to dance classes. The film aims to provide reassurance to both children and parents that the dance studio is a safe place and that classes will return a spring to their step after months of staying at home!
Inspired by a recent hand washing song created by The Wiggles, the RAD sought out former RAD student Watkins asking for her help in supporting little dancers’ return to the studio. Watkins studied ballet with RAD Registered Teachers as a child and has incorporated her love of dance into her role as Emma with The Wiggles.
“Dance has always been an important part of my life. I have enjoyed going to dance classes regularly since a young child,” Watkins said. “I loved taking my RAD ballet exams and being with my dance family. It’s so important that children and parents are reassured at the moment, especially when faced with the changes COVID-19 has made necessary. The Wiggles strive to bring important messages to our audiences and working with the RAD on this film as Emma Wiggle, I am hoping to reach out to young dancers, and aspiring future dancers, around the world. We would like to bring awareness to dance as a safe place for them to have fun, explore movement and find normality amidst the pressures of the outside world. The connection and creativity that dance class provides is so beneficial for this age group.”
The RAD is a global dance education organisation with a professional membership of dance teachers and private dance studios across 89 countries. The dance school sector has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, despite many teachers offering their community the chance to take classes online. The Academy believes that now more than ever, dance can play a vital role in supporting the mental and physical well-being of young children, especially following months of reduced social contact and physical exercise. Recently, nearly 80 percent of parents (including US-based parents) reported a decrease in children’s well-being due to lack of activity during lockdown in a recent survey. This is coupled with the fact that less than one-quarter (24 percent) of children six to 17 years of age participate in 60 minutes of physical activity every day in the US.
Furthermore, it has been proven that participation in dance classes can instil a love of music, movement and creativity from a young age, as well as support cognitive development and the development of gross and fine motor skills, and many social skills. As dance schools are well placed to manage COVID-19 measures for a safe return to the studio, the RAD wants to ensure that young children and parents feel confident to go back to dance classes, to enjoy the many benefits dance provides.
“Despite being an incredibly challenging time for independent business owners, such as dance studios, RAD teachers across the globe have rallied their communities through online dance classes, giving students a space to connect with their friends, and a hint at normality,” said RAD Artistic Director Gerard Charles. “However, nothing can compare to a class taught in person. We are all too aware of the negative implications that staying at home with limited physical activity can have. With no sense of routine and reduced social contact, children’s physical and mental well-being is affected, but we think that dance is the perfect antidote to this. Now that we are permitted to manage a safe return to dance classes, we wanted to make sure that young children understood what to expect when they return to the studio, as well as reassure them and their parents that dance classes remain a fun and positive experience. Emma, as a former RAD student and dance enthusiast is the perfect person to convey our message of reassurance, and we are extremely grateful to her for donating her time and helping us to spread the word that an RAD dance class is, and always will be, a safe and enriching place for everyone.”
The RAD is committed to ensuring the health and well-being of its students, teachers and its wider communities and understands that people of all ages may feel anxious about returning to the dance studio. The RAD has issued a robust set of guidelines to RAD teachers worldwide to help them to prepare for a COVID-safe return to in-studio dance classes.
For those looking to return to the dance studio or try dance classes for the first time, you can find a qualified dance teacher using RAD’s interactive map: www.royalacademyofdance.org/classes/find-a-rad-teacher.
Royal Academy of Dance would like to thank dancewear icon Capezio for their partnership with the Wiggles and for sponsoring the production of this wonderful video.