Helen & Rise

In the run-up to Open Studios 2020, we’ve been spending time catching up with our brilliant tenants, talking about art, The Island, and the pandemic.

Our first Spotlight falls on Helen Wilson from RISE Youth Dance Company. 

When did you start to dance?

I started to dance at 15yrs old for fun and then started training as an apprentice with a dance company when I was 18yrs. See my full bio: riseyouthdance.com

What motivated you to start a dance school for young people?

RISE Youth Dance started in 2008 by myself, Helen Wilson. Coming from Leeds, and seeing how many opportunities for young people in dance there were, I felt it important to create more in Bristol. Started with one group and now 12 yrs on we work with 6 groups – ranging from 6yrs-25yrs and do outreach work in schools, colleges and Unis.

What’s changed for you over the pandemic?

The transfer into the digital world has been intense but it has meant we are still able to work and connect with our young people. Although at times it’s been tough, we’ve all learnt new skills, done different projects we wouldn’t normally and still been able to be a company. It has meant we can’t work with contact or in our full groups but sometimes being pushed to work in a different way can be stressful but also really exciting and full of new possibilities.

How has being at The Island changed your practice?

I wouldn’t say it has changed our practice but as one of the only good dance spaces in Bristol, it has definitely made us feel like we have a little home even if it’s just for our day in a studio. We’ve been using The Island since the beginning before floors and some walls were even there and it’s been nice to see it transform over the years!

What’s been the most memorable moment of RISE?

It’s hard to pick a favourite moment. There are so many and all are different as different young people come through the company and work with us. I guess my favourite thing is seeing the young people change and grow and then come back to visit us after they leave!

What makes a good teacher at RISE?

That’s tough. For me, teaching is a skill in itself and not everyone or every artist can do it well. Some important qualities that we believe in is professional etiquette – How do we behave in the studio, discipline and respect can transfer into lots of parts of our lives. Good teachers can get the best out of young people by inspiring them – being good leaders, giving all that they know and making young people feel supported and safe.

What’s next for you?

What’s next? Well, we’re back online but we hope to be back in studios soon and keep working and moving! We hope to do our annual audition in December for new people to join RISE – We need the next generation to come through! Follow us on facebook and Instagram for updates!

If you made a completely different kind of art, what would it be?

If I was going to do another art form entirely, I have absolutely no idea! I’d like to try lots of things – pottery, tailoring, sing?! What I’d really like to do is train more in massage and how we use our bodies to support what happens when we’re dancing!