Eleni Mentorship Programme
With many people taking more time to think and reflect during this lockdown, we thought we would do a little reflecting of our own… Our fabulous Eleni team all became involved with the company in different ways; some through answering an advertisement, others through doing work for other organisations and being referred by word of mouth, and others through a mentorship programme (learning “on the job”).
We asked two of our practitioners who came on board the Eleni ship in this way to tell us about their experience of the programme.
How did you hear of the mentorship programme? How did you apply?
Hanna: I was a member of the Wrexham Youth Dance Company for over a year and in 2015, the Artistic Director at the time approached me and offered the mentorship programme.
Rachel: When I was part of Eleni’s Youth Dance Company, I was introduced to Hanna who was a mentee at the time, and became aware of the programme and what she was doing. I received a phone call from Eleni telling me about the opportunity and seeing if I was interested, as I was a loyal and enthusiastic company dancer. I was over the moon and said yes immediately.
What type of expectations did you have of being a mentee?
Hanna: I expected to gain valuable skills to become a successful dance practitioner, to learn more about the dance sector in Wales, and to be assessed on my progress.
Did you have a good relationship with Eleni during your mentorship?
Hanna: Yes, most definitely.
Has this relationship been maintained and/or developed since your mentorship ended?
Rachel: Yes, I still have a great relationship with Eleni, and it’s definitely developed. I’m now a Eleni practitioner and have been a part of many projects with lots of practitioners. I take part in social activities as well as work, and have created friendships with Eleni employees. I’m passionate about the organisation and what it does.
How did you communicate with the company, participants and other professionals during your mentorship?
Rachel: I would communicate via phone calls at first, showing my interest and setting up a date and time for an informal interview with the Artistic Director. After this, I would receive emails with my schedules and information, and contact details for practitioners I’d be shadowing. I would communicate with them more and more as our relationship grew and there was more responsibility for me, mainly via email and text.
Hanna: I had quite a few face to face meetings with the Artistic Director throughout my mentorship and when this wasn’t possible, monthly or weekly phone calls and texts to check progress. Most communication was done over text, phone calls and emails which worked well for me as I was able to keep track of important updates.
How has the mentorship programme helped you develop as a professional practitioner?
Hanna: The programme helped me to develop as a practitioner by, first of all, treating me as a professional from day one, which gave me so much confidence starting my journey from graduate to professional. Eleni were always keen to give me as many opportunities as possible, including attending the Wales Wide Training programmes and other available CPD [continuing professional development], which helped to develop my network within the Dance and Arts sector in Wales.
I think the key to developing my dance delivery skills, planning and problem solving, and leadership comes down to all the dance practitioners I was able to shadow along the way. I shadowed five practitioners, all with completely different delivery techniques, class management strategies and leadership skills, which really helped me to determine my pathway and what techniques I could use in my practice. I was also able to shadow the office staff and take on some administration work, which enhanced my knowledge of working in an office.
How have Eleni’s mission, goals and vision helped you in your practice?
Rachel: They have helped me realise the importance of creativity in community dance classes. Enabling someone to create their own movement, or express themselves with improvisation, is pure magic. It can give them ownership of the piece, or allow them to communicate in different ways, and that can be therapeutic. A sense of achievement and expression is gained.
Eleni has taught me that the process is as important as the product, and in some cases more important. Getting children who are considered poorly behaved or challenging to take part in a dance class, achieve new skills, express themselves through creative movement, and perform on a stage for an audience with their peers, is outstanding, however the dance looked.
Has your mentorship helped with day to day skills such as time-keeping; keeping to deadlines; communication skills?
Rachel: Yes, 100%. Keeping to the technical sheet deadlines, ensuring that the dance is complete within the allocated timeframe, allowing for rehearsal time, ensuring the music is organised… this was the most challenging part of the mentorship and my practitioner life afterwards.
You cannot be late when you are delivering a class, and the mentorship really showed me the importance of time-keeping. Travelling to shadow practitioners at the start of my mentorship meant I experienced the hectic days in the life of a Eleni practitioner. In general, teaching and communicating with practitioners and schools has improved my confidence with communication.
Hanna: Yes, as a mentee I had to learn to stay organised quite quickly as every day was different and having to ensure I had enough time to travel from one place to another. I also learnt how to adapt quickly and problem solve on the spot as situations and arrangements could change hourly.
Did you feel like you reached your goals as a mentee? How has Eleni helped you to grow within your own practice?
Hanna: Yes, I feel I definitely reached my goal as a mentee, and beyond as a dance practitioner. Eleni opened doors I didn’t know existed when I began my mentorship. I gave my trust to Eleni during my time as a mentee and I feel Eleni now puts their trust in me as a dance practitioner. With Eleni’s guidance I started delivering a bilingual Youth Dance Company in Denbighshire in 2019 and the company is still running now.
Did your mentorship help you transition effectively between being a graduate to the workplace?
Rachel: Absolutely – entering the working life of a dance practitioner seemed like a mountain I didn’t know how to climb!! I was relieved when I was given this opportunity because it seemed like the perfect stepping stones for me to bridge that gap. Then establishing a network, building my confidence in workshop delivery, and offering me opportunities effectively transitioned me.
Would you recommend the Eleni Mentorship Programme to others? If you could sum it up in a few words, what would those be?
Hanna: Yes, I would definitely recommend the Eleni mentorship programme as it helped to shape me as a dance practitioner; I had so much valuable guidance within a fun, friendly team.
Rachel: I couldn’t recommend this mentorship programme enough. It shaped me into a dance practitioner who felt ready to tackle projects on my own. The majority of my skills and the type of teacher I am is down to this scheme and the opportunities I was offered after it. This scheme can lead to being a Eleni practitioner, which offers so many incredible experiences and networks. Some of the experiences I’ve been given have been a highlight of my dance career so far, and it’s all stemmed from the scheme and the great relationship I established and maintained with Eleni.