Us­ing dance to com­mu­ni­cate

Western Leader - - EDUCATION & TRAINING -

Wendy Pre­ston, from Piha, has spent the last 12 years work­ing with mi­grant youth.

Mixit di­rec­tor Wendy Pre­ston sat down and talked about her ef­forts to help refugee and mi­grant youth.

Pre­ston has writ­ten a book about the goals and ex­pe­ri­ences of Mixit, which is due to be re­leased on Novem­ber 29.

Tell us about your­self.

I’ve had a 37-year plus ca­reer in the per­form­ing arts.

Through­out my ca­reer, I have al­ways been re­ally drawn to work­ing with young peo­ple. And also in cross-cul­tural sit­u­a­tions.

As a young per­son my­self, I stud­ied dance in places like Bali and In­dia. My par­ents lived in Papa New Guinea.

I used to like us­ing dance and mu­sic and move­ment as a way to con­nect with peo­ple who I didn’t nec­es­sar­ily have a com­mon spo­ken lan­guage with or cul­tural sim­i­lar­i­ties.

In 2005, I got shoul­der tapped by a phi­lan­thropist with her own char­i­ta­ble trust that sup­ported young, marginalised youth.

And so be­gan Mixit. In the be­gin­ning of 2006 we set up the first Satur­day work­shops and we have been run­ning these

‘‘You have to build stronger young peo­ple that have some con­fi­dence in them­selves...’’

Wendy Pre­ston

work­shops as our core pro­gramme ever since.

How would you de­scribe Mixit?

It is a so­cial plat­form that uses cre­ativ­ity to em­power young peo­ple and make a dif­fer­ence in their lives. It gives them the skills to move for­ward suc­cess­fully with their lives and be­come part of the com­mu­nity.

So it’s not a cre­ative project thats about mak­ing arts for arts sake or train­ing artists. It’s not that.

We use cre­ativ­ity as the ac­tiv­ity and the lan­guage we use, but it’s all about core so­cial skills for in­di­vid­u­als who don’t al­ways have the op­por­tu­nity to de­velop those skills on a per­sonal level.

There’s a lot of young peo­ple with­out a sense of be­long­ing, feel­ing they are a part of some­thing. Which is the be­gin­ning of some re­ally deep prob­lems in our com­mu­nity and so­ci­ety.

If they come from a dif­fer­ent back­ground, there can be some deep seeded cul­tural dif­fer­ences.

It can be some­thing as fun­da­men­tal as look­ing some­one in the eye. We take it for granted, in fact we see it as a re­ally key thing.

An em­ployer, if they in­ter­view some­one who won’t look them in the eye they see it as shifty, a bit dodgy.

Whereas for many of the peo­ple whom we work with it’s in­cred­i­bly dis­re­spect­ful to look an el­der in the eyes, and an el­der could be just a year older than them, let alone a teacher or po­ten­tial em­ployer.

So you have to help find young peo­ple a way to do that.

What are some of the key ways you can help these young peo­ple in­te­grate but not loose them­selves?

You have to build stronger young peo­ple that have some con­fi­dence in them­selves and skills to com­mu­ni­cate with the world around them. It is a world that is full of change and dif­fer­ence.

It’s a chal­lenge help­ing young peo­ple and their elders un­der­stand why they come to Mixit.

From the out­side it can seem like just fun and games - a lot of danc­ing and singing and [won­der­ing] when are you go­ing to do some­thing se­ri­ous.

Where does Mixit go? Ide­ally, our fu­ture is mix­ers run­ning Mixit.

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