Mental Health is not Visible.
Izzy Swain (Year 11) and Yasmin Noble (Year 9) have been dancing since they were seven and 10 years old and joined the Brendon Hansford Youth Dance Company at Pineapple Studios, Covent Garden when they were 13. The girls were enormously proud to be part of the dance film ‘Therapy’ choreographed and directed by Brendon over a period of six months during the girls’ two-hour Saturday dance classes. The film was released on Brendon’s website and social media channels on Friday and 16-year-old Izzy dances the starring role as the school girl suffering the stigma and loneliness attributed to deteriorating mental health:
“Brendon’s classes are fun and nurturing; every dancer knows it’s ok to make mistakes, in fact Brendon advocates them saying it’s the only way to learn! In September, I was incredibly proud to be chosen to play the main character in ‘Therapy’. I think the film really shows the isolation felt by those suffering with mental health issues and the school setting shows how commonplace these issues are. These issues are something we are all susceptible to.”
14-year-old Yasmin hopes the film will have the power to change people’s perception of mental health:
“The rehearsals are very professional, and as dancers we are expected to behave like you would in the industry. I think 'Therapy’ achieves two things: it shows the people who haven’t suffered from mental health issues how isolating it can be, and for those that do suffer, it‘s making the point that we need to talk more about mental health to erase the stigma attached to it.”
‘Therapy’ may have been an out-of-school project for Izzy and Yasmin, but Beaconsfield High Headteacher, Rachel Smith believes the film reflects the issues that many schools address on an ongoing basis and their Getting Life Ready (GLR) programme plays a key part in supporting her pupils::
‘The issue of mental health, particularly for young people is an extremely important one. As a school, our role is not only supporting our students, but also teaching them to ride the ups and downs that life throws at them. This is where the school’s GLR programme comes in; the programme gives students the core skills for surviving and thriving in the real world, including teamwork, commitment, resilience, risk taking and creativity. It is at the heart of the school’s daily operations, subtly interwoven into lessons, extra-curricular, assemblies and as part of its House competition. It is a key strategy in achieving our goal of nurturing happy, high achieving young adults.”
Brendon Hansford is a celebrated international choreographer and movement specialist based in London. As well as starring in and directing the new documentary ‘Building a Dancer’, Brendon has been commissioned by many artists, events managers, theatres, creative directors, advertising giants and has worked with: Rod Stewart, Sam Smith, Rick Astley, Island Records, Renault, Panasonic, Sky, BBC, iTunes, Amazon, Google and Smirnoff to name a few.
"The decision to make a film about mental health was twofold: I was chatting with the (Brendon Hansford Youth Dance) Company one day and the dancers were saying how some days they just feel rubbish but have no idea why. This led to us discussing how everyone has things that can affect their mental health, but there is a stigma attached to talking about it. We're all happy to discuss physical ailments, but mental health is another matter entirely!
Secondly, as a teen I suffered from M.E. which was physically debilitating but also isolating as I missed two years of school. When I rejoined my peers in Year 11, physically I had recovered but my mental health hadn’t caught up and I was incredibly shy, I just wasn’t used to being around people. It took until I was 18 and got the courage to take a dance class that my confidence soared! The dance film 'Therapy’ was for me, a way of highlighting that mental health is something we are all affected by, we all have down days, but we are not alone. We just need to get better at talking about it.”
You can watch Izzy and Yasmin perform in ‘Therapy’ here: