Rockit Rocks the Adelaide HillsSubmitted by Noni Vassos
Rockit is a performing arts centre that utilises arts education as a form of therapeutic self-development for people aged 6 months to 99 years. We focus on creating movement and dance programs that offer human movement and integration for the elderly, sensory dance experiences for special needs children, creative dance classes for mainstream students and fitness and health for adults.
Additionally, Rockit is engaged in community outreach programs providing access to dance for people living in country areas. In 2015 we are opening a new studio in Mount Barker and need assistance with the fit out costs including a sprung dance floor, sensory and therapy equipment and staff training.
Problem you're solving
This grant application is for a one off funding injection into a sustainable organisation that will have a multiplier effect throughout the Adelaide Hills community. This one off injection will provide years of tuition and community good will. It is an investment in our youth, their development and integration within the Adelaide Hills community. It is an investment in our senior community and their quality of life. It is an investment in our special needs children and their families providing hope, friendship and support. But most importantly, it is an investment in the Adelaide Hills community across all ages and physical capabilities providing contact, positivity and education.
Many people don’t recognise and fully appreciate the positive powers of the performing arts and the significant impact it can have on both the individual and a community. Rockit focuses on using performing arts tuition to help people develop and sustain self-confidence and foster a confident life direction.
Why is the idea important?
From the outside, Rockit looks like a performing arts and dance school. However, it’s not until you come inside, meet the teachers and experience the variety of classes that you realise it is so much more.
Rockit is being developed as a performing and creative arts centre that hosts a variety of classes for people aged 6 months to 99 years. We are taking a fresh approach to performing arts training with classes that are all encompassing of age and physical or intellectual ability. Rockit has been created to provide a home for a vast demographic of people to explore the performing arts in a safe and encouraging environment and to use it as a form of self-expression to celebrate their individuality and uniqueness.
Most performing arts studios educate with the purpose of one outcome. All students need to achieve the same skills via the same learning process. Unfortunately not everybody learns in the same manner. Rockit’s teaching methodologies are less focused on achieving the one outcome, and more focused on allowing individuals to discover their own strengths and abilities by using the performing arts as an education tool. Rockit uses a variety of teaching methodologies to ensure all students understand the work they are experiencing allowing them to grow in individual ways.
To date our methods have been extremely successful with mainstream students, but also those with Autism, Aspergers, Auditory Processing Disorder, Down Syndrome, low muscle tone, speech disorders, sensory disorders and Cerebral Palsy. Many of our mainstream classes are able to cater for children with mild disabilities. In addition, we have created a specific program for children with more severe disabilities.
In the same way a choreographer creates a new work, Rockit’s teachers are taught to analyse how the students respond to artistic material presented to them. All performance works are developed around the students responses.
Rockit uses these teaching methodologies in our mainstream classes and outreach programs in local hills communities. This includes working with children in country areas, creating programs that connect generations (the elderly and pre-schoolers) and a soon to be youth program through the power of breakdance.
Why is Rockit important to our community?
The most valued feedback received to date was “finally a place where all the square pegs who can’t find their round holes have a home”. Rockit is a home that opens its doors to everyone. Classes and programs are developed in response to community request and need. Although we run mainstream dance, drama and musical theatre classes, traditional teaching methods are thrown out the door, and new methodologies have been introduced. The school is all about creativity and positivity. All exams and competitions have been cast aside and the focus is on teaching the creative process in which art is made.
Rockit thinks outside the square and recognises how powerful performing arts training is to the individual in terms of self-discipline, self-confidence and self-expression and to a community providing support, social connections, friendship and generational contact. Rockit strives to educate the community on the greater power and influence the arts have upon us. Our students are often questioned what is art, why do we create art, who creates art and why? These questions prompt the students to discover and understand the impact that art has not only on themselves but their communities.
STAMPING OUT OF CREATIVITY: Creativity is losing its value and importance within the current education system. Students who study arts subjects in year 12 have their grades scaled down. The education system does not value these subjects on the same level as science or maths. The new ACARA curriculum is very academic and the opportunity for creative thinking is fading. Creativity in all its forms is important to the whole community. It is those with creative and lateral thinking skills that invent new technologies, cure diseases and lead our communities. Rockit fosters the power of creativity. We provide tangible creative life lessons within our studio walls that are meaningful and age appropriate to the students who attend. These are meticulously interwoven into our teaching methodologies in a unique manner.
SELF-EXPRESSION: Rockits education promotes individuality and self-expression encouraging each student to discover who they are and where they are positioned in the world. It gives them a sense of self and belonging. They are both part of the Rockit family and an important part of their community. One 11 year old student eloquently stated in her class “I don’t want to show off, but I want to show people what I can do. In that, I want to both be inspired by the arts, but also inspire others”.
"When I was little I remember saying that I always wanted to dance and when I started I never wanted to stop and I never will. Dance is a way to show the world the real you and to prove you’re not afraid of trying. My Teachers are my inspiration, the people that have pushed me to become the person I am today. The people that never give up on you and believe that you can do it, no matter how hard the task may seem! Dance is the reason I’m not afraid anymore to go out and perform for people, the reason that I enjoy waking up early on a Saturday morning, the reason that my bedroom floor has becomes my dance floor. Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass it’s about learning how to Dance in the rain!! Thanks to dance I have stopped saying “I can’t do that” and started saying “I will be able to, just give me some time to practice”!! I‘m a dancer, I don’t dance because I want to; I dance because I need to. I tell a story by each movement and step. I dance because I feel free. I dance because it makes me happy. I’m an artist, an athlete and a dancer. You can be too; you just have to believe in yourself. You can never give up on your dreams. Those who give up will never know what they are truly capable of doing. To be able to dance was my dream and my dream came true, I live, breathe and love dance and I wouldn’t trade it for anything”. Mahayla, Rockit Student
SHOW THEM WHAT YOU CAN DO: Children who enjoy the performing arts are in the minority within their schools. Many schools in the hills have a strong sports focus, and the children who enjoy performing arts don’t get the same opportunities as their sports minded friends to “show off what they can do”. At Rockit we focus on creating a safe haven where children have the opportunity to express themselves through the arts, celebrate their uniqueness and develop strong social bonds and friendships. Those who are bullied at school are discovering new friendships within Rockit and are forming powerful bonds.
SPECIAL NEEDS: Most performing arts schools only offer mainstream classes. They are not designed to cater for people with physical or intellectual disabilities. Due to our unique teaching methodologies, our mainstream classes can cater to students with mild disabilities. For those with more severe disabilities, Rockit has created the Launch Pad program. Launch Pad sees children with both physical and intellectual disabilities attend dance lessons that are specifically designed to their capability. Students explore movement to music, and for those with limited vocabulary, discover a new way to express themselves through the arts. The class benefits students physically with coordination and strength building; and socially through learning to listen to instructions, working as a team and supporting one another. Most hills children have to travel to town for therapy and appointments. Rockit provides a safe home in the hills amongst their peers where they can dance and freely express themselves. Another important but less known aspect of the Launch Pad program is the opportunity for parents of special needs children to come together and meet one another. Our current parents share stories, medical advice, support and friendship. One parent has stated this is the only place where she can come with her children and feel completely relaxed.
“My girls and I love Rockit. It has provided a place where, for the first time I feel like both my girls are welcome. My older daughter has Down Syndrome and complex health care needs and so flexibility, understanding and support are very important to us, all of which we receive from Noni and her staff. Being part of Rockit has greatly enhanced the quality of life for us as a family. The benefits last all week long and both girls are excited about attending every class. It has been beautiful to see the changes in my girls (6.5 and almost 3) this year in their confidence and abilities. I greatly appreciate that my younger daughter is welcome to attend the special needs class with my older daughter. It is the only thing that we get to do together that is just about fun and not therapy. Launch Pad has provided a flexible class that allows Georgia to just be herself. The creativity and thought that Noni puts into every class is evident and we are very excited about what next year holds as Noni continues to expand her classes”. Molly Rockit Parent
CONNECTIONS BETWEEN GENERATIONS: To ensure our education is readily available to members of the community who cannot get into our studios, Rockit has designed outreach programs. One example is ‘Bridge the Gap’. This program creates a unique connection between pre-schoolers and the elderly living in nursing homes. The program culminates in a shared performance experience that is both meaningful and educational. The response from the elderly residents is overwhelming. The program is very important to their weekly activities and the physical and intellectual stimulation created brings happiness back into their lives. Carers within the nursing home have noted more spring in the residents steps. The pre-schoolers learn valuable lessons in courage; and friendships with children their own age, and the elderly. It is an experience where they are cherished and appreciated. Feedback from this program has been incredible, and we are now generating interest from a variety of psychologists and specialists intrigued by the concept and the manner in which both generations can make such meaningful contact with one another.
“There is never a dry eye in the house at the shared performance” Elysia, Rockit Parent
REACHING OUT TO YOUTH: A new program that will commence in 2015 is ‘Breakfree’. Concerned with the limited number activities for young people in the hills outside of school and sport, Rockit is creating a breakdance program to encourage young people to get involved in positive activities. Rockit will provide weekly classes teaching young people the skills, culture and essence of breakdance. One evening per week the studio will be opened to the community for young people to spend time creating their own choreography and crews. There is hope this program will grow large enough for Rockit to host dance battles in the Adelaide hills. The environment at a break dance battle is very positive with teams encouraging one another and sharing ideas. This type of community engagement and positivity through displays of choreography and strength is an ideal activity for young people to become engaged in. The Breakfree program is a long term investment in Adelaide hill’s youth with future plans for expansion into a variety of dance styles. The key staff member involved in this program is studying to be a social worker.
ADULT FITNESS AND MENTAL WELL BEING: Many of our student’s parents have noted how much fun their children are having, and have voiced requests for adult classes. In response, Rockit will introduce a series of adult dance, singing and creative movement classes in 2015. These classes will focus on fitness, health and social connections and will also open avenues for adults to pursue performing arts training they could have missed in their youth.
“Why do my kids get to have all the fun” Jade, Rockit Parent
What are the social benefits behind Rockit?
Participating in the performing arts has many positive benefits including social interaction, communication, confidence building, coordination and balance, musicality and creative thinking. All of these aspects are taught in every performing art studio across the country.
OUR POINT OF DIFFERENCE: Where Rockit differs is in the manner in which these skills are taught and used within the teaching methodologies. The percentage of students who take their performing arts training through to a professional level is very small. Therefore preparing every student to be a professional performer when the chances of their success are slim is baffling. Rockit instead has been designed to teach children (no matter what career path they choose in life) valuable life lessons through their weekly performing arts training. Rockit’s objective is to create strong, well rounded, creative thinkers who can go out into their communities with confidence to make a difference.
“My daughter loves Rockit. Enrolling her was the best thing I have ever done. She gets a real sense of achievement when she gets all the moves right. It's amazing how much more she loves music, she listens to the beats and words and now makes up her own dances. Her confidence has sky rocketed (pardon the pun). I highly recommend Rockit. It's so much more than just a dance school. I watch Noni teach each week and she has a real passion not only for teaching and dance but for children. She has a real calm personality and the kids love her”. Genna, Rockit Parent
RESPECT: At Rockit we promote respect. Our Rockit rules of respect are woven into the choreography promoting team work and support. Within the choreographed dances students have to be aware of one another, what their role in the routine is, where they are positioned, who they are working with and who they should support. Teachers specifically partner children together based on their social interactions within the classroom. As a result of working with a partner or within a team, the students learn empathy and a mature approach to working together. These small lessons within the classroom have a resounding effect on their lives outside the classroom. By physically enacting roles during a dance routine, the children can begin to understand and fully appreciate how to use these learnt and practiced skills in their home, school and community life.
“My daughter had the privilege of being taught by Noni, whose kind, gentle and enthused approach to teaching is a perfect mix. She has the ability to tailor performances and teaching styles to the needs of her students – whether they wished to have a future in the industry or just wanted to have fun with friends”. Manda Rockit Parent
EXPOSURE TO ART AND CULTURE: In 2015 Rockit will be expanding our student’s exposure to art and culture. Through having our own premises, Rockit can host a variety of exhibitions to expose our students to the creative and artistic world outside the studio walls. There are a series of educational programs planned to teach children about the different ways in which art, both visual and performing, is used within ours and wider communities.
What are the economic benefits behind Rockit??
LOCAL TRADE: Saturday’s are Rockit’s busiest day to date. At the schools current capacity (we operate three days per week) there are thirty-five families passing through the doors. These families venture into the neighbouring community for coffee, lunch or shopping whilst waiting for their children in class. Local businesses have received regular trade from our families who frequent their establishments weekly (our classes operate thirty nine weeks of the year). In 2015 our objective is to operate six days per week.
LOCAL EMPLOYEES: Rockit has employed local residents. Five out of our six staff members are hills residents. As the school grows, we hope to employ more hills residents in the area of teaching and administration. We will need to secure administrative staff to manage this growth.
“Working with a company so close to home has many benefits. Firstly I don’t have to spend hours travelling. With this being said, I am always prompt and ready for work, as opposed to repeatedly running late and letting down the students and my co-workers. Secondly, because the work location is in the centre of Mount Barker, when I travel to the hills from uni, my bus stop is only a short 5 minute walk to the destination. Lastly it is much safer to travel a short distance back home after work. If work is running late and it begins to get dark, personally, I feel safer knowing my home is close and I can get there without any issues". Nina, Rockit Teacher
“Working in the community where I live has given me greater quality of life. As there is less travel, I have more time to spend with my children and support them with their busy schedules”. Morven, Rockit Teacher
LOCAL SUPPLIERS: Rockit has engaged local hills businesses for a variety of supplies including stationary, lighting and sound equipment, sensory toys, hall hire, performance venues, photography and marketing.
“Rockit supports both our local community and our business”, Vern Business Owner and Hills Resident.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR LOCAL ARTISTS: Rockit will use the main reception area in our new studio as a visual art space. The space will be made available to local artists to display their work for sale. This opportunity allows local artists the chance to connect with a wider audience.
“Having the opportunity to display my paintings in Rockit’s studio is fantastic. I am looking forward to the exposure of new clients” Karyn, Adelaide Hills Visual Artist
ACCESS FOR THE COMMUNITY: Rockit’s studio will be available for hire by local community groups. In addition we can offer access to our sensory equipment for local therapists to hire and use.
SUPPORTING OUR COMMUNITY GROUPS: Reaching out to our local community, our cheerleaders support the senior men’s and women’s basketball teams at the Mount Barker Mavericks. You can see them performing at the Maverick’s home matches entertaining the crowd and creating a fun and vibrant atmosphere.
“We are one of two metropolitan Basketball teams in Adelaide to have cheerleaders supporting our players, and the only one in the Adelaide hills. A few of our players siblings perform in the cheerleading team. They add excitement and entertainment to our matches” Marg van Schaijik, President, Mavericks Basketball team
SUPPORTING LOCAL SCHOOLS: In late 2014, Rockit is involved in fundraising events for two local schools. Rockit will perform, teach classes and offer free tuition as raffle prizes.
The details of how you’ll deliver the project, how the money will be spent.
Rockit has three programs that need funding:
1. ROCKITS NEW STUDIO - Rockit is opening a new purpose built performing arts studio in 2015. This studio will be situated in the heart of Mount Barker on Hampden Rd. We are seeking financial support to establish the centre as a safe environment for our students.
The builder and owner of the warehouse (a local hills resident) has agreed to do some of the fit out for us. Rockit needs support to purchase a sprung dance floor. This is essential for the safety of our students, and at such a high cost it would take us years to raise the funds. Rockit also needs sensory and safety equipment (including swings, matting, gymnastics wedges, medicine balls etc), heating (essential for the mobility of our special needs children during the winter months), room dividers (so we can maximise the use of our space), safety gates (to ensure small children and Launch Pad students cannot get out into the car park without assistance from a parent) and lighting (adequate lighting throughout the building for safety, as well as sensory lighting for Launch Pad).
Rockit’s new premises are yet to be built. The warehouse should be complete early January 2015. This will give Rockit time install the floor, mirrors, lights, sensory equipment and safety gates before classes commence mid February. Classes commence mid-February. We have a local hills builder/carpenter booked for the install should the grant be successful.
The aim of this fit out is to create a studio that can be used both as a place of therapy and a place of creativity. It will be readily accessible for the local community to access and utilise. The total cost of the fit out is $29,330. The majority of this cost is the sprung dance floor quoted around $22,000.
2. USE OF OCCPATIONAL THERAPY IN OUR CLASSES – Rockit is seeking financial assistance to commission an Occupational Therapist to work with Rockit staff in the continued development of our classes. Rockit seeks to source the benefits of occupational therapy through dance. This will aid our Launch Pad students, community programs and mainstream classes. Dance has many positive benefits to an individual including intellectual stimulation, calculation and planning, sequential learning, increased motivation to learn, mental flexibility, problem solving, creative and lateral thinking, holistic thinking and improved academic performance. Introducing elements of occupational therapy will further improve the classes we can offer, and aid in providing unique experiences for our students. The consultancy cost is $2000.
3. STAFF TRAINING: Rockit is seeking funds to further train our staff members into our unique teaching methodologies. Staff will also be trained to manage community and outreach programs, offering Rockit a greater ability to cover a wider area of the Adelaide hills. The cost for staff training is $1000.
Estimated funding required