Kian Hind has a natural talent for dance.

When the 12-year-old listens to any kind of music, from classical to hip-hop, he feels the beats and starts to move.

Ever since he was 10 and saw street dance troupe Diversity on TV, dance has been his passion.

It’s 1pm on a Monday and the Year 7 pupil at Solihull’s Lyndon School Humanities College is getting ready for a three-hour Boys Dance session with professional dancer Luke Sheppard.

Kian, from Sheldon, says: “When the music comes on I just dance. You have to really practice. In class you can talk, laugh and have a bit of a dance.

“We have a warm-up and a couple of games and start dancing.

“I would like to be in a group like Diversity when I am older. I just like dancing – it’s fun. ”

There are 12 boys in the class, aged 11 to 14. They are a lively, outgoing bunch.

Dance teacher Luke, aged 23, from Castle Bromwich, who graduated in dance and theatre at Coventry University, says: “The boys are very enthusiastic, very energetic and put it to good use. I use a lot of instrumental music, I tend to avoid stuff with lyrics. I started working with this group six weeks ago and they are a lot more confident and less worried about what to do.

“I think it’s great to get boys into dance. I didn’t start dancing until I was 16. If I danced at school I might have developed my passion earlier.”

Luke first started dancing at Penelope’s Dance Studio in Solihull. After graduating he was awarded a BBC Dance Fellowship grant and developed his choreography skills under the guidance of professional mentors at Warwick Arts Centre for 12 months.

He was then offered a job with the Boys Dancing project, set up by Warwick Arts Centre and BeingFrank Physical Theatre in Coventry, and now teaches in five schools across Coventry, Warwickshire and Birmingham.

“I love it, it’s fab,” he says.

Lyndon School dance teacher Ria Newman adds: “It’s a really good opportunity for boys to work with male role models in dance. It gets them to broaden their experience of different dance styles and physical theatre.

Lyndon School in Solihull is taking part in Warwick Art Centre's Boys Dance project.
Lyndon School in Solihull is taking part in Warwick Art Centre's Boys Dance project.
 

“I noticed Kian was really enjoying dancing and really focused in the lesson. He feels the music. It just comes naturally. It allows him to be more creative.

“We have been running the Boys Dancing project here for four years. One of my students has just started at Stratford-upon-Avon College of Performing Arts and will probably go on to have a dancing career. He’s 17 and is coming back to do some teaching.”

Louis Hogan, aged 13, has been in the Boys Dancing class for two years.

He says: “I like the fact instead of it being just for girls, dance is something boys can enjoy. I like street dance and freestyle. If I could get a career in it – great. Some of my mates think it’s cool; some do not take any notice. It’s a hobby like anything else. I also like basketball and music, especially hip hop and RnB.”

On the same day, at Frederick Bird Primary School in the inner city district of Hillfields, Coventry, nine Year 5 pupils have their first Boys Dancing session with professional dancer Dave McKenna, artistic director of BeingFrank Physical Theatre Company.

“If you have not danced before, don’t worry it’s not rocket science,” says the father-of-one.

Javaghnie Campbell, aged nine, puts up his hand to ask Dave if he can show them some of his dance moves.

Dave makes a pact with the boys. “The more choreography you make and show me, the more you can see of me dancing.’’ They shake on it.

Inspired by rapper Chris Brown, nine-year-old Hassan Sekitolek already dreams of becoming a professional dancer.

He says: “I have been learning how to dance since I was five. I like how you can make lots of different shapes with your body.

“My favourite dancer is Chris Brown. He can do lots of moves like back flips. I would like to become a professional dancer and learn how to do complicated moves.”

The Boys Dancing project, which is is funded by Arts Council England and partners the Boys Dancing Alliance, now covers five main areas across the Midlands – Worcestershire, Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull, the Black Country, Shropshire and Staffordshire.

It aims to challenge young men’s preconceptions about dance – that it is something only for women – and shows them just what they can achieve.

Since 2007 it has involved more than 2,500 boys aged nine to 19 across the West Midlands in schools, youth centres, after-school groups and prisons. The boys have performed on stage, on film, in an aircraft hangar, on a football pitch, in office space and on an historic working farm.

As part of the area’s cultural programme for the Olympic year in 2012 the boys worked alongside choreographers, composers and the Warwick Arts Centre team to create The Quiet Man Suite – a series of six films on location across the West Midlands.

A stunning new website – www.boysdancing.org – highlights their work over the last seven years and includes a photo gallery and boys’ stories.

Brian Bishop, education director at Warwick Arts Centre, explains: “Over this year we have 50 groups working with eight dancers.

“On February 11, 20 Boys Dancing groups are taking part in a live performance in the Butterworth Hall at Warwick Arts Centre at the same time. We are collapsing all the seating and the stage so we have a huge flat space, so it’s like an arena performance with the audience watching from the gallery. There will be 200 boys on stage and there will be live music composed by Coventry DJ Ash Brown.

“The lads work actively on the choreography which gives them a real sense of focus and purpose. Their mates really like it – they do not expect what they see. It’s very cool. Dancing is demanding and does not have the competitive edge that PE has.”