A student from Edge Hill University whose passion for dance is enriching the lives of others has been awarded a University Scholarship.
Third-year dance student, Jessica Bennett, has been broadening her horizons by learning from dance experts around the world, using her experiences to inspire young people and those with disabilities.
Jessica, from Bristol, “couldn’t believe it” when she was awarded the £2,000 University Scholarship. The accolade is for students who help raise Edge Hill’s profile through an exceptional contribution to equal opportunities and diversity.
She said: “I am so thankful to Edge Hill for the rich variety of experiences I’ve been able to have. The University sees the value of dance, not just an art form but as a way to benefit people’s lives – their health, wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem.”
Jessica’s interest in performing started young. She took up artistic gymnastics at four-years-old, before turning to ballet as a teenager and discovering a love for contemporary dance at Secondary School.
During her time at Edge Hill, Jessica has taken every opportunity to hone her dance skills and give back to the community.
A dance module looking at cultural practices from classical Indian styles to Brazilian Capoeira sparked Jessica’s interest in world art forms. She took the opportunity of a 10-week programme, offered through the University, working with choreographers and performers across the world.
Run by the Leicester-based Aakash Odedra Company, the course paved the way for her to explore and perform contemporary Indian dance styles. It was her first ‘in person’ dance experience since the onset of the pandemic.
Jessica has also taken time to volunteer her skills to Arts Council projects.
At the height of the pandemic, she worked with LPM Dance, assisting with weekly online dance workshops for people with Parkinson’s – using dance as a healing tool to support their health and wellbeing.
She also acted as a mentor ‘buddy’ for Ludus Youth Dance Company, getting young people from all backgrounds to explore their creativity. The aim was to build their confidence and support their transition into the main company.
Jessica furthered her passion for inspiring young people through a traineeship as a supporting dance artist at Lancaster and Morecambe College. She takes great pride in the students’ creativity and confidence, a highlight being a performance of their own piece around Williamson Park.
Jessica also contributes much to campus life. She’s President of Edge Hill’s Dance Society and a student rep for her dance course, supporting dissertation work and representing the course at open days. She also takes time to help 3rd Edge – the University’s undergraduate dance company.
Michelle Man, Programme Leader for Dance, nominated her. She says:
“Jessica raises the profile of Edge Hill on a daily basis from her discreet acts of kindness to her highly proactive dance profile and extensive volunteering…. Jessica’s merits are many, and are born of a sincere and authentic fascination for creativity, community building and making things happen for other people in an inclusive and life-enhancing manner.”
Jessica is keen to keep dancing and raising the profile of dance. She plans to use her University Scholarship money to fund future opportunities and training.
Wherever her career takes her, Jessica is keen to continue supporting others. Jessica gets her energy from dance and from the experiences of those she helps:
“The energy and feeling I get when I dance, and when I see others doing it and enjoying it, whatever their age and ability, is like nothing else. It really motivates me.”
Edge Hill University has a broad programme of scholarships for prospective and current students, recognising practical and academic excellence.
Edge Hill’s BA (Hons) Dance is a fully-rounded degree course with work-related learning experiences in performance, choreography and teaching, alongside theoretical and analytical study.