Over two months have passed since The M Word was first introduced to Oxford.

We teamed up with Dancin’ Oxford to offer young people a place to be themselves, understand themselves (and their mental health) and grow through dance. And what a process it has been so far!

Our students at Blackbird Leys – also known as CDI – had nothing but praise for the project.

Menen, 15, finds the classes “fun” and “interesting”. 12-year-old Hattie enjoys going to the classes to “learn dance, more moves, and meet other people” and has been active in bringing her friend Molly, also 12, along.

The energetic group exercise and learn fun routines, but are also given various creative tasks to encourage individuality, teamwork, and independence.

“I like creating our own bits,” Molly added, “[and] I want to do more of it.”

Our director and project leader Emma-Jane Greig finds this eagerness to share their own work the real achievement.

“They’re turning up each week bounding through the door,” she says. “They’re able to stand up at the end of each session and share their work with others and that’s a real achievement with the project.”

But what makes The M Word different from any other dance class? “Making new friends” seems to be a simple but important reason.

It’s well documented that isolation and loneliness can lead to anxiety and depression. Research shows that loneliness is a common experience with 80% of population below 18 years of age. Being able to make new friends in a safe environment with a fun medium – street dance – all but prevents this from happening.

“When I was young, at school, dance was always a way that I could escape from the pressures and everything that was going on,” Emma-Jane adds. “It allowed me to switch off and express my emotions in a different way and I think for a lot of young people that come to class it has a similar effect on them…

“Young people are talking to new young people perhaps they don’t go to school with, and being more open to sharing their own moves, thoughts and opinions. And that’s a really big sign for me they’re growing in confidence from the sessions, and feel safe and supported in the atmosphere we’re creating.”

So, how is The M Word so far at Blackbird Leys? Hattie puts it quite simply: “Everything’s cool!”

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