Scottish Ballet has launched a pioneering new programme that uses dance to help children tackle racism, homophobia and transphobia.

After a successful pilot that saw the dance company work with nine schools in Glasgow and Perth, the Safe to Be Me project will be rolled out to primary schools across Scotland in 2019.

So far, the initiative has delivered 40 workshops, reaching nearly 2000 pupils and helping children aged 9 to 11 understand and talk about racism, homophobia, bigotry, ableism and transphobia.

READ MORE: One in seven Scottish adults experience suicidal thoughts down to body image

Delivered in line with the key Scottish Government targets to address these areas, the project aims to engage with Primary 6 pupils to explore identity, tolerance, ethnic and family diversity and LGBTQ communities.

For Scottish Ballet's engagement creative director, Lorraine Jamieson, the project has been a huge success.

She said: "We've been blown away by the response of the young people, it's been amazing and [they've] just connected with it so much."

During the workshops pupils learn the basics of ballet in preparation for their own interpretation of the themes and create a character who will be central to their interpretative dance.

Later, they watch as three professional dancers perform pieces that represent incidents of the themes and are invited to comment on what they have seen. Finally, the pupils join in, taking to the stage in front of their peers.

A poem by Scottish poet Rachel Plummer is read out over the dancers in one vignette. Selkie, an LGBT reimagining of the traditional folklore tale as a boy who sheds his female selkie skin, "something that never sat right on his shoulders”, has generated enthusiastic discussion with the children so far.

Lorraine, who choreographed the performance, which is loosely based on The Crucible, said: "We have been delighted with because it's actually generated quite a lot of discussion. Through the dance they are seeing moments of homophobia and racism and transphobia.

"We were trying to fit in as much diversity as we could within the dance so we do things that are quite direct, so the children see things like a wedding between two women."

The Herald: Thousands of children were reached through the pilotThousands of children were reached through the pilot

There are moments in the performance which have been left open-ended so the children can discuss what could be happening in the scenario. For example, two dancers turn their back on the third and the children are asked why this could be. This is important, says Lorraine, so they "drive the discussion" and imagine why and what people could be struggling with. 

During the dance, the professional trio represent multiple variants of a modern family: single parents, same-sex parents and adopted children are just some permutations.

Lorraine said: "It was very important to me that the young people were able to see themselves represented immediately. Some are really blown away by the fact that some families have two dads and they really want to talk about it."

It's then that they are invited to add their own choreography to the performance, working together to help the professional dancers. Lorraine said: "We talk about what it means to be an ally so they're offering choreographic ideas that would help drive a narrative.

READ MORE: New yoga sessions for people living with addiction debuts in Scotland

"And when their classmates come and see their performance, at the end of the day, they will say, well, this is the part where we explored homophobia through movement, or we explored racism."

The aim of the project is to get the pupils talking about the big subjects so they can recognise them and challenge entrenched thinking.

Lorraine said: "It's just to get them to think about things a little bit differently and question things.

"To give them the tools to be able to challenge someone who may be saying something they think is not okay, and really feel safe and able to do so. To help them see that they have the right to feel safe about who they are. And hopefully, that will carry on with them for the for the rest of their lives."

A primary 6 pupil who attended a pilot workshop said: "We learned about how people can be different and nobody is the same and that it's okay to be different."