Warwick Arts Centre has been running boys dance activities since 1998. In 2005 we began our hugely productive working relationship with Beingfrank Physical Theatre whose Artistic Director, Dave McKenna, had begun to specialise in creating dance work with boys after very successful projects in Staffordshire and Warwickshire.
Our Boys Dance projects became annual events – working with lads in schools in Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull, running choreographic workshops and rehearsals over a number of weeks in preparation for a performance on the main stage at Warwick Arts Centre.
Then a remarkable opportunity came along for us to realise our ambition of spreading the work beyond Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull. It was decided that the West Midlands would focus on dance as part of its cultural programme for London 2012 and that funding for up to three years would be available for projects that would inspire as many local people as possible to dance. That was when the plan for creating The West Midlands Boys Dance Alliance and the Boys Dancing projects were born.
This year continued the strong WMBDA partnership but tried to create something that none of the partners had done before – a suite of 6 boys dance films called The Quiet Man Suite. Through the final year of funding from Dancing for the Games (previously People Dancing) and a successful bid to Arts Council England, we have worked with over 700 lads, in 8 local authorities with 6 dancers, 4 film makers, 4 composers, 4 dance apprentices and a BBC Dance Fellow to create 6 brand new films.
The Quiet Man Suite aimed, through inspirational practice, and working closely with artists acting as confident and skilled male role models to explore issues of masculinity, strength, sensitivity, independence and cooperation and challenge stereotypes, to prove to boys and young men that dance is most definitely for them. More specifically, and continuing the Boys Dancing themes, The Quiet Man Suite continued to promote the importance of social justice to young men, asking them to reflect on injustices throughout the world and consider what is right…what is wrong….or whether it just depends on which side of the window you look through. The boys had the opportunity to “speak out about the social injustices in the world today and consider the impact that a single person can have in prompting social change”.
Films were shown at premieres across the region, as well as in schools and Young People’s Centres and will also now be submitted to film and dance film festivals around the world. Below is a trailer to give you a taster of what you can expect and the whole suite of films can be viewed here.
This year the WMBDA further expanded to also include Shropshire, Staffordshire and Dudley, taking the Boys Dancing project’s reach to 8 of the sub-regions of the West Midlands. New partnerships were formed with local authorities and performing arts services in these areas to enable to projects to happen and work was created in schools, youth centre, pupil referral units, after-schools clubs and a prison. Again, many lads in these new areas had never experienced dance before and we were able to offer a range of opportunities for both new and more experienced dance practise, all leading to live performance.
Five performances were presented across the West Midlands at Warwick Arts Centre, Bishop Perowne CE College, RSA Academy, Theatre Severn, Wilnecote High School and Stourbridge Town Hall. A dance film was also created with inmates at Stoke Heath Prison called Bricks:
During this year, we were also able to offer a very unique experience for a small groups of lads, Babel – a Boys Dancing Residency. For a week, in our Helen Martin Studio, 17 lads worked with international choreographer Liam Steel and MC/Lyricist Kenny Baraka to create an amazing scratch performance. They mixed highly physical movement and inventive, intense text into a performance questioning themselves and the world they live in.
Through the creation of the West Midlands Boys Dance Alliance (WMBDA), we were able to expand the project into two new areas, Sandwell and Worcestershire. Many lads in these areas had never danced before but through this project and the inspiration of strong male dance artist, they were able to create and rehearse their work leading to performance in professional venues across the West Midlands. Lads from schools and youth centres in Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull performed in Evolutionary Moves at Warwick Arts Centre. Lads from schools in Sandwell performed in XY at The Public and lads from schools and Pupil Referral Units in Worcestershire performed at No 8, Pershore.
For those groups that had worked with us for several years and were experienced in boys dance in their schools, we were able to offer different opportunities to extend their practise into new areas. This led to two dance film residencies and the 2 films created, Reading the Space and A Stranger to Myself, can be seen below. Other schools also chose to form new partnerships with their feeder primary schools, creating performances where younger and older students performed together.
To finish the year, we also embarked on our first Boys Dancing Roadshow, to take the work into new areas and inspire new groups to get involved with the project.