Brunel 200 Legacy Dance Bristol – Defy and Parabolic.
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Defy and Parabolic

Dance Bristol supports and develops all types of dance at all levels across the city. Working in partnership with dance practitioners, they aim to provide a sustainable programme of career and professional development opportunities, commission and mentoring opportunities and access to the widest forms of dance through youth, community and education sectors.

Dance Bristol commissioned two new works for the Brunel 200 celebrations, Defy, a youth dance piece choreographed by local dance artist Kwesi Johnson, and Parabolic, choreographed by Fleur Darkin, artistic director of Darkin Ensemble.

Dance Bristol – Defy and Parabolic.


This project was the creation of a 15-minute boys’ youth dance piece resulting from education and artist-led workshops, which took place during Brunel’s birthday weekend 8/9 April 2006.

The project commissioned local dance artist Kwesi Johnson to create a dance piece with a group of boys from across Bristol's secondary schools. Kwesi Johnson has only recently moved to Bristol, where he is now rehearsing his new version of audience favourite ‘Hip Hop Story’. Kwesi’s company, ‘Kompany Malakhi’ is a unique dance theatre and production company that draws on a range of cultural experiences to create fresh and relevant new work.

Games and exercises were introduced to encourage the boys to think and behave as a team, linking to ideas they had about the role of small cogs as part of a larger action. The piece used unison work as well as manipulation between duos and trios. The group drew on body popping and locking to communicate an industrial, robotic feel and used contemporary contact techniques for lifts and manipulation.

Some of the initial ideas about incorporating lifting movements had to be revised due to the boys' limited confidence and the lack of sufficient time to make these moves technically competent, but overall the piece created clearly reflected industrial themes.

Dance Bristol – Kwesi Johnson workshops.

Kwesi Johnson workshops (Mark Simmons).

There was also great social value in bringing together boys from different parts of Bristol.

There was some great talent present, and the project has helped to identify boys who may wish to audition for some work at the next level, through Dance Bristol and the DfES Gifted and Talented scheme Dance Academy.

Twelve boys took part in the final performance. The dance piece used principles of engineering to explore momentum and incorporated industrial motifs. The 'Defy' boys' dance project was delivered over two weekend workshops, culminating in a performance at The Bristol Hippodrome as part of the Stages LEA dance gala on Sunday 26 March 2006. The final piece was performed in front of upwards of a thousand people, including many school pupils.

The dressing room resounded with whoops and high fives for a good ten minutes after they performed!

Quotes from participants included:

"It's been wicked. I'm tired but I enjoyed it. The teachers were great."
"I wasn't sure I could do this, so it's been good to learn."
"It's been good meeting other boys and working with Kwesi."
"I was nervous at first but now I feel good."

A participant’s foster mum said: “This has been great for him to be part of. It's really helped his confidence, he hasn't stopped dancing since we got him home."

Dance Bristol – Fleur Darkin Ensemble.

Fleur Darkin Ensemble (Mark Simmons).

Dance Bristol – Defy and Parabolic.


Brunel’s Parabolic Curve, is the principle behind suspension bridges, where the entire structure of the bridge takes all the weight – so when a car goes over the bridge, its weight is equally spread between the road and the tops of the cables.

Jerwood-nominated choreographer Fleur Darkin is known for her intricate and challenging choreography, taking a theatrical approach to dance through music and humour. The commissioned piece Parabolic is also a parable – to show the importance of support and trust! The piece was premiered on the night of the Brunel 200 launch, on stage near the Clifton Suspension Bridge.

Dance Bristol – Defy and Parabolic.


Photography: Kevin Clifford (unless credited otherwise).