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.
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
Kwesi Johnson workshops (Mark
also great social value in bringing together boys from different parts
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.
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.
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."
Fleur Darkin Ensemble (Mark Simmons).
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.
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.
Photography: Kevin Clifford (unless credited otherwise).