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Standing in Solidarity: George Floyd

A year ago today, George Floyd was murdered.   

Especially in times of trauma, artists and artistic responses help to us to process our emotions and connect with each other beyond languages, cultures, and borders.   
 
So, we’re sharing a selection of dance works by and featuring Black artists that speak to us on this day, and we invite you to spend some time with these artists and their work.  
 
To our Black colleagues, audiences, visitors, participants and artists: we all stand in solidarity with you today and every day. 

Jonzi D & jessica Care moore  Our Bodies Back 

We want our freedom 
We want our justice 
We want our bodies 

Our Bodies Back is a powerful rendering of Black women’s voices; speaking out against the realities of anti-Black racism, misogynoir, and sexual violence, while uplifting and honouring in full the Black lives and memories lost, in a ceremony of dance, spoken word and visual art. 

“This poem is a demand. For justice, for equality, for respect, for Our Bodies Back. The whole team were so moved by jessica’s incisive lyrics and intense delivery, we had the perfect blueprint for this film. The dancers responded with honesty, grace and power.” – Jonzi D

jessicacaremoore.com 


Matsena Productions
Shades of Blue 

When brothers Anthony and Kel saw a lack of representation in schools, on stage and on screen during their dance training, they founded Matsena Productions as a response to this. Their ambition is to encourage people to have important conversations about the difficulties faced by Black people in society today. 

Inspired by the 
Black Lives Matter movementAnthony and Kel created Geometry of Fear which was later adapted as Shades of Blue (excerpt below) for Sadler’s Wells and BBC Arts’ mini-series Dancing Nation.

Together they have built a love and curiosity for telling stories that express themes of culture, race, change and belonging.

matsenaproductions.com

Watch a longer clip as part of Dancing Nation’s highlights here.


Azara
Meghie
 I Am A Woman

Azara Meghie is a multi-disciplinary artist who expresses her views through a blend of live art, poetry, breakdancing and theatre. Created in Jamaica, I Am A Woman navigates Azara’s sexual identity through hip hop and breakdanceThe film was screened at the BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival (2017) with subsequent screenings across London, Berlin and New York.

Tackling themes of politics, sexuality, gender, race and class, Azara aims to identify the struggles faced when trying to maintain individuality whilst highlighting the cultural limitations and stereotypes she does not adhere to.

azararm.com 

Protocol Dance Company I Can’t Breathe 

I Can’t Breathe takes an in-depth and uncompromising look at racism in society. From the epidemic oBlack killings by police officers in America, to the reality of being a young Black man living in London, the piece explores the causes of institutional racism, and the impact that has, all through the prism of a game. 
 
Protocol Dance Company was founded in 2008 by Jared Garfield and Lanre Malaolu. I Can’t Breathe was performed as part of Sadler’s Wells Breakin’ Convention in 2016 and the company are dedicated to creating bold and thought-provoking work, using a range of styles including hip hop, popping and krump to create their own unique language.

lanremalaolu.com

An excerpt of I Can’t Breathe:


Antoinette Gomis
Images 

How do we value our female heritage? Created as a tribute to Nina Simone and Black women too, Images draws upon the words of Waring Cuney’s poem No Images, where a Black woman is unable to identify her own beauty.

Nina Simone’s song depicts a woman who ‘thinks her brown body has no glory’ and explores the limited beauty ideals of the western world. Motivated by her own personal experiences, we encourage you to listen to Antoinette’s inspiring story behind the performance here.

Performed as part of the Breakin’ Convention tour in 2016, Antoinette is an award-winning street dancerchoreographer and model based in Franceshe continues to teach her style and techniques to people around the world.

@antoinette_gomis


Vocab Dance & Alesandra Seutin
Inside Head 

Performer, choreographer and teacher Alesandra Seutin has built an international reputation for creating thought provoking and striking performances. Her work Inside Head (available until 27 May) explores the inner thoughts of a young Black man as he reflects on the outside world’s perception of what he represents, and the systemic pressures he frequently endures

Founder of Vocab Dance and current Guest Artistic Director of the National Youth Dance Company (NYDC), Alesandra’s creativity is inspired by social and political circumstances, and with movement, voice and music, she shares stories to encourage further conversation. 

vocabdance.co.uk


Botis Seva
CAN’T KILL US ALL

Can’t Kill Us All unravels one man’s mental unrest as he deals with two global pandemics. From reflecting on childhood memories to reliving Black trauma, the film pushes through darkness to find light, humility and peace.

Botis Seva is a dance artist, choreographer and director working within the realms of contemporary dance, physical theatre and hip-hop. Botis is entrenched in hip hop dance theatre but experiments with form, structure and theatrics to reinvent choreography. Botis’ focus is on making a difference and using his autobiographical experiences to drive narratives. His company Far From The Norm is fuelled by socio-political issues in the contemporary world.

farfromthenorm.com 


Ivan Blackstock
TRAPLORD HAVE MERCY

Exploring questions of identity, faith, abandonment and Black masculinity, TRAPLORD HAVE MERCY is artistic director Ivan Blackstock navigating a world in which socially disenfranchised young men grapple some of the biggest philosophical questions of our time in their own way, and on their own terms. 

The film is a sensitive and poetic reflection on Black masculinity in crisis. 

Ivan is an artist, choreographer and innovator with an established career working as a dancer and choreographer on numerous music videos and advertising campaigns. He is also artistic director of arts organisation CRXSS PLATXRM, showcasing what’s next in street culture. 

@ivanmichaelblackstock

Even though we are sharing this selection of work at this moment, we are committed to platforming the work of Black artists all year round, in times good and bad.

Welcome back to Sadler’s Wells

We are delighted to be re-opening our doors from today (Monday 17 May) for the first time since December 2020! In line with social distancing guidance as advised by the UK Government, below are the measures we have put into place to keep you as safe as possible for your next visit to Sadler’s Wells.  

As always, if you have a temperature higher than 38°C, a continuous cough or have loss of taste and smell, we ask that you please stay at home.  

Your arrival

Please remember to bring a mask with you as we ask that you wear a face covering at all times whilst in the venue, aside from eating or drinking, and unless medically exempt. 

To limit your contact with other parties, we will be operating a staggered entry system where your designated arrival time will be listed alongside your seat number on your e-ticket. We ask that our audiences arrive as close to this time as possible to ensure our queueing system runs as smoothly as possible. 

‘I thought a lot of care had been taken and everyone was extremely calm and polite.’

Please keep an eye out for floor markings and signage to ensure you are kept at safe distance from others. The Sadler’s Wells team will also be on hand to help provide guidance when moving around the theatre. If you have any questions or feedback on your experience, please don’t hesitate to speak to one of them where they will be happy to assist.  

To help further protect you, we are asking everyone to use the UK Government’s NHS Test and Trace app when in the building, or alternatively to scan our QR code when entering the theatre.  


Your visit

The cloakroom will be out of service until further notice and bags must measure less than 30cm x 30cm x 15cm. No luggage items please. For additional safety, our usual security measures are in place such as random bag searches. Our lifts are limited to one person or household use only. 

For any refreshments you might like during your visit, the Fox Garden Court Cafe is open pre-show and our bars open from 6.45pm. Drinks and snacks should be consumed in the auditorium but we ask ticket holders to please wear masks at all other times. The box office will be open as normal and operating within Covid-secure protocols. A gentle reminder that all payments and transactions are now cashless, to reduce contact and queueing times. 

‘I was very impressed with Sadler’s Wells professionalism. Top marks for feeling very, very safe.’

As an audience member, you will be seated in small groups of one or two to allow for social distancing. Our Front of House Team will be on hand to guide you to the correct seats in our well-ventilated auditorium, while maintaining a safe distance from others. 

At the end of a performance, please remain seated and await guidance from our Front of House Team who will lead you out of the building safely. 

‘I found the whole event extremely well organised. The whole experience was extremely uplifting.’


Cleaning 

We have professionally enhanced cleaning in place throughout the building, with surfaces and toilet facilities regularly sanitised for your protection. To prevent the spread of bacteria, we ask that audience members maintain frequent hand washing prior to and whilst in the theatre. There are sanitising stations throughout the building for you to sanitise your hands regularly, too! 

‘I think Sadler’s Wells had one of the best procedures I’ve seen.’

Rest assured we have taken stringent steps to ensure the continued safety of our audiences during this time. We hope this guide provides useful ahead of your visit to the theatre and if you have any thoughts or feedback on the measures in place, please direct them to our Front of House team at feedback@sadlerswells.com. 

This is a live blog post we will continue to edit with updates whilst socially distanced performances are in place, so please keep checking back regularly for further info. 

 
We can’t wait to welcome you. 

SADLER’S WELLS RECEIVES CULTURE RECOVERY FUND

It is with a sense of gratitude and hope for the future that we welcome the UK Government’s announcement that Sadler’s Wells will receive a loan of £4,250,000 from the latest round of the Culture Recovery Fund.  

This loan will ensure the organisation’s survival and enable us to start laying the groundwork for a full reopening.   

By closing our theatres and reducing the work we are able to achieve, the COVID-19 crisis has taken away our ability to earn over 80% of our income. The emergency support we have received from the UK Government and Arts Council England to date was intended to support our survival until April 2021. This loan is therefore vitally important in supporting our ongoing operations and future recovery.    

Crucial to this recovery is our ability to welcome people back to our theatres. We are very excited to be able to reopen to socially distanced audiences from 17 May. These performances will be a hugely welcome first step, as full reopening is critical to our long-term survival. We are hopeful that we will be able to open completely, as set out in the UK Government’s roadmap, later this summer. 

Receiving this loan recognises our ongoing impact, innovation and resilience despite the difficulties of the past year. During this time of closure, we have embraced digital opportunities through an unprecedented increase in activity on our Digital Stage. Through our digital platforms and partnerships in 2020, we shared 25 dance workshops, 14 full-length works, 8 screendance films, 4 audio-described works and hosted a global gala online. This programme received more than 5 million views globally and provided work and income to hundreds of artists and freelancers. 

Artistic Director & CEO, Alistair Spalding and Executive Director, Britannia Morton said: “The Culture Recovery Fund loan ensures our continued survival and means we can look forward to welcoming audiences, artists, professionals and colleagues back to our theatres. We are very excited to be able to reopen with socially distanced performances, starting with our Associate Company English National Ballet’s performances of Reunion, from 17 May. We are grateful that this loan means we can continue to maintain our position as the nation’s dance house, supporting the dance sector nationally and internationally.”

National Youth Dance Company Goes Digital With New Cohort

National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) has completed its second digital residency for the 2020-2021 cohort, led by Guest Artistic Director Alesandra Seutin.

The country’s flagship company for young dancers continues to work in innovative ways in response to the challenges posed by COVID-19. Virtual taster workshops, Q&As, live online workshops and digital sessions have all been developed to help further the company’s learning and training during the pandemic.

Meet National Youth Dance Company 2020-21 film.

Together with Alesandra Seutin and her team of artists from Vocab Dance, NYDC will work on two further residencies before embarking on a short UK tour this summer, including a performance at Sadler’s Wells on Saturday 24 July 2021. Work will continue digitally until government laws allow for the company to meet in person in the studio. Further details about the production and tour are to be announced.  

Introducing the new generation of dance

NYDC’s 2020-2021 cohort is made up of 29 dancers – of which 21 are new company members and eight are returning. New company dancers were recruited virtually in November 2020.

NYDC 2020-21 virtual auditions, captured at Sadler’s Wells.

NYDC’s current cohort includes dancers from over 20 different towns and cities from across the UK. This year, company members range from ages 16 to 18, which goes up to 24 for deaf or disabled dancers.

The company includes: Deborah Asidi from Nottingham, Charlotte Aspin from Bristol, Ella Atkinson from Stalybridge, Jesse Baggett-Lahav from Ipswich, Ashur Cali from Leeds, Keziah Campbell-Golding from London, Elvi Rose Christiansen Head from London, Rory Clarke from Winchester,  Kian Crowley from London, Maya Donne from Lewes, Phoebe Dowglass from Goring-by-sea, Skiye Edmond from London, Harry Fayers from Marlow, Maiya Leeke from Preston, Jasmine Massey from Stourbridge, Max Mulrenan from York, Jamaica Payne from Nottingham, Katie Smith from Wakefield, Amari Webb-Martin from London, Ciaran Wood from Frome and Genevieve Wright from Downham Market. They join the following dancers from the previous cohort: Sonny Connor-Bell from Birmingham, Karim Dime from London, Maia Faulkner from Brighton, Willow Fenner from London, Mia Grote from Totnes, Mirabelle Haddon from London, Chiara Moore from Warrington, and Eve Shorten from Oxford.  

A year like no other

Alesandra Seutin takes over from Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist Russell Maliphant, who was the Guest Artistic Director for NYDC in 2019-20. As the UK went into lockdown in March 2020, Russell and the company discovered news ways of working together both online and socially distanced. In the summer 2020, NYDC became the first dancers to return to Sadler’s Wells since lockdown – performing a new dance work to an intimate audience of friends and family, to complete their year.

National Youth Dance Company ‘A year like no other’ 2020 film.

The current cohort of dancers were encouraged to journal about their experiences during their residencies.

NYDC dancer Skiye Edmond, said: “Before the December residency, I was so nervous because I knew that I was going to be working with a group of incredibly talented dancers so naturally, this overwhelmed me. However, as it went on, I was surprised at how connected we had all become despite being online, and how much we were able to learn from each other. I set a goal […] to allow myself to be inspired by others as oppose to developing imposters syndrome and this was definitely achieved.”

Alesandra Seutin, NYDC Guest Artistic Director 2020-21, said: “Regardless of the digital residencies with NYDC, I really feel that we have created a strong connection and been able to transcend the realm of our rectangle spaces. I cannot wait to meet my Company in the flesh!”

Hannah Kirkpatrick, NYDC General Manager, said: “This year is certainly bringing its challenges, but we made a decision early on that it would not stop us creating new work, we just have to adapt how this work can be created. I feel so proud of how the company have responded, how dedicated and motivated they are to working together and making this a success. It is a huge amount of work for Alesandra and her artistic team, planning and utilising the time on Zoom to make sure that when we can be in person we can hit the ground running. This past year has hit us all, but I think it has been particularly difficult for young people, creating a new work over lockdown is keeping us motivated and focused in a time when so much is out of our control.”

Find out more about NYDC here.

National Youth Dance Company is supported using public funding by Department for Education and Arts Council England.

Barclays is the Associate Partner of the National Youth Dance Company.

SADLER’S WELLS RECEIVES GOVERNMENT CULTURE RECOVERY FUND GRANT

It is with gratitude and profound relief that we welcome the UK Government’s announcement that Sadler’s Wells will receive a grant of £2,975,000 from the Culture Recovery Fund to support the organisation’s survival until April 2021.  

By closing our theatres and vastly reducing the work we are able to do, the coronavirus crisis has taken away our ability to earn over 80% of our income. We have done all we could to secure our financial position during this time. To reduce cost, we furloughed almost 90% of our colleagues through the UK government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, cut salaries across the organisation, and made the difficult decision to reduce our current permanent and fixed term workforce by 18%. 

We were successful in receiving a grant from the Arts Council of England’s Emergency Response Fund and are incredibly grateful for all the donations our generous supporters have made to us in this time.  

Despite all these measures, receiving support from Culture Recovery Fund was critical for Sadler’s Wells’ survival. These funds will enable us to remain open, continue to support artists, stage live performances for socially distanced audiences, create digital content for everyone to enjoy and participate in, continue our learning and engagement and artist development work, and start laying the groundwork for a full reopening. 

Artistic Director & CEO, Alistair Spalding and Executive Director, Britannia Morton said:  

‘We want to extend our heartfelt thanks to the UK government, Treasury, DCMS and Arts Council England for this vital lifeline to ensure Sadler’s Wells can stay afloat into 2021. The Culture Recovery Fund provides us with the support we need to continue to survive the pandemic and to deliver on our mission and vision as a world-leading home for dance. 

With this support we will continue to make and share world-class dance for audiences from across the UK and around the world. We will create opportunities for artists, companies, freelance professionals, and colleagues whose talent and skill are the backbone of this organisation. We will continue to innovate and invent, work toward a more diverse and representative sector, and through dance reaffirm our common humanity in a time when empathy is needed more than ever. 

With this funding, we are committed to doing all we can to play our role in rebuilding our sector and cultural life in the UK as we all face unprecedented challenges and navigate continued uncertainty along our path to recovery.’ 

Board of Trustees Chair Nigel Higgins said:  

‘We are all very grateful to the UK government and Arts Council of England for their critical support in this challenging time. These funds will enable Sadler’s Wells to remain resilient and continue to be a vital part of the UK’s creative industry. This investment ensures we can be part of the much needed economic and cultural recovery of the UK as we all continue to grapple with the impacts of the pandemic.’ 

Sadler’s Wells announces furlough period for casual colleagues will end on 30 September

It is with heavy hearts that we announce today that we will end the furlough period for our casual colleagues on 30 September. At Sadler’s Wells our casual colleagues include 222 people in our Front of House, Catering, Technical, and Ticket Office teams.  

Government support for the furlough scheme, which ends on 31 October, will continue to taper down for its final month, and sadly we are no longer able to fund the contributions required of Sadler’s Wells to keep these colleagues on furlough.  

We have avoided taking this action for as long as possible, and that’s why we have committed to keeping our casual colleagues on our payroll and making the furlough contributions required of Sadler’s Wells until the end of September. 

The devastating impact of the coronavirus crisis has already forced us to enter a consultation period with permanent and fixed term staff, and in addition to the other actions we have taken to reduce cost, this measure has become necessary to ensure the survival of Sadler’s Wells. 

Alistair Director & CEO Alistair Spalding and Executive Director Britannia Morton said: ‘We are deeply saddened to have to make the decision to end the furlough period for our causal colleagues on 30 September. We know that this will be difficult news for all of Sadler’s Wells, especially our casual colleagues who a core part of our community. Many of these colleagues are the people our teams, artists and audiences associate with the Sadler’s Wells experience they know and love. 

As we begin to reopen our buildings and explore projects that can be compliant with social distance requirements this autumn, there will be some opportunities for casual colleagues to be offered opportunities to work. However, we know that this is unlikely to be at the levels before lockdown began. 

We hope that our recent application to the UK government’s Culture Relief Fund will be successful to ensure the survival of the organisation, and that an eventual full reopening of our theatres can enable us to bring back as many of our casual colleagues as possible, as soon as possible. However, continued uncertainty prevents us from being able to make any definitive assurances to these valued colleagues at this time.’ 

Sadler’s Wells Enters Consultation Process with Permanent and Fixed Term Staff 

It is with deep sadness that Sadler’s Wells has entered a consultation process with our permanent and fixed term staff, following the devastating impact of the coronavirus crisis on our operations, the continued closure of our theatres and ongoing uncertainty about when we may be able to reopen fully.  

During this period, Sadler’s Wells will consult with all permanent and fixed term staff on proposed organisational change and efficiency measures. These proposals could put 51 permanent or fixed term roles at risk of redundancy or layoff, which represents 26% of our permanent and fixed term workforce. This is in addition to other measures we have and are taking to reduce cost in this time. 

This process will be very difficult for all members of the Sadler’s Wells community. The decision to enter a consultation process has been incredibly hard to make, and one which the organisation has done all it can to avoid. 

Artistic Director & CEO Alistair Spalding said: ‘In my 20 years at Sadler’s Wells and 15 years as its leader, the talent and dedication of our colleagues has been the cornerstone of every success and moment of magic on our stages and off. Every colleague at Sadler’s Wells has played their part in making Sadler’s Wells what it is today, and I am heartbroken that we have to embark on this process. We’ve searched long and hard to avoid having to take this course of action for as long as possible, but given the current situation, and in the face of continued uncertainty, it has become unavoidable.  

The impact of the global pandemic has been devastating for the arts – for organisations like Sadler’s Wells and for the many companies, freelancers and casual staff whose talent and skill is central to our industry. We are committed to doing all we can to play our role in rebuilding the sector, but recognise we can only do so if we get through the current crisis. I never imagined we would be in this position, but thank our colleagues for coming together as a community and for supporting each other as we all face this unprecedented challenge.’ 

Executive Director Britannia Morton said: ‘By closing our theatres and vastly reducing the work we are able to do, the coronavirus crisis has taken away our ability to earn over 80% of our income. We have done all we could to prevent and then delay the need for entering a consultation process. We have furloughed almost 90% of our colleagues through the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, reduced salaries across the organisation, and were successful in receiving a grant from the Arts Council of England’s Culture Recovery Fund, which secures our survival to October. We’re incredibly grateful for all the donations our generous supporters have made to us in this time. We also hope, like the rest of our colleagues in the sector, that Sadler’s Wells will be awarded a lifeline that allows us to stay afloat into 2021 through the UK Government’s arts, culture and heritage rescue package. Despite all of this, the loss of income to date and continuing uncertainty about what’s next has forced us to make this very difficult decision to begin a consultation period, to ensure the survival of Sadler’s Wells and prepare us for the post-coronavirus future.’  

Board of Trustees Chair Nigel Higgins said: ‘We are all very grateful for the way in which the individuals and teams at Sadler’s Wells have responded to the coronavirus crisis. This makes it doubly difficult to be entering into a consultation process to restructure the organisation and reduce the size of our workforce. We have done what we could to avoid this, and are grateful to the Arts Council of England and the UK government for their support. However, with no immediate visibility of reopening and generating income we have no choice but to take this action in order to protect the longer-term future of Sadler’s Wells. We hope for and are working hard to ensure better times for Sadler’s Wells, our staff and wider communities.’ 

CELEBRATING FOUR WOMEN CHANGING THE FACE OF HIP HOP

The world’s most prestigious annual hip hop theatre festival is bringing the best hip hop talent from around the world to our audiences for the 17th consecutive year in May. Breakin’ Convention’s 2020 edition promises to be the biggest yet, with a wide range of performers hailing from across the globe – from the UK to Canada, France, the Netherlands, South Korea and, for the first time, Peru.  

Ahead of International Women’s Day, we celebrate some of the exceptional female dance artists featured in this year’s line-up. We showcase their journeys within a traditionally male-dominated field and look at the ways in which they are changing the face of hip-hop dance.

A.I.M Collective (UK)
A.I.M Collective. Image: Dave Barros

This year’s festival features A.I.M Collective, a London-based collective of female poppers. A.I.M, which stands for Artistry In Movement, includes some of the strongest choreography and freestyle-based dancers in the UK. The group was established in 2018 by prominent UK dancer and choreographer Shawn Aimey. At Breakin’ Convention 2020, it will present a new piece entitled My London.

A.I.M Collective member Victoria Shulungu is fluent not only in popping, but in a variety of hip-hop styles, including Krump. She also produces for dance company Spoken Movement, has worked with Sadler’s Wells’ New Wave Associate Hetain Patel and is a member of the hip hop theatre collective Far From The Norm, led by artistic director and Olivier award-winning choreographer Botis Seva.

Why is your dance style unique to you?

Popping has been a style that I have always loved. I love exerting power and force but also being able to control what’s been shown by creating an illusion. Krump has grown on me now more than ever because it allows you to feel the most explosive feeling. The reason why I do these styles is because I love playing with tension and release. There’s no better feeling than that!

What does being a woman in hip hop mean to you?

Within the hip hop community, being a woman can be a blessing or a curse. I get tired of having to always differentiate the experience of being a woman. We have to do this all the time in our everyday lives. I aim to not always project this when dancing, but instead allow the power to speak through my movement and the energy I possess.

Victoria Shulungu (right) in Hetain Patel’s Don’t Look At The Finger. Image: Nick Matthews

What are your expectations for the Breakin’ Convention festival?

I look forward to being inspired by the performances. I’m also looking forward to having conversations with people I may never have crossed paths with. I just want to be a sponge in many different ways so that I can give back the same energy when I’m performing. Each one teach one – I guess that’s fair to say.

Yeah Yellow (France)

Yeah Yellow is an award-winning multidisciplinary hip hop dance crew. It was founded in 2012 by choreographers Camille ‘Kami’ Regneault and Julien ‘Bee D’ Saint Maximin. They  performed as part of Breakin’ Convention’s national tour in 2017 tour and were part of the Sadler’s Wells Sampled festival in 2018. To this year’s Breakin’ Convention festival, they bring their duet Dos au Mur (Back to the Wall). Accompanied by live musicians, the piece explores the concept of human evolution and the constant correlation between us and the society we shape.

Yeah Yellow choreographers Julien ‘Bee D’ Saint Maximin (left) and Camille ‘Kami’ Regneault (right). Image: Dan Aucante

Self-taught in hip hop dance, Kami began her career as a gymnast before setting her sights on the world of breaking. Since then, she has competed at several national and international battles and has gone on to win a number of major championship titles. She won the French B-Girl Champion title three times, in 2013, 2015 and 2016. 

Why is your dance style unique to you?

I like the performance side of breaking coupled with the search for originality. This discipline allows me to always seek ways to surpass myself physically, but also creatively.

What does being a woman in hip hop mean to you?

I do not necessarily seek to have a place as a woman in hip hop, but rather to have a place as a good dancer. I don’t want to be strong ‘for a girl’, but just strong. It’s really important to me. I want to show that nothing is impossible when we remove the psychological barriers that we, or society, have created.

Image: Camille Regneault.

What are your expectations for the Breakin’ Convention festival?

I would like to make people dream and show them the strength of Love. I speak here of Love with a capital L. For my part, the love of dance changed my life and allowed me to flourish. I think it is never easy to do what we love and believe in our dreams. I would like to inspire the courage in others to do just that. It’s an honour to do it at Breakin’ Convention, which is a must-see place for hip hop dance.

Paradox Sal (France)
Paradox Sal, Queen Blood. Image: Willow Evann

This all-female crew from Paris presents a powerful house dance piece entitled Queen Blood. Performed with grace, fluidity and power by eight dancers, it explores the concept of femininity. Queen Blood reflects a variety of moods and emotional states and fuses afro-house and hip-hop dance styles with music varying from pumping house beats to the dulcet tones of Nina Simone. The work is choreographed by Ousmane ‘Babson’ Sy, one of France’s first generation of house dancers and member of iconic hip hop dance crew Wanted Posse.

Choreographer and Paradox Sal member Linda Hayford said:

My fundamental style is popping. I like it because it allows me to create supernatural universes, using body control. From creating a living robot to slowing time, the effects you can create are endless but nonetheless grounded in sound and music. Popping is where I find the inspiration to develop a body language I have been working on since 2015, which I call ‘Shifting Pop’. It combines the popping technique with my own research on metamorphosis and its particularities. 

Linda Hayford. Image: Thibault Montamat

What does being a woman in hip hop mean to you?

Being a woman in hip-hop culture for me means giving yourself the place and space to build and own your identity – as a human being, as a woman and as an artist. It is about figuring out who you are now and who you want to become, which I think is the same intention for both men and women in hip hop alike. 

What are your expectations for the Breakin’ Convention festival?

I have never been to Breakin’ Convention, so I do not really know what to expect! But I have always heard good things about the good vibes and performances there, so I expect to have a great time and meet amazing people.

Spoken Movement (UK)
Spoken Movement members (l-r) Catrina Nisbett, Kwame Asafo-Adjei and ‘Boogie’.
Image: Dave Barros

Spoken Movement is a UK-based company that blends elements of street dance and contemporary dance to create their own movement vocabulary. We invited its founder and artistic director Kwame Asafo-Adjei to curate an evening in our Lilian Baylis Studio as part of the Wild Card series in 2018. Within the programme was duet Family Honour, which went on to win international choreographic competition Danse Élargie the same year. The company brought the work back to our stage last autumn, when as part of our FranceDance UK season we programmed Dance Élargie: Dance Expanded, an evening showcasing a selection of previous finalists and winners from the competition.

Spoken Movement members (l-r) Catrina Nisbett, Kwame Asafo-Adjei and ‘Boogie’.
Image: Dave Barros

Performed by dance artist Catrina Nisbett and Asafo-Adjei, Family Honour explores religious and cultural taboos in a Ghanaian family through the charged relationship between the two characters. They perform the piece on our stage for the third time at the Breakin’ Convention festival.

From a young age, Catrina trained with a number of London-based street dance groups, including Avant Garde Dance and Definitives. Well versed in a number of hip hop styles, she now studies contemporary dance at Northern School of Contemporary Dance.

Why is hop hop dance important to you?

I fell in love with hip hop culture from a very young age, and was influenced a lot by older family members and peers. Growing up in the area that I did, the young people used to dance in the local community centre. I know for a fact that hip hop saved us. Now other styles such as popping, krump and contemporary inform my movement, but hip hop will always be my first love. 

Showreel video. Video: Catrina Nisbett.

On breaking down barriers in the art form:

To me being a woman in hip hop is about challenging the typical stereotypes of both women and men. I have never allowed my gender to define whether I can do something – within the art or otherwise. Even though initially it was subconscious, it is important that gender was, and is, my way of being honest and audacious in my expression.

What are your expectations for the Breakin’ Convention festival?

I am particularly looking forward to seeing how performing Family Honour multiple times a week will affect the piece – what new developments we may discover both within the piece and in ourselves as artists.

Breakin’ Convention is an integral part of Sadler’s Wells’ artistic programme. The festival takes place at Sadler’s Wells on Saturday 2 and Sunday 3 May 2020. Tickets are available here.

Main image: Catrina Nisbett. Photo: Dave Barros

STUDENTS CREATE MUSIC VIDEO WITH RAP PRODUCER TSB

Sadler’s Wells Breakin’ Convention team brought together young aspiring dancers, MCs, music producers and graffiti artists to learn new skills and create a music video as part of Future Elements. The free, annual project engaged 28 students aged 13-16 with hip-hop culture during the February half term.

Over the course of a week, professional artists led the participants into an exploration of various aspects of hip hop, from choreographing routines and creating artwork to lyric writing and music production. The week culminated in the creation of a professional music video, which will premiere at Sadler’s Wells on 21 March.

The seven mentors to the group of young students were: Breakin’ Convention’s artistic director Jonzi D; b-boy and founding member of dance group Rain Crew Clint Sinclair; Vicky ‘Skytilz’ Mantey from dance company Boy Blue Entertainment; rap artist Capo Lee; graffiti artist Boyd Hill; film director Sebastian Thiel; and TSB, a music producer who has worked with rappers including Stormzy, Dave and AJ Tracey.

We spoke to some of the participants and TSB to find out about their experience, inspirations and highlights of the project.

“I’m Jordan. I’m 17 years old. My favourite artists are Stormzy and Dave. I joined the programme because it’s all about Future Elements, so it’s all about us – the future! The experience this week has inspired me and my music.”

Young participants filming their music video for Future Elements.

“My name’s Caleb. I’m 15. My favourite artist right now is Santan Dave. I like performing, rapping and acting. I got involved in Future Elements because I had the experience with Breakin’ Convention before, when I took part in the East Education summer school, and I wanted to do it again. This week I learned to be more confident on stage. TSB gave me a few producing tips as well, which was really good.”

Participant Caleb performing during Future Elements music video shoot.

“My name is Havin. I’m 14 years old. Right now, I’m listening to Dave. I wanted to do Future Elements because it was a new opportunity and I knew there would be good networking and good mentors. The biggest thing I learned this week is that TSB is actually alive – before this, I didn’t know if he really existed or not! He’s a bit low-key, so I was shocked when I met him.”

Havin (pictured in orange) and other Future Elements participants during the music video shoot.  

We spoke to music producer and mentor TSB about his experience as a mentor on the Future Elements project.

Mentor Sebastian Thiel oversees the music video shoot during Future Elements project.

How did you hear about Future Elements?

I heard about Future Elements through Shay [Rafati, Breakin’ Convention’s Education Officer]. I’d got involved with Breakin’ Convention’s [artist development course] Minor Art Surgery before, but this was the first time I’ve done any sort of mentoring in this capacity. When Shay contacted me about Future Elements, it looked like something I definitely wanted to get more involved in, so I did.

Could you tell us a little bit about how you work?

I like to start from scratch. I didn’t come with any beats ready; I made everything on the spot in front of them, making sure there was more of an immersive element. It allows you to understand the young people quicker – what they dislike and what they like. Involving them in that capacity allowed things to run a bit smoother.

Mentors (in order of appearance) Sebastien Thiel, Vicky ‘Skytilz’ Mantey, Clint Smith, Capo Lee and Boyd Hill during Future Elements project.

Were there any surprises along the way?

I was surprised about how capable they were – they were able to just jump on beats and do their thing. It’s crazy because I didn’t actually start making music until I was 16. Meeting kids who are younger than when I first started out, it’s good to see how that generation has advanced and developed and grown already. I found the whole process comfortable.

Could you share a highlight of being a mentor on Future Elements?

There’s been a few. Seeing the joy that the young people get from this – that’s been a highlight. Music is an amazing way to express yourself. Seeing some of the kids that are multitalented – that can dance as well as rap and sing and do other things. It’s been exciting to see the talent overall.

Mentor Vicky ‘Skytilz’ Mantey with young participants during a Future Elements workshop.

Being able to witness how good these young kids are has really been a big highlight, especially the ones that didn’t even know they had the ability to do this. For them to try and achieve what they’ve achieved this week has been great to see.

What three words would you use to describe your experience on the Future Elements programme?

Caleb: entertaining, exciting and fun.

Havin: amazing, great and enlightening.

Jordan: Future Elements in three words? Very, very good.

TSB: Fun. Motivating. Inspiring.

Images throughout: Ryan McAneny.

Tickets for Future Elements Night on 21 March are available here.

SW VOICES: MEET OUR APPRENTICES

To mark National Apprenticeship Week, we celebrate the contribution of three talented apprentices working at Sadler’s Wells: Campaign Marketing apprentice Amy Falla, Digital & Content apprentice Angharad Mainwaring and Breakin’ Convention Support apprentice Ryan McAneny.

We ask them about some common misconceptions surrounding apprenticeships, tips on how to break into the creative industries and what the future holds for them. 

Tell us about yourself. What have you been watching or reading recently? If you could master a new skill in an instant, what would it be?

Amy: I’m the Campaign Marketing Apprentice here at Sadler’s Wells and I’m doing business association at [tech startup] White Hat. I run an art collective back home in Suffolk to help connect and promote young artists in the region. My role here has really inspired me to communicate art to a younger audience and engage young people in the arts.

I recently read How To Fail by Elizabeth Day. I noticed someone in the Campaigns team reading it so I went out and bought it. It’s really good! The skill I would learn if I had the chance is knowing how to save money.

Angharad: I’m currently studying digital marketing level 3 and I’m the Digital & Content Apprentice at Sadler’s Wells. I really like art and creating things digitally. I’m also interested in advocacy around disability and I’m trying to do a lot of research on that at the moment. I run my own blog and it’s really fun being able to merge my interest in accessibility with the digital content skills I’m using at work.

I’m currently watching The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina on Netflix. If I could learn a skill overnight, it would be to learn a new language. l think it would be so cool to be able to whip out Russian any time you like!

Ryan: I’m 23, I’m studying business administration and I’m the Breakin’ Convention Support Apprentice. I dance outside of work, I teach dance outside of work, I’m a dad outside of work (laughs). At the moment I’m re-watching Prison Break because it’s the best thing that ever happened and I’ve just finished Suits. If I could learn anything, it would be a new language.

What does your apprenticeship involve day-to-day?

Amy: I assist the marketing managers at Sadler’s Wells and at The Peacock with campaigns. That might involve helping to brainstorm ideas on how we’re going to promote a show, researching the audience we’re going to promote it to, grassroots and e-mail marketing. I also help out with the access scheme as well as admin duties, such as working on print and posters.

Angharad: Day-to-day, I help [Digital Manager] Mark and [Digital Officer] Sarah to build web pages, make videos for our front-of-house plasma screens and edit smaller trailers. I also help [Content Officer] Rosie and [Content Manager] Rosanna with subtitling video content. Now that I’m a few months into the apprenticeship, it’s quite nice that I don’t have to keep asking them what I need to do. People know that we’re here and things fall onto our plate quite naturally.

Ryan: I do a lot of research for [hip hop theatre festival] Breakin’ Convention’s national tour – specifically around where we can utilise our outreach, especially at the grassroots level with local schools, dance and production companies. As we tour around cities and towns across the country, the aim is to start sparking conversations [between venues and local hip hop artists] and leaving a network in place. I’d say I spend a lot of my time here asking questions, mostly about hip hop theatre.

What is a common misconception about apprenticeships? Could you share some ‘myth-busters’ and tips from your experience so far?

Amy: Apprenticeships in the arts can be quite hard to come by. Working for a really renowned arts organisation like Sadler’s Wells, we’re proving that actually apprenticeships are out there. University isn’t the only pathway into the creative industries, you just need to dig a little deeper. Platforms like gov.uk and the Arts Council’s website are really good starting points for apprenticeship opportunities and arts jobs.

Angharad: I think a misconception around apprentices comes from our age. Usually, apprentices tend to be younger so there’s that assumption that we’re personal assistants or that we get the teas and coffees. I think younger people in the arts sector give organisations more of an insight into younger audiences. My advice to employers is: don’t be afraid to challenge the youth. We can be given more responsibilities, if anything.

Ryan: My initial thoughts before working at Breakin’ Convention were that apprentices did the jobs that no one else wants to do. I used to think that you don’t really have much of a say or hold as much importance in the organisation. But I actually think I’ve learned more coming in as an apprentice than if I had jumped straight into a job here. I’ve been able to learn a lot of things rather than focusing on the one thing. I have way more responsibility than I ever thought I would.

What aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?

Amy: Seeing the auditorium packed full of all different types of audiences. It’s really encouraging to see that the marketing campaigns we’ve worked on have that kind of impact at the end of the day. One other thing that’s great about working at Sadler’s Wells is that we’re encouraged to make the most out of the experience. I did some shadowing for the costume department, which was different to what I normally do, but also really interesting in terms of seeing the other side of theatre.

Angharad: I like everything about my job! Recently I made the grid poster for Sadler’s Wells Sampled. It was so cool, because Amy sent me photos of it being projected on the front-of-house screens and in the auditorium. It’s really rewarding to see that something you’ve worked on has contributed to a show in the grand scheme of things.

Apprentice Angharad helped realise this poster for Sadler’s Wells’ Sampled.

Another highlight was helping the Content team with the Natalia Osipova video in the ‘Confessions of a Ballet Star’ series. It was amazing to see it go viral, it made me feel like a proud mum.

Apprentice Angharad helped realise this Confessions of a Ballet Dancer video.

Ryan: I recently helped out [Breakin’ Convention Digital Communications Officer] Dave with the filming and editing for the highlights reel of Back To The Lab, Breakin’ Convention’s professional development programme. It was my first time having that much control over a digital project like that, and I probably would never been able to do that anywhere else.

Apprentice Ryan helped realise this video for Breakin’ Convention’s Back To The Lab.

I also love watching the creative process of the artists on our professional development courses. I’d love the opportunity to do Open Art Surgery one day. Seeing the opportunities here in London just makes me think of how I can help to take the same opportunities to Birmingham, where I’m based.

Have you encountered any challenges?

Amy: Leaving the office at 4pm! You need to remember that you do have a life outside of work, and it’s just as important.

Angharad: It’s hard to juggle the responsibilities of doing a course and your day-to-day job. It’s not like you’re in a classroom. You’re at your desk and people assume you’re just getting on with Sadler’s Wells stuff, when actually you’re dedicating time to assignments, which need to be the priority sometimes.

Ryan: Balancing my workload with my college work. I get very into my work, so sometimes it’s hard to switch off when I get home. There’s also so much more time management you do with a new-born! Jobwise, I never really look back at anything I’ve done and see it as a challenge. It’s more like, “that was a lot of effort and hard work, but it was worth it”.

How has your apprenticeship benefited you? 

Amy: The networking opportunities have been really great. I’ve been able to meet people in similar roles at other organisations, theatres and galleries. I still don’t really know where I want to go in the future, but I think understanding the different pathways into an arts organisation is the first step. The insider knowledge you get from working in an arts organisation on things such as Arts Council funding, audience development, tone of voice – it’s all really useful stuff, which I’ll go on to use personally and professionally.

Angharad: I definitely feel like I’ve learned so many skills already. Being able to practise what I’ve always been interested in has been amazing. The guidance from Sarah, Mark and Rosie has been great; hearing from arts professionals about how they got to where they are and learning from them on a day-to-day basis, I’m just in pure admiration. If I could think of a word to describe Sadler’s Wells, it would be ‘inspiring’. Being inspired makes you want to express your creativity more and explore what you’re passionate about.

Ryan:I’ve gained loads of new skills and networks. I can now write fancy emails (laughs). I’ve been given the opportunity to be the Breakin’ Convention rep for Birmingham thanks to [Head of Breakin’ Convention] Chelle and [Breakin’ Convention Tour Producer] Emma, which is such a bonus for me. Liaising with artists and freelancers has helped build my confidence in what I do. To be able to say you’ve worked in the Breakin’ Convention team at Sadler’s Wells, having that behind you – people are very interested in that.

To be honest, I never saw myself in an environment like this. Being a dancer, I was always used to everything being a bit rough around the edges, but here it’s really professional. Working 9 to 5 in an office doesn’t seem all that bad when you’re in the right environment, doing what you love. Theatre wasn’t a place I ever really saw myself working in, but now that’s where I want to go.

National Apprenticeship Week 2020 takes place from 3 to 9 February 2020. The annual celebration recognises the value and impact apprenticeships bring to employers and the wider industry. This year’s theme, ‘Look Beyond’, focuses on the value of diversity. The aim is to showcase the talent and contribution apprentices bring to the workplace, as well as the breadth of industries and roles available to young people considering routes into employment outside of higher education.

Images throughout: Shirley Ahura.