Shama Rowland

INTRODUCING THE NEXT GENERATION OF CHOREOGRAPHERS – YOUNG ASSOCIATES

Four new movement portraits on Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage introduce the unique creative perspectives of Sadler’s Wells’ Young Associates:

Olive HardyVidya PatelJohn-William Watson, Magnus Westwell.  

The Young Associates programme supports talented 18- to 24-year-olds for two years, providing a crucial first step into their career as choreographers. The artists receive a tailored course of professional development and support, including the opportunity to present their work as part of the Sadler’s Wells artistic programme. 

To create these short films, each Young Associate was mentored by one of Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artists; Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui with John-William Watson, Michael Keegan-Dolan with Olive Hardy, Wayne McGregor with Magnus Westwell and Kate Prince with Vidya Patel. All four films were made in collaboration with innovative photographer and filmmaker, Jacob Sutton.

Sadler’s Wells is committed to supporting artists at every stage of their career and to nurture the pipeline of talent. We identified the need for more support to be given to those at the very outset of their dance-making careers. So, we created the Young Associates programme in 2018, with the goal of supporting artists establish their choreographic voices early on.

Each Young Associates’ film is available on Sadler’s Wells Digital Stage, and each artist is also making a work to be performed in person in a Mixed Bill at the Lilian Baylis Studio. The Mixed Bill by the Young Associates will be their first live performances of the work. This evening of dance will showcase the distinct and diverse creative voices of these young artists, as they embark on their careers as choreographers.

OLIVE HARDY 

Olive Hardy is London born and Bristol raised. Olive started dancing for Rise Youth Dance and performed with the company for most of her youth, under the direction of Helen Wilson.  

Taking an organic and improvisational approach to her choreography, Olive’s piece focuses on the experience of catharsis and the surfacing and release of strong emotion.  

Introducing the next generation of choreographers – Olive Hardy

How would you describe your experience working with Michael Keegan-Dolan? 

‘I had a really nice time with him, I was pretty star struck! We had a hearty chat; he gave me some passionate advice on moving forward as a choreographer and we laughed and shared stories. As someone I look up to, it affirmed the way in which I’d like to work, which feels more concrete now’. 

VIDYA PATEL 

Vidya Patel is a Birmingham-based dance artist, choreographer and performer with a training background in kathak. She was encouraged to attend Indian classical dance classes by her parents from a young age. Vidya graduated from The Centre of Advanced Dance Training – south Asian strand at Birmingham DanceXchange and learns from Sujata Banerjee. 

Inspired by the storytelling in Indian classical dance, this piece by Vidya is a love letter to kathak dance, a homage to her cultural roots and feeling at home amongst nature, with a twist that embraces her own choreographic style. 

Introducing the next generation of choreographers – Vidya Patel

How did you find the process of creating the film? 

‘It was very personal because it includes people and elements important to my dance journey, my kathak teacher Sujata Banerjee, composer Shammi Pithia, the sound of tabla played by Amritpal Singh and the artform kathak. I really wanted to honour the Indian classical dance form that has led me to new experiences and has been a vehicle to connect with others. I wanted to go back to the main source of training and influence, bringing it back home. I chose to rehearse for the film at home, in my bedroom and garden, amongst nature, where I feel most comfortable’. 

JOHN-WILLIAM WATSON 

John-William Watson was born in Leeds and began his training at Phoenix Dance Theatre’s Youth Academy and CAPA College. During this time, he was also a member of the National Youth Dance Company for two years. Now, having studied at Koninklijk Conservatorium Antwerpen (BE), he is based in the UK as a freelance dancer and dance theatre maker. 

Using a surrealist lens, John-William’s piece takes inspiration from the elements used in silent film to create an entire world around a story, with an unapologetic commitment to musicality, composition and character. 

Introducing the next generation of choreographers – John-William Watson

How would you describe your choreographic style? 

‘My dance theatre work and movement practice focuses on abstracting and playing with the everyday, utilitarian and pedestrian; both from a physical and theatrical standpoint’. 

MAGNUS WESTWELL 

Magnus Westwell is a Scottish-born choreographer and composer, based in London. They work at the intersection of dance, music and visual art, with their work performed across the UK and Europe. Magnus’ creations can be haunting and romantic, often looking at the extremes of ecstasy and emptiness, as well as their experience of being queer and neurodivergent.  

This raw and rhythmically driven piece takes us inside the mind of Magnus and how they visualise music. 

Introducing the next generation of choreographers – Magnus Westwell

What was the inspiration behind your film? 

‘The film is like a representation of how I visualise music. Whenever I’m listening to music, I’m often imagining something like this in my head. I was also inspired a little by ‘cows & cows & cows’ – a YouTube video which went viral in 2011’.   

See the Young Associates’ work live on stage, Tuesday 23 November – Wednesday 24 November 2021, at the Lilian Baylis Studio. You can get your tickets here.  

Find out more about our Young Associates. Find out more about our Associate Artists

Olive Hardy – Instagram: @olivehardy  

Vidya Patel – Instagram: @_vidyapatel  

John-William Watson – Instagram: @johnwilliamwatson 

Magnus Westwell – Instagram: @magnuswestwell  

Anti-racism at Sadler’s Wells

Our commitments, progress and plans to continue to address racism at and beyond Sadler’s Wells and work towards a more equal and just future.

Our vision is to create, through dance, a depth of connection beyond borders, cultures and languages so we see ourselves in each other. There is no doubt that playing our part to ensure racial justice and equality is essential for us to achieve this vision.

The last year has brought an overdue acceleration of global anti-racist efforts. This has also been true at Sadler’s Wells. We collaborated as colleagues on the following statements and commitments to guide our work:

  • Black lives matter and we stand united against racism.
  • We acknowledge the pain and injustice caused by systemic racism.
  • We join in solidarity with global anti-racist movements.
  • We know that being anti-racist requires concrete action.

We want to create positive, lasting change through the following commitments:

  • We will actively listen to colleagues, artists and the public to continue to educate ourselves. This work will inform how we update these commitments and future plans.
  • We will increase our support of Black and other People of Colour artists.
  • We will produce, commission, and present work that represents and engages Black and other People of Colour communities.
  • We will further diversify our organisation and address bias (conscious or unconscious) at every level.
  • We will use our position of influence to support and share anti-racist work in dance.
  • We will continue to bring the world together through dance.

In the spirit of transparency, we will continue to update you on our progress and plans to deliver concrete and meaningful action on these commitments.

While these actions aim to address racism, which can affect all People of Colour, we acknowledge that the racism experienced by Black individuals and Black communities is unique. We wish to reflect these realities and this document will refer to ‘Black and other People of Colour’ communities.

We are committed to delivering our broader Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) action plan. However, this update focuses specifically on the anti-racism elements of that plan.

We took action

  • We conducted ‘zesting sessions’ led by Sour Lemons; an organisation dedicated to dismantling systemic racism in the arts. These sessions were a starting point for colleagues and our Board to see what systemic barriers may be affecting the people working at Sadler’s Wells, who holds power and how equity is disseminated throughout the organisation.
  • We have also engaged the inclusion-focused consultancy Creative Equals to run listening sessions with all our colleagues. This will consist of Safe Spaces for Black and other People of Colour colleagues to listen and share their lived experiences in the workplace. There will also be a wider session for all colleagues to discuss where we’ve come from, and what the future looks like for racial equality. This will inform the next steps in our journey to become an actively anti-racist organisation.
  • We commissioned and presented artistic responses to the Black Lives Matter movement including Anthony Matsena’s work for the stage Shades of Blue, and the film Our Bodies Back directed by Jonzi D and written by jessica Care moore.
  • Through an organisation-wide process, we selected ‘inclusion’ as one of our core organisational values to sit alongside ‘excellence’, ‘collaboration’ and ‘innovation. These values guide our work and decisions.
  • We have interrogated the language we use. We have stopped using the terminology of ‘Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME)’ and instead are using ‘Black and other People of Colour’. Part of our work with Creative Equals will include revisiting this decision to reflect how our colleagues choose to identify.
  • All employment policies are being reviewed and updated to make them more accessible and relevant, ensure that they support our anti-racist objectives, and lay out clear procedures for raising and addressing issues.
  • We will carry out Equality Impact Assessments to ensure our policies, practices and decisions support organisational priorities, and are not discriminatory.

We put structures in place

  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Steering Group: This is a long-standing structure at Sadler’s Wells. We have increased its membership, redefined its purpose, and made its meetings more frequent. Objectives include meeting our anti-racism commitments. The group engages external speakers into the organisation to share their experiences and expertise. It also works on the procurement of external consultancy services to support our anti-racism work.
  • Anti-racism Volunteer Group: This is a collection of colleagues who have volunteered to meet on a regular basis to form an open space for conversation, reflection, learning and the sharing of lived experience.
  • Racial Equality Task Force: This is a group comprised of artists associated with Sadler’s Wells who meet on a regular basis to discuss, share knowledge and collaborate on anti-racist activity, particularly in relation to our artistic programme.
  • Head of People and Inclusion: We changed the role of Head of People to Head of People and Inclusion. The new appointee will undertake diversity assessments of wider organisational practices and processes. They will create positive action interventions to support under‐represented groups.

We are working towards concrete targets

As part of our planning as an organisation, we have set ambitious targets to support our anti-racism work. Here we highlight two of these targets.

Colleagues

  • We value and respect diversity of thought and lived experience.
  • However, we acknowledge that some communities are underrepresented across the sector and within our teams.
  • Using the most recent Census data as a reference, we are working toward diversifying our overall workforce. One key area of focus is that we have set an inclusion target to increase the representation of People of Colour at Senior Management level from the current 7% to 20% in the next three years.

Artists

  • We will allocate at least 30% of available commissioning funds to People of Colour artists in the next two financial years.
  • We will review how successful this action has been in increasing representation to inform commissioning targets thereafter.
  • By comparison, commissioning funds allocated to People of Colour artists in our in-person programme were 11% of funds in the 19/20 financial year and 19% of funds in the 20/21 financial year.
  • We will put more robust processes in place for gathering data from commissioned artists. This will ensure we have an accurate picture to inform decision-making.

We’re being transparent

  • Last summer, we published data for our workforce, in response to the #pulluporshutup campaign. We have now updated that data in a three-year picture here.
  • We will continue to update on this work and our progress toward targets on no less than an annual basis, with the next update coming in August 2022.

We thank our colleagues and collaborators who have taken part in this work, including the Equality Diversity and Inclusion Steering Group, Anti-racism Volunteer Group, Racial Equality Task Force, Sour Lemons and Creative Equals, all of whom are helping to guide, shape, and drive this important work.

We welcome your feedback. Please do email anti-racism@sadlerswells.com with your thoughts or suggestions.