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.’
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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)
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
“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.”
“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.”
We spoke to music producer and mentor TSB about his experience as a mentor on the Future Elements project.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Future Elements in three words? Very, very good.
Fun. Motivating. Inspiring.
Images throughout: Ryan McAneny.
Tickets for Future Elements Night on 21
March are available here.
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.
does your apprenticeship involve day-to-day?
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.
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.
aspects of your job do you enjoy the most?
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
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.
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.
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.
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
How has your apprenticeship benefited you?
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.
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.
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
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
hip hop artists went Back To The Lab to develop their practice and create new
work under the mentorship of leading choreographers, theatre makers and
dramaturgs this month. Nathan Lafayette, Pervez, Shaadow Sefiroth and duo Cat
Jiminez & Jaekwon took part in the latest edition of the artist development
course, led by Sadler’s Wells Breakin’ Convention’s team.
The Lab invites professional hip hop artists to explore and experiment with
different choreographic methods. It supports them as they put their new-found
knowledge into practice by devising new work, which is then presented to, and
discussed with, a live audience at the end of an intensive, two-week period.
Ahead of the final sharing in our Lilian Baylis Studio on 25 January, we speak to Nathan Lafayette about his creative journey, tackling impostor syndrome and more.
does going ‘Back To The Lab’ involve?
It’s very much a
learning process in the first week. You’re picking up a lot of information,
which at times can be quite overwhelming, but also reassuring. A lot of it is
about extending our palette in terms of the tools we work with, and sometimes
focusing more on one specific tool. Using an analogy that Mikey J [Asante, composer
and co-founder of hip-hop dance company Boy Blue Entertainment] shared on a
previous artist development course: “Sometimes you want to work with the hammer.”
Back To The Lab helps me understand what my hammer is. It’s been interesting
finding out how we work, sparking different conversations and hearing people’s
in the second week of the programme. Could you tell us a bit about what you’re
working on and what are you most looking forward to?
The second week is more work focused. It’s about building your piece to show. This being the second week, it feels like we have all these tools we can choose to use, but also, it’s like there’s no right way to do it. Whatever way works for you is the way to work.
looking forward to moving and trying things out, even if it does mess up, or it
doesn’t feel correct. It’s been a while since I’ve had the space to make
decisions, so it’s a bit surreal. I always say when I’m teaching a class: if
you find something you don’t like, then you’ve learned that and you know what
direction you want to go in. It’s about having the space to refine what’s
also really looking forward to seeing how I work in the studio with someone
else, whose movement I love and whom I really love working with. But also
seeing how we learn from each other.
a valuable piece of advice you’ve received so far? How has it impacted and
informed your approach to your work?
A bit of advice that was given to me for my own movement by Ivan [Blackstock, choreographer] is to find out what my 100% is. Also, something [choreographer] Jonathan Burrows said about ‘decorating’ your work made me think a lot more about that. How can I decorate my work? How little or how much can I say through movement? I feel like my movement is very slow and internal, so it’s about learning the opposite of what I usually do and not holding back.
you share a personal highlight of the course?
with Saskia, the dancer I’m creating this duet with. She’s such a beautiful
mover and thinker, and sometimes when we’re next to people like that, we can go
into ourselves a bit. We’re always going to see more in other people than we
see in ourselves. Having conversations with Saskia and hearing how she works,
but also what she appreciates in my own movement, has given me that reassurance
in realising what my ‘superpower’ is.
there been any challenges?
through the self-doubt and self-awareness has been on my mind for the last
couple of years. I can look around a room and think ‘Oh, that person is dope
because of this or that’, but I don’t often feel dope for anything. I don’t
know what my ‘thing’ is. I feel more comfortable knowing now that I have accumulated
what I’ve accumulated, and whatever I’ve accumulated is what I am. In a way, we
become a cross-stitch of all our influences and teachers. I am a product of
everyone I’ve ever interacted with and everyone that has taught me before. It’s
been nice to be able to step back and understand that a little bit more on the
are you feeling about the final sharing?
I’m actually not that anxious about it. I definitely feel like there’s a sense of levelling up but knowing that I’m working with Saskia makes me feel less nervous. Having someone in the room to bounce off [ideas] means a lot; it settles my mind.
kind of excited. Of course, [as it happens] inside every artist you want people
to like your work. The purpose of a piece isn’t necessarily to inform, but it
would be nice to know that mine puts the audience in a state of thought. The
work is called Player2 and is very much based on a world of energy, chemical
reactions, magnetism and vibrations. How elements react and come together is a
core part of it. It’s turned into something that is quite scientific, but it uses
science as an analogy for relationships. It would be interesting to see the
piece as a catalyst that gets the audience to think about the people they
you describe the Back To The Lab experience in a few words?
Reassuring. Comfortable. Open. Needed. I’m in London, performing on Saturday at Sadler’s Wells theatre! To know that I’m one of four choreographers whose work is going to be seen is surreal. It’s a great opportunity, but again, I don’t feel the pressure to do it ‘right’. Coming from Birmingham and being a part of something that is as high-profile for the hip-hop dance community as Back To The Lab, I feel even more of a push to represent myself.
Convention presents Back To The Lab is at Sadler’s Wells’ Lilian
Baylis Studio on Saturday 25 January. Tickets are available here.
We’re delighted to announce the launch of our new
young person’s ticket scheme, as part of a major partnership with Barclays.
Barclays Dance Pass offers £10 tickets to 16 to
30-year-olds registered with the scheme for all productions across our venues.
These include Sadler’s Wells Theatre and the Lilian Baylis Studio in Islington,
north London, and The Peacock theatre in the West End. The scheme will also
apply to performances at our new mid-scale venue, opening in Stratford in 2022.
Once registered, Barclays Dance Pass members will be able to purchase two
tickets per production at no extra booking fee cost.
From today at 10am, Barclays Dance Pass holders will be able to book for shows in our Spring 2020 season, including Sadler’s Wells production Message In A Bottle by our Associate Artist Kate Prince, based on the songs of Sting, which runs at The Peacock from 6 February to 21 March. The season also features Drawn Lines, the latest in our Composer series, focusing on Nico Muhly; double bill The Rite of Spring/ common ground[s], a Sadler’s Wells, Pina Bausch Foundation and École des Sables Production; Lloyd Newson’s Enter Achilles, co-produced by Rambert and Sadler’s Wells; and UK premieres of works by Sadler’s Wells Associate Artists Crystal Pite and Michael Keegan Dolan.
To mark the launch of the scheme, Sadler’s Wells is offering the first 10 sign ups a pair of free tickets for the premiere of Message In A Bottle on 19 February.
The scheme makes available 10,000 tickets each year at £10 each, providing a wide range of new audiences with access to ground-breaking work and world-class artists – furthering our mission to make and share dance that inspires us all.
Barclays will also become Associate Partner of
National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) for the next three years. Run by Sadler’s
Wells and funded by the Department for Education and Arts Council England, NYDC
creates and performs innovative and influential dance, bringing together the
brightest talent from across England to work intensively with Sadler’s Wells’
renowned Associate Artists and visiting companies.
Since its creation in 2013, NYDC has worked with
2,800 young dancers, over 80% of whom have gone on to further dance training or
professional work. New support from Barclays extends opportunities for talented
young dancers from all areas and backgrounds to be part of the company and
underlines NYDC’s commitment to artistry and accessibility.
Alistair Spalding, Artistic Director and Chief
Executive of Sadler’s Wells, said:
“Young people are the dance artists
and audiences of the future and we are committed to offering them access to the
best dance from all over the world. I am delighted that our partnership with
Barclays will help us grow the number of 16 to 30-year-olds enjoying our shows,
while supporting young dancers to develop and perform on our stage and across
Tom Corbett, Head of Sponsorship at Barclays, said:
“Barclays is proud to partner with Sadler’s Wells to extend opportunities to young people throughout the country. Over three years, Barclays Dance Pass will give 30,000 young people the opportunity to experience world-class dance at Sadler’s Wells, and our support will enable National Youth Dance Company to provide a diverse, talented group of young artists from across the country an unrivalled opportunity to jump-start their careers.”
We’re thrilled to announce Olive Hardy, Vidya Patel, John-William Watson and Magnus Westwell as our Sadler’s Wells Young Associates for 2020-21.
The artist development programme nurtures choreographers under the age of 25 over the course of two years. As part of it, the four artists will receive a tailored programme of professional development, including support with production time across our studios and theatres, advice and networking opportunities, as well as the opportunity to present their work.
The aim is to help the young artists take the crucial first step into their career as dance makers, enabling them to deepen their understanding of their own practice and gain valuable insight into dance production.
WELCOMING A NEW GENERATION OF DANCE MAKERS
London-born and Bristol-raised, Olive Hardy first started dancing for Rise Youth Dance and has performed with the company for most of her young adulthood. Her training began at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, and she graduated from London Contemporary Dance School in 2019.
She has performed in works by choreographers Samir Kennedy, Leila McMillan, Rick Nodine and Seke Chimutengwende. Olive is interested in delving further into the creative and collaborative process of dance making and hopes to produce work that resonates with the people who experience it.
Vidya Patel comes from Birmingham. Her background is in Kathak, training under the guidance of Sujata Banerjee. After graduating from the Centre of Advanced Training at Birmingham DanceXchange, Vidya took part in the inaugural BBC Young Dancer 2015, where she was selected as the finalist for the South Asian category. She has since performed in international touring works created by critically acclaimed artists Sir Richard Alston, Gary Clarke, Thick & Tight and Akademi.
While continuing her Indian classical dance training, Vidya is looking to develop her own choreographic practice.
Born in Leeds, John-William Watson began his training at Phoenix Dance Theatre’s Youth Academy. During this time, he was also a member of National Youth Dance Company for two years and trained under the artistic direction of Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artists Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Michael Keegan-Dolan.
He then moved to Belgium to study at The Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp. He was selected as the Wild Card finalist in the BBC Young Dancer 2017 competition. Returning to the UK, he is following his creative path within the world of absurd and often comedic dance theatre.
Edinburgh-born interdisciplinary artist Magnus Westwell is a graduate from The Dance School of Scotland and Rambert School, where he was the recipient of a scholarship from the Veronica Bruce Memorial Trust. Magnus works at the intersection of music, movement and visual art. He is interested in placing contemporary performance art in a variety of different settings and his work has been shown at electronic music festivals, in theatres, clubs, churches and on BBC4.
Magnus creates and mixes his own music, drawing inspiration from his background in traditional Scottish fiddle and his interest in left-field electronic music. He is the resident choreographer with multi-media collective SYNTREX.
The Young Associates programme has been nurturing budding dance makers while bringing fresh and exciting new work to the fore since its launch in February 2018. Sadlers’ Wells’ inaugural Young Associates 2018-19 – Anthony Matsena, Wilhelmina Ojanen, Ruby Portus and Christopher Thomas – completed the programme in December. All continue to work on exciting upcoming projects, adding their talents to a new artistic generation of dance makers.
National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) and hip hop theatre company Far From The Norm joined forces with Norfolk Museums Service to mark the launch of Norwich Castle’s four-year renovation project with a site-specific performance.
Made by and for young people, Fight or Flight combined a variety of movement languages including contemporary dance, hip hop, capoeira and choreographed combat to reflect on the physiological state known as the fight-or-flight response.
NYDC dancers Mollie Stebbing and Sekou Diaby worked with local dance groups – including Capoeira Communities, Knight’s Tower Medieval Combat, The Garage, in-house dance company Passion Productions and inclusive dance group In Cahoots – to share movement language from MADHEAD, choreographed by NYDC 2018-19 Guest Artistic Director Botis Seva. They were helped by Victoria Shulungu and Jordan Douglas, members of Seva’s company Far From The Norm.
Their visit to Norwich served as inspiration for each partner organisation to choreograph their own, seven-minute interpretation of the fight-or-flight theme. The performance brought together these individual sections, with each group handing over to the next one, culminating in a finale where they all performed repertoire from MADHEAD together with members of NYDC.
Bringing together local and national creative partners to showcase the unique ways in which different movement practices can co-exist within the walls of the 900-year-old historic building, Fight or Flight celebrated the castle’s historic past and impending transformation. Children and young people from a diverse range of backgrounds took part in the performance, which attracted hundreds of visitors over two showings.
Over a decade after its world premiere on our stage in May 2008, Sutra is one of Sadler’s Wells’ most successful and longest running productions.
The award-winning work – a collaboration between our Associate Artist Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, sculptor Antony Gormley and 19 Buddhist monks from the Shaolin Temple in China –- has captured the hearts and imaginations of people the world over, visiting 70 cities in 34 countries. It has been enjoyed by audiences of over 250,000 across the globe, proving that whatever one’s cultural frame of reference or artistic lens, the production tells a story that everyone can to relate to.
This year marked significant milestones: Sidi Larbi opened Sutra’s summer tour in August with performances in cities across Greece, Italy, Germany and Turkey. Celebrating its 11th anniversary, the show also reached its 250th performance and is going to have its Chinese premiere in Shanghai in November. We look at Sutra’s enduring legacy to discover what makes this production so special.
1. The production
Set within a contemporary context, Sutra explores the philosophy and faith behind the Shaolin tradition, as well as the core principles and ideals of Buddhism. The production delves into themes that are at the same time specific to that belief system and universal in the way they resonate with people the world over: the interconnectedness of mind, body and soul; the unity between the individual and the collective; the humanistic quest for harmony with one’s natural surroundings. Choreographed by Cherkaoui, it features an original score by his long-time collaborator and composer Szymon Brzóska.
The practices of the warrior monks of the Shaolin Temple have long been a source of fascination for the Belgian-Moroccan choreographer, predating Sutra’s creation and stemming back to his childhood. “I was inspired by their understanding of movement,” he says. “Their complete identification with the world around them, that amazing ability to become the essence of a tiger, a crane or a snake; to transform energy from cold to warm, yin to yang.”
Perhaps part of the beauty of Sutra lies in the bond between Cherkaoui and the monks. Sharing no common language other than a deep respect for each other’s’ movement vocabulary, they engage in a dialogue that transcends cultural, linguistic and artistic borders – inviting all who watch it to embark on an exhilarating journey into the worlds of kung fu, contemporary dance, martial arts and visual art.
Huang Jia Hao – Master of the Shaolin Temple and rehearsal director for Sutra – has been an original cast member since the first ever performance and leads and trains the monks.
“The most special thing about Sutra is that it is not just about one culture or people. It is not just about Western culture or just about Chinese culture and kung fu – it is about mixing the two” he explains.
2. The cast
The title Sutra comes from the Pali word sutta, a collective term for the sermons of Buddha. In Sanskrit, the word translates as ‘string’, ‘thread’, or ‘measure of straightness’. Sutra is also a generic term for rules – in Hinduism, ‘sutras’ laid down the guidelines for proper conduct in life.
It follows then that the cast of Sutra observe a strict Buddhist doctrine that demands a considerable level of mental, physical and spiritual discipline and rigor, with kung fu and Tai Chi martial arts forming an integral part of their daily practice. The performers are all Buddhist monks from the original Shaolin Temple, situated near Songshan Mountain in the Henan Province of China. It was established in 495AD by monks originating from India.
Jia Hao says:“Sutra is an original piece featuring the original monks from the Shaolin Temple. This explains why the show has been so popular with people around the world; this is not something that is available to people on a daily basis, so it is a special thing to witness.”
Since 2008, over 30 monks have taken part in the production. Young monks from the Sutra premiere have returned to the production as adults. With the exception of Lead Monk Jia Hao, the current tour consists of a completely new cast of monks. This year also sees the youngest cast in Sutra’s history, with a total of 16 young monks joining the production.
3. The set
‘Nothing is lost: it just changes form.’ This mantra is central to the Buddhist philosophy and one that Sutra’s striking and unique set design lives by. Designed by Antony Gormley, the set features 21 wooden, human-sized boxes that the monks push, drag and manipulate across the stage in a breath-taking display of athleticism and skill.
Each box represents a world of endless metamorphic possibilities, changing form and function: from bed to coffin, pillar and portal. For Gormley, the boxes convey a central theme of how “the mind is housed in the body, and the body in the architectural space – the second body.”
“Kung fu is not designed to be a stage show or performance” Jia Hao explains. “Neither is it something that you perform with props or boxes as we do in the show, so this has been an interesting challenge to overcome. The biggest difficulty is performing kung fu to music. Kung fu movement is something that is very personal to every monk, and yet everything needs to be done in unison. I think Sutra’s success is a testament to the hard work of the show’s director and, of course, Sadler’s Wells.”
On the legacy of the show, Sadler’s Wells’ Executive Producer Suzanne Walker said: “When we first premiered Sutra, no one could have imagined it would become such a global and enduring success. It’s been an incredible journey of discovery for everyone involved.”
“In Sutra, we’ve seen the potential of dance to find connections with other cultures through a shared language of movement. It has been as much about this legacy as it has been about the family created along the way: from the artists and musicians to the technicians and producers, who have come back to tour time and time again.”
More information about Sutra on tour is available here.
Six hip hop artists enjoyed a week of experimentation, creation and refinement of their practice under the mentorship of leading choreographers, theatre makers and dramaturgs as part of the latest Open Art Surgery course this month.
Delivered by Sadler’s Wells’ Breakin’ Convention team, the artist development programme involved hip hop artists from a diverse range of backgrounds, from dance and physical theatre to spoken word and design, in a series of intensive workshops to devise and develop new work.
With no pressure on them to come up with a finished piece as an outcome, the artists presented their work in progress at a public sharing at the end of the week. This unique format invites the audience to get inside the mind of the artists and to give them feedback, while offering artists a platform to take creative risks and test out new ideas.
We speak to hip hop choreographer and Open Art Surgery mentor Ivan Blackstock, delving into a day in the life of the artist development programme.
What does a typical day at Open Art Surgery look like?
A day in the life of Open Art Surgery sees the artists in the space. Mentors usually pop in every two to three hours just to see how they’re doing. It also involves giving artists the time and space to just be, which is very rare for a lot of them. What Breakin’ Convention tries to do is give the artists enough time to get in a good mental space before the mentors, come in and add, influence… or disrupt (laughs).
A lot of the artists are at different artistic stages: you have professional makers who are creating work already. Then you have the street and hip-hop dancers that have never touched theatre before. Then there’s this added layer of different artists, who range from beatboxers to emcees and writers. It ends up being quite a diverse lineup throughout the week. Where we come in is we see where they’re at, and how we can get them to where they need to be. When they need any guidance, we’re here.
For a lot of the artists, Saturday [the showcase day] can seem like doomsday, but we just have to remind them that everything’s going to be alright; the nerves, the uncertainty, it’s all part of the process. The truth is that even on the day of the performance it’s still a work in progress. I always say there’s ‘Phase 1’, and it’s completely up to you how many phases you want to go through. There is no rush to finish great work.
How would you describe your approach to working with the
The thing that’s amazing about Open Art Surgery is that there are different mentors for different needs and wants. I like to approach the work when there is something to look at. Aesthetic and design – those are the things I love to discover and seek out. Then you have Anthony [Ekundayo Lennon, another mentor] who deals more with the drama and conflict. Jonzi [mentor and Artistic Director of Breakin’ Convention] obviously has multiple skills. We now have new mentors joining, who are also bringing new areas of expertise.
My approach is quite simple. I don’t like influencing the artists too early. I want to see where they’re at and what they’re saying for themselves, and then penetrate the layers. I’m not trying to make the layers for them. Each time I do it, it’s a thing where I come in as ‘bad cop’ – I think you need the mentor who is gonna be a little bit harder. That’s what helped me progress as an artist. We don’t wrap anyone in cotton wool because in our eyes, everyone is the same. Everyone is equal.
What are the ingredients for a strong piece or performance?
important. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the obvious technique we know sits
in that particular style. For me, it’s more about skill. How sharp is your
pencil? That’s what’s really interesting to me.
I think performance is equally important. How much are you willing to go and discover? How much are you willing to excavate a character? Performance can be seen as one-dimensional, but as human beings we have many different flavours within us. I personally get excited when I see more of an emotional journey in a performance.
Another thing I always say to the artists is to “make it lit”. What I mean by that is this X factor, this thing that isn’t explainable, that makes the piece go above and beyond. The more you make and explore as an artist, the more you start to find that thing, that language. Sometimes I don’t even need technique – I just need you to be within the work and show me how you can tell this story by being raw as hell. The way you execute a strong performance is finding a way to incorporate all of these things into one. That’s what’s really going to tickle my chakras (laughs).
Is there anything in particular that you’d like to see brought out of the artists and their work this year?
Confidence. As artists, we all have self-doubt. Sometimes we don’t believe in our work or believe that it’s good enough. It can be quite lonely. As a mentee on the programme, you’re not by yourself. Likewise, as mentors, we’re not telling them what to do. We’re saying: “Let’s find a way to take the idea out of your head and action it.” Write it on paper. Record your voice. Record a phrase. Whatever it takes. It’s about putting your concept or your idea in different parts of your being, beyond the cerebral. When I’ve seen artists open themselves up to the process and start to build something, I’ve watched their confidence grow as a result, because they start to see their work from all these different angles.
What are the best aspects of being a mentor?
With Open Art Surgery, so many different types of artists walk through that door. Hearing all of their stories and perspectives and seeing how they approach and grow from those stories. Or seeing people who have never done hip hop theatre before, coming out of the process like “this is what I want to do.” Or someone who might be autistic, who never really had an opportunity to say how they feel or the platform to express themselves. This is why I do it. It humbles you: you realise that it’s not about you, it’s about them. Working on projects like this helps me look at the world differently, you know? By the end of it, I’m so chuffed and pleased for everyone.
What, if any, are the challenges?
Making sure I have enough tools and using them wisely to help an artist. Sometimes an artist might need help in an area, and you don’t really have an idea of how to approach that task in that moment. Also, I’d say knowing how to problem solve both inside and outside the room. As mentors, our brains are still ticking over, long after a session finishes. We’re trying to figure out how we ease the artists’ process. What’s really interesting and fun is that we’re all going on a journey. There’s much learning and community in that process.
How do you see the relationship between hip hop and
Hip hop and theatre – the relationship has always been there. You see it in old school movies like Breakin’ – at the end of it, it’s a theatre show. You’ll find that most of the newer dance films end in a full theatrical production. You can see the lineage throughout the eras, from jazz to the Harlem Renaissance. There is no debate. Personally, in my work, I like to give people the energy of hip hop and street culture, because I think both are very exciting. There’s something that hip hop does – I call it ‘edutainment’ [education and entertainment]. It’s exciting, it’s new, it’s fresh, but it’s also saying something.
Why are artist development programmes like Open Art Surgery important to hip hop in particular?
Not everyone from the hip hop dance realm wants to battle, or dance behind an artist. For most hip hop artists, our first port of call is to make a little show. It’s really important because we don’t have any conservatoires or vocational schools for hip hop. When I started out as a professional theatre maker, doing Back to The Lab [another artist development course delivered by the Breakin’ Convention team] and Open Art Surgery was the best thing for me. I got to schedule my own time, meet some great people and bring mentors into the process with me who understood my vision, ideas and helped me get to the next level.
That’s another great thing with Breakin’ Convention: once you become involved in their events and projects, you become part of the family. Then you realise that the family is a lot wider; they’re connected to the battle scene still, they’re connected to theatre, advertising and TV. You can take all the skills and ideas from the programme and transfer them to other areas.
Open Art Surgery is for people that are interested in going down the long-term route. With hip hop dancers, we’re in a constant rush: you only have a space for two hours, or you don’t have a space, so you’re doing a quick session in the street before it rains. This is an opportunity to experience an actual creative process.
How would you describe Open Art Surgery, both the process and the final sharing, in three words?
Thought provoking. Insightful. Raw.
Header image: Owen Ling
Images throughout: Dave Barros
Breakin’ Convention is an integral part of Sadler’s Wells’ artistic programme. Open Art Surgery launches its first-ever programme in Wales in collaboration with Avant Cymru, which takes place in Wrexham on 10-14 February. Find more information here.