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The Ageless Quality of Dance

Sadler’s Wells’ pioneering Company of Elders – whose dancers range from 60 to 89 years old – has been pushing the boundaries of dance for over 20 years. The dancers’ powerful performances in the UK and internationally have inspired similar companies to be created around the country, offering more and more people in later life a chance to dance. In this interview with The Elder, Sadler’s Wells’ Director of Learning and Engagement Joce Giles talks about the ageless quality of dance, the power of performance and the importance of challenging perceptions of what people can achieve and do in later life.

When and why was the Company of Elders set up?

The Company of Elders dates back to 1989. Back then, Sadler’s Wells started an arts club for older adults, and through that programme, workshops were held with visiting companies. Out of that, some ad hoc performances were organised for anyone in that group who was interested. That just snowballed, and by 1992 the Company of Elders was formed as a proper group.

The Company of Elders actually predates the current building at Sadler’s Wells, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and really it’s at the heart of how the organisation has grown over the last three decades.

I’ve been in my role at Sadler’s Wells for just over a year and a half, but I had been aware of Company of Elders for many years before that. I have always worked in dance, and the company really captured people’s imagination in the dance sector. When its dancers first performed they were pioneers – nothing else existed like that. Now groups inspired by the company have sprung up around the UK and internationally.

Is the Company of Elders made up of former professional dancers?

There are no professional dancers in the group. They come from a range of different backgrounds; some may have danced when they were younger, and this is a chance to reconnect with that. For others, dance is something they have taken up since retiring. The age range is people over 60 – but within that, there are dancers in their late 80s.

At Sadler’s Wells, we want to present dance in all its different styles, and for that to be reflected in the work that we do with programmes such as Company of Elders. So along with contemporary choreographers, the dancers have worked with hip-hop choreographers and people who work in South Asian dance styles, for example – they are very versatile.

Is there anything different about dance in later life?

Obviously there are some physical considerations, but actually, we ask the choreographers to come in and give a true sense of their work – and not to hold back. Company members are always clear to say if anything needs to be adapted for them – they want to be challenged.

I think one of the main considerations though is communication; speaking up if people have difficulty hearing, repeating information and maybe taking a bit more time to go through the movements.

In dance, we are used to seeing young performers at the height of their physical capability – and that’s fantastic to witness. But I think there’s something that an older performer, non-professional or professional, brings to the stage, that only they can – and that has a different quality. The presence that they bring to the stage is something that audiences find very powerful.

Read the full interview on The Elder website.

Company of Elders perform in the Lilian Baylis Studio on Friday 6 July (sold out).

Photos: Company of Elders in rehearsal (c) Johan Persson

Sadler’s Wells joins the Great Get Together in the Olympic Park

Sadler’s Wells took over the Music and Dance Stage at Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park last Sunday for the Great Get Together. In this verdant spot in east London, among a variety of music, dancing, workshops and activities to engage the local communities, Sadler’s Wells presented a series of shows, including two performances of IZINDAVA, a performance and workshop from Casson and Friends, and a full programme from our Breakin’ Convention team.

Inspired by the memory of Jo Cox MP and supported by the Jo Cox foundation, the Great Get Together is an annual, nationwide initiative celebrating connections and commonalities among people through the setting up of free, community events.

IZINDAVA, performed by Tavaziva, was a synthesis of ballet, contemporary and African dance. The personal piece from Bawren Tavaziva’s company communicated a message about human fragility within a changing world, and the healing and redemptive power of music and dance. Extraordinary sculptural costumes and the intricate movements of the dancers had audiences enthralled.

Later in the afternoon, we presented Casson and Friends with The Dance WE Made, an interactive performance that saw the company collect dance moves contributed from the public over the course of the afternoon. This culminated in a wonderfully expressive piece, in which there was not one choreographer, but many. The dancers from Casson and Friends then led a free workshop, in which participants joined in pairs and devised dance moves based on – among other things – what they had for breakfast, their favourite party moves and a choice photographic pose. This was a particularly enjoyable half-hour, when open participation created a piece from the ground up.

Throughout the day, our Breakin’ Convention team staffed a pavilion where a variety of performances and workshops showcased different facets of hip hop culture, with a particular focus on engaging young people. Attendees could try their hand at graffiti, freestyle dance and rap. A popular highlight was the showcase from local schools that were part of Breakin’ Convention’s Moving Rap project, which over the course of two months saw pupils from eight east London schools combine spoken word, rap and dance into a performance piece. The result was a display of talent with impressive energy that drew in a huge crowd. Many congratulations to the students of Willowfields, Lister, St. Angela Ursuline, Our Lady’s Convent, Chobham Academy, Langdon Park, Rushcroft and Stormont House for their excellent work!

Other activities across the park included a storytelling tent, which captivated young audiences with readings from Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s Also an Octopus and Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffer’s Monkey Puzzle. Face painting stalls ensured there were a variety of decorated animals in among the guests. And the East Bank creative and engineering area offered interactive workshops led by University College London, the University of the Arts London’s London College of Fashion and architects Allies and Morrison.

Both UCL and UAL’s London College of Fashion are among our partners in the new, world-leading cultural and educational district that is being developed in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Sadler’s Wells will develop a new, mid-scale venue on the Stratford Waterfront site, where our building will be alongside new spaces for the BBC, the London College of Fashion and the V&A, in a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. For those interested in learning more, join us at Here East on 22 July for Open Doors: Vote 100, the first event devised and delivered in tandem with all our partners in the project, celebrating 100 years of women’s suffrage with performances, talks and activities.

The Great Get Together was a resounding success. The beautiful sunshine provided an ideal backdrop, as the local communities’ enthusiastic participation in the programme provided a perfect example of how we have much more in common than what divides us.

Follow the links for more information about the Jo Cox Foundation and the Great Get Together

Two young attendees try their hand at a graffiti workshop. Photograph: Alexander Peel.

A teacher’s perspective on our Associate Schools scheme

Sadler’s Wells works closely with a number of local schools in north and east London, with the aim of widening participation in the arts for young people by integrating dance into their education. Our Learning & Engagement team devises a bespoke programme of workshops and events for each of the 12 Associate Schools, so that students can benefit from classes and talks by dance professionals, and their teachers are supported in delivering dance as part of the curriculum.

Here, Carolyn Wells – Head of the Performance and PE Faculty at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School in Islington – speaks about her experience of our Associate Schools scheme:

“As a dance teacher, I am a great believer in the importance of the arts in education and the lasting, positive impact they have on young people. It’s all about experiences, in the classroom and beyond. It has been an absolute joy to be an Associate School with Sadler’s Wells, and the scheme’s ethos goes hand-in-hand with the ethos of the dance department here at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School (EGA).

We officially became an Associate School of Sadler’s Wells in the summer of 2017 and when term began in September, the opportunities that the dance department and our students have received have been second to none – and we haven’t even finished the school year yet! As part of the scheme, EGA students took part in a workshop with Rambert, Britain’s oldest dance company, to aid with their study of A Linha Curva for GCSE. Oh – and not forgetting to mention this was on the main stage! That’s right, our girls have trodden the same boards as world-renowned dance companies, choreographers and artists. The very next day we returned to watch Rambert’s matinée performance of A Linha Curva, and other works. The ability to see professionals perform what our students had learnt on the same stage truly brought learning to life.

Later, we had the opportunity to attend an audition for Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artist Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures. This resulted in 11 of our students working with the company dancers and other school pupils to create a curtain raiser piece that was performed during the run of New Adventures’ Cinderella. It was such a special and unforgettable moment for the girls involved.

More recently, Sadler’s Wells’ Director of Technical & Production Emma Wilson and her team came into school to help us to ‘make sense’ of our lighting and sound system in our school theatre space. So thanks to a world-class and very friendly team of technicians, it’s all working much better now.

I’m so pleased we’ve had the opportunity to forge this partnership with Sadler’s Wells and their education coordinator Sara Daniels. I can’t wait to see where it leads.”

Over 60s Get Creative with dance workshop

A group of over 60s enjoyed learning new dance moves at Sadler’s Wells as part of the Get Creative Festival 2018.

Motionhouse Rehearsal Director Junior Cunningham led a free workshop in the theatre’s Rosebery room as part of the nationwide celebration of art and creativity. Thirty people joined him to try out some moves inspired by Charge, the company’s latest production currently showing at The Peacock, Sadler’s Wells’ West End venue. After warming up and contact improvisation exercises, participants learned a dance sequence that was then performed to music. You can watch a clip of them in action here

Motionhouse create and tour a wide range of inspiring and powerful dance-circus productions to theatres and festivals in the UK and across the globe. The company’s distinctive, highly physical style integrates elements of circus and acrobatics with breath-taking dance and digital imagery to surprise and delight audiences.

Originally from Birmingham, Junior was encouraged to study contemporary dance by his sister when he was 17. He joined the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in 1999 and graduated in 2002 with a BPA (Hons) Degree in Contemporary Dance. Soon afterwards, he joined Motionhouse as an apprentice, before becoming a full-time member of the company the following year. He has since performed in a number of Motionhouse productions, including Broken and Scattered, which we presented at The Peacock in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Sadler’s Wells also presented a performance of Motionhouse’s Captive – a blend of dance, acrobatics and aerial work set inside a large cage – as part of the Big Lunch in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in June 2016. The family-friendly day attracted over 8,000 people.

Taking place between 17 and 25 March, the Get Creative Festival encourages people to try their hand at something new and creative. The annual festival is a merger of the previous Get Creative Weekend and Voluntary Arts Festival – now joined together to make one huge nationwide event.

Get Creative Festival is brought to you by arts and creative organisations and individuals across the UK and is supported by 64 Million Artists, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales, the BBC, Crafts Council, Creative People and Places, Creative Scotland, Family Arts Campaign, Fun Palaces, Voluntary Arts, and the What Next? movement.

 

Sadler’s Wells has a Big Lunch in the Park

On Sunday 5 June, Sadler’s Wells joined  the Big Lunch celebrations by presenting dance to a large audience in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Over 8,000 people took part in the Big Lunch in the Park event in east London, enjoying a picnic, performances and free activities for all the family.

As part of the day, Sadler’s Wells presented a performance of Motionhouse’s Captive, an exciting blend of dance, acrobatics and aerial work set inside a large cage.

Sadler’s Wells hosts EU referendum debate

In the run up to the EU referendum on 23 June, we invited four high-profile speakers to make their case in a public debate at Sadler’s Wells on 23 May.

Former Deputy Mayor for Culture Munira Mirza and Dr Peter Chadha, Deputy Chairman of Business for Britain, London, argued for Brexit, while Shadow Leader of the House of Commons Chris Bryant MP and barrister and Women’s Equality Party candidate Harini Iyengar explained why they believe the UK is stronger in the EU.

The free event – moderated by Financial Times commentator and Chatham House fellow Quentin Peel and attended by nearly 100 people – gave the audience an opportunity to hear arguments both in support of and against British membership of the EU, and ask questions to the panellists on the impact of a potential Brexit on issues such as trade, immigration and the arts.

National Youth Dance Company celebrates Get Creative Day at Sadler’s Wells

On 2 April, hundreds of arts and cultural organisations in the UK marked Get Creative Day. Part of the BBC’s Get Creative campaign, the event celebrated and encouraged participation in arts, culture and creativity across the country. At Sadler’s Wells, National Youth Dance Company members invited people to join them in the foyer for a group improvisation. Audiences, many of them children and young people, danced along or simply travelled with the dancers as they performed throughout the building. A measure of the success of the day was the transition of some visitors from shy spectators to enthusiastic participants – from entering the building, in the space of less than half an hour they were jumping, crawling, clapping and moving with the 40 NYDC dancers.

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The company also offered the public the opportunity to learn a sequence inspired by its new work In – Nocentes, created by leading choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan, which had its world premiere at Sadler’s Wells on 7 April. NYDC is jointly funded by Arts Council England and the Department for Education from the National Lottery and Grant in Aids funds.

 

Images: National Youth Dance Company dancers lead the group improvisation at Sadler’s Wells.

New community engagement scheme offers Islington residents dance for £3

Creative innovation and collaboration are at the heart of Sadler’s Wells. chaussures timberland Alongside nurturing creative talent and bringing new and bold dance work on our stage, we are committed to providing accessible routes to our programme and strive to engage with people who would not otherwise come to our venues or participate in dance. nike air max 2017 pas cher As part of this commitment, in November we launched Get into Dance – a new community engagement scheme designed to reach residents in low-income households in Islington, the north London borough Sadler’s Wells is located in. https://www.fjallravenkankensale.de/ Working in collaboration with 20 partner organisations and charities that support local residents, Get into Dance aims to welcome new audiences by offering more than 3,300 tickets to an exciting range of performances for just £3 through referrals via our partners. ugg bottes Fiona Ross, Director of Community and Engagement described why the launch of scheme is so important on London Live. Through the scheme we also aim to: – Highlight employment opportunities at Sadler’s Wells and The Peacock; – Invite local residents to career open days, rehearsals, backstage tours and events; – Encourage residents to join participation projects and take part in community productions.

Sadler’s Wells hosts pre-election hustings

In the run up to the general election in May, Sadler’s Wells has invited all candidates standing to be elected for Islington South and Finsbury to participate in a public meeting with the local community.

The event is a unique opportunity for those who live and work in the constituency to meet the local party candidates, raise concerns and ask questions during a live debate. Architect and chair of the Islington Society David Gibson will chair the conversation and give each candidate an opportunity to answer the questions put to them by audience members.

Join the hustings for a chance to question the party candidates and hear what they have to say about the issues that matter to you, from housing to education, jobs, sustainability, safety and the cost of living.

The candidates for Islington South and Finsbury are: Charlie Kiss (Green Party), Dr Mark Lim (Conservative Party), Pete Muswell (UK Independence Party), Terry Stacy (Liberal Democrat party) and Emily Thornberry (Labour).

The event will take place on Monday 13 April in the Lilian Baylis Studio at 7pm. Admission is free but strictly by ticket only. Call the Ticket Office on 0844 412 4300 to register for a place. Seats will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. To submit a question, email hustings@sadlerswells.com. A number of questions will be selected to be put to the party candidates during the event.

The hustings is held in collaboration with the Islington Gazette.

 

Photo: Lucy White