WORKSHOPS AND ENGAGEMENT ACTIVITY
Alongside the touring activities The Dancing Club team ran a series of workshops and engagement work. Activities were designed in partnership with each venue, responding to their specific audiences, community relationships and priorities in a bespoke manner. Some sessions were dance based, and led either by our skilled choreographer and some of our talented team of performers. Other workshops focused on stories that resonant with the themes of the production, or the writing and development of the work.
All workshops were free to attend. You can see a summary of this activity below.
Kidderminster College opened its doors to the company and creatives of this production as well as their theatre space to two sell out shows.
Caroline Jester ran a workshop for students at the college as it boasts an impressive performing arts programme. Students used the model of ‘The Dancing Club’ of finding stories from the world around you to come up with ideas for new plays and ideas explored ranged from theatres closing in Dudley to responses to #MeToo.
The reception worked as box office for this show and became involved in the story of the play as they recounted the tales they were told from people booking the tickets about their connection with Frank and Wynn Freeman.
Hear from receptionist Cameron about this experience:
Kidderminster Male Choir
Kidderminster Male Choir is an award winning choir at a national level and we wanted to capture some of this magic in the production so the choir with its 50 members recorded a special recording of ‘Lord of the Dance’ to be used on the tour.
See the video about this recording:
Clungunford Village Hall
The performance at this venue had to be cancelled because the Beast from the East forced the company to turn back on their journey there and push the van up hills as the snow came down with a vengeance.
Caroline Jester had already visited the venue a few weeks previously though to capture the very special story of how dance has held this community together for over 50 years. Dancing takes place almost every Saturday at 9.30pm with people coming from across the Welsh border and over the Clee Hills to dance to live music. But what we discovered is that again it is the people behind the space that make it special.
Listen to an interview with Bert Bason MBE who is the man behind keeping Clungunford Village Hall a place to dance (amongst other things) for so long. He was awarded an MBE for his services to his community
The Artrix, Bromsgrove
The Artrix was our largest auditorium to fill. It is an arts centre in Bromsgrove that has an impressive programme of events, performances and classes as well as being a hub within its community for youth theatres and accessible areas for early years.
Artrix Director, Hannah Phillips, introduced us to the dance workshop leaders and pilates instructors so we could have a dialogue with the people who use the space and their connection with dancing together began.
Our choreographer Steve Elias ran a workshop to a packed crowd and taught them a dance routine from the production as well as introducing them to what attracted him to dance and the hidden Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers in everyone was unleashed. But it was the disco routine that transformed the foyer into a dance space after the show. Ticket sales shot up and with a crowd of 200 trying to fit into the foyer to dance an exhilarating evening followed.
Workshops led to plenty of post show dancing at many of the venues, you can see some examples here:
Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton
Christine McGowan, the Centre Manager at Newhampton Arts Centre might be about to retire but her work will live on with more security for the community it serves following her exceptional work over twenty years to reach NPO (National Portfolio Organisation) from Arts Council England. This is credit to her work and her team providing round the clock workshops, space and live events for the community of Wolverhampton and beyond. It seems there’s a recurring theme of individuals dedicated many years to the place and space they provide to serve their communities.
Steve Elias ran a workshop with the participants to unleash their individuality in a dance workshop prior to the performance.
Watch a film created by local artist Vimal Korpal about the workshops at Newhampton here:
Angel Centre, Worcester
A meeting with Rose Beeston, Director of Dancefest based at the Angel Centre in Worcester convinced us that we had to hire the centre for a performance in Worcester. This provided more thinking in terms of connecting people with the production because this wasn’t a formal partnership with a venue that has an exciting audience to connect with.
Dancefest exists to enable anyone to experience the joy of dance and provides regular classes, events and workshops across Hereford and Worcestershire. Information about the production was promoted via Dancefest and participants were also invited to a dance workshop with Steve Elias.
Dr Jane George, Head of Theatre and Film at Worcester University saw a potential link with the creation and production of this with her students on the innovative Touring Theatre MTheatre course. Caroline Jester met the students who interviewed her on practice and the development of The Dancing Club’and they supported the production by marketing this within the university and the wider community of Worcester. They also came to the workshops led by Steve and an intergenerational dance workshop took place at Worcester Arts Workshops.
Worcester Arts Workshop has its own story to tell as being a space that provides creative opportunities across artforms and a space to connect with others. Sarah Cotterill allowed us to tap into some of this magic energy as the space was packed with dancing.