If it’s not possible to take an audience and a troop of new young dance performers to Jamaica then we shall bring Jamaica into the theatre in Manchester!
We did it. On the 23rd February at Manchester’s Contact theatre we saw young dancers from across West Yorkshire dance with the Jamaican young dancers through telepresence.
It was raw, live performance where the audience saw a dialogue unfold as the young dancers in each country shared their styles and asked each other about their experience of dance and what it meant to them. For many of the dancers it was their first time in front of an audience and for others it was the first time they had had the opportunity to share their story with people from a completely different cultural background. The medium of contemporary dance provided the stage for the conversation to happen.
When asked whether it had changed his thoughts about meeting people from other cultures one of the young dancers answered:
“Yes, it really has, now I want to go abroad and meet new people, I feel more confident in my outlook”.
It started out as an idea between two directors of Outta Place, a radical non-profit organisation which aims to connect and empower young people through the application of digital and performing arts.
Clare Donegan, Artisitic Director of Outta Place approached Lesley Welsh of Manifesto JA when visiting Kingston, Jamaica in July 2012. A partnership was formed and the idea was further developed. The Dance Dialogue was born! From this an initial streaming event connecting Kingston and Yorkshire was held on December the 15th, 2012 and a series of workshops were held for young people in both Kingston, Jamaica and Halifax, West Yorkshire.
The culmination of all the hard work in workshops and preparation for everyone involved was this dramatic event which had the audience on the edge of their seat as the young people created a special connection across the Atlantic ocean.
One of the young Halifax dancers said:
“I felt really nervous at first during the workshops but then as it went on I got much more confident about dancing with other people… …I have learnt from this experience, I feel I understand the Jamaican culture better and its people”.
A Jamaican young person stated:
“We have never experience anything like this, it has been incrediably inspiring. We have learnt a new dance style and began a conversation with our new British friends. We are very grateful to Outta Place for bringing this project to Jamaica”.
Accompanying the young Halifax dancers on stage was a group of young dancers from the organisation Dance United Yorkshire. This ambitious social enterprise aims to see more young people in Yorkshire transform their lives through dance; prepare young people for adulthood, enable them to be socially aware of their responsibilities and realise their potential for a positive future.
This was preceded by a spectacular dance by Pheonix Dance Company based in Leeds which took the audience breath away.
At the end of the night the audience had seen some fantastic contemporary dance from young people in Kingston, Jamaica and Yorkshire and watched a connection be made that will be remembered by the young people involved for the rest of their lives. It was a truly unique performance and more importantly was empowering and life changing for some of the young people participating.
A well deserved bow by all, brilliant effort from all the youth!!!
This project is funded by the Arts Council England and the British Council.