Whacking with Gemma. Photo: David Parry
Hosted by NuProjeks and Signature Dance Studios, Dance Aid Day supports Dance Aid, a charity that aims to help orphaned, exploited and disadvantaged children in the UK and developing countries, all through a common love of dance. They also aim to bring dance opportunities to adults and young people who may not have the opportunity to access workshops and events otherwise. The event brought together world class choreographers from all over the UK, all of whom gave up their time for free.
NuProjeks, headed by creative director Rebekah Roberts, put on the event in collaboration with newly opened Signature Dance Studios’ Joanne Marshallsay. Both Jo and Rebekah are very keen to bring opportunities to people in Nottingham– for example, bringing in skilled choreographers who normally only teach in prestigious London dance schools. “And not just good dancers”, Jo added, “but dancers who can teach.” NuProjeks organises a wide range of dance-related projects: theatre shows, battles, and opportunities for dancers to further their skills – DanceAid Dance Day was just one of their events and from what we saw, it was a storming success.
Heading up the stairs to the studio on the day, I knew what I wanted to see, but the vibrant atmosphere in the studios exceeded all expectations. The two studios hosting classes were in full swing, and those who were having a break from the packed 9am – 9pm schedule were mostly hanging through the door frames, clapping and moving to the music themselves. The line-up was impressive: Frankie J, a member of Plague (two times world hip-hop champions); Gemma, a vogue and whacking teacher who trained in New York; Sophie, a hip-hop teacher from Sweden; girl break/contemporary group Fran, Laura and Rachel making up Subtext; the list goes on. All of the choreographers brought something new to the table. Perhaps it is a style many haven’t heard of – Subtext’s fusion of break and contemporary for example, which Fran from the group says was a result of their mix of backgrounds in contemporary and breakdancing and just “throwing it all in there”. But more importantly, it is the dialogue that the teachers bring that make the day so exciting.
Improv/freestyle with Rebekah. Photo: David Parry
The choreographers there proved that teaching doesn’t have to mean preaching, and there was a constant refreshing mutual interaction between students and teachers, with the teachers obviously being inspired too. In fact, teachers learn from teachers, as choreographers took classes when they weren’t teaching themselves. The day seemed to show that dance doesn’t have to be taught in an uptight studio and lessons overran as teachers forget the time.
I joined in the abstract hip-hop class, taught by London based Botis. Abstract hip-hop is a much more expressive counter-part of hip-hop, with a focus on shapes and experimentation. Botis calls this “finding different ways of telling your body how to move”, or “finding what you do normally, and doing the opposite.” The class was new and fresh, with some sections set to bare piano music reminiscent of Mozart’s Moonlight Sonata, with moves so fluid they made the dancers appear as if they were floating through invisible water, footsteps soft and silent. At the end of the class, one girl remarked “why don’t you teach in Nottingham?” “Because I live in London”, Botis laughed – it was clear that everyone there wished he didn’t.
Hip-hop with Sophie. Photo: David Parry
Sophie’s hip-hop class next door was somewhat different: insanely fast and bursting with fierce, strong moves. The energy was electric and I had to fight my way to the door to catch a glimpse. Sophie became aware of Dance Aid when she saw someone wearing a band in London, and wondered what role they played. By happy coincidence, Rebekah contacted her just a few weeks later, and she was all too keen to get involved – she remarked, “for me, it’s easy because it’s all love, I get by giving, get by teaching. Little things go a long way – everyone should give a little bit, even if it’s just love.” Her enthusiasm is contagious, and I bought a band, vowing to wear it in the hope that I inspire another Sophie.
The day was altogether inspiring. The confidence of the young people, fuelled by the teachers is almost overwhelming, and the creative and dynamic scene that events like this carve out in Nottingham doesn’t seem set to subside any time soon.
DanceAid Dance Day was on Saturday 6 October.
Dance Aid website