When it comes to performing innovative and exciting performances, Next Door Dance know how to bring the fun. Made up of four women based in Nottingham, they put on shows both within the community and around the country. We spoke to members Laura Savage and Jennifer Manderson about the group’s past work, their upcoming stint at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and what the future holds...
“Next Door Dance was born out of the fact we were all working regularly together as freelancers, so we were being brought together by different organisations to deliver projects,” Jennifer tells me. The four soon realised they all wanted to create performance work and decided to become their own group. Their first performance was fitting for the exciting journey they were about to embark on together: “Our first show was called Jam in a Tram, which was commissioned by a choreographer from New Zealand,” she says. “The shows we performed were on the tram networks across Nottingham.”
They have been having a ball putting together The Beautiful Game, which they have been working on for three years and will be performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this month. “It's a show about people's relationship with football and is really nostalgic - it's a really high energy, fun show, and there are lots of different aspects of football fandom,” Jennifer smiles. “The soundtrack is made up of lots of different interviews that we did with fans and players from across the country, talking about things like the best goals ever scored, why they support the team they do and match day rituals.”
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival will not be their first performance of the show. They are in fact very well rehearsed, having already done a small studio tour of it, as well as having taken it to Leicester City Football Club, Notts County, and the National Football Museum, where they performed it for girls from local schools. However, the Fringe will be a challenge in lots of ways. They are performing the full run at the festival, which is 23 shows with only one day off. Not only this, but there are 350 shows performed daily, so they will have to hustle to get their audience. “We have got lots of eye catching ideas, such as wearing football kits when handing out flyers and having a big gorilla mascot.”
The hard work involved hasn’t dampened their passion for the show in the slightest. “We're excited and proud to go and represent Nottingham,” says Jennifer, “we know we are in good company to take the challenge on.” Lauren agrees with her, saying, “We've done the show so many times, but it's still really fun to do and we enjoy performing it. I'm intrigued to see if my energy levels drop a little bit, but I'm excited to do it.”
When they aren’t performing around the country, they carry out various projects in Nottingham. They run the Next Door Dance Junior Company for 7-11 year olds, which they do weekly classes for. As well as this they have the Next Door Dance Youth Company, which is an auditioned group for 11-18 year olds. Jennifer tells me: “The Youth Company’s weekly sessions last for three hours. The first half of it is techniques, which involves strength development and building awareness of body and face, as well as understanding the fundamental principles of dancing. Then the second half of it is working on choreographic skills, and we do that alongside the young people.” With this, they recently performed in London, having been selected to represent the East Midlands at the National Youth Dance Festival, and performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall at the Southbank Centre.
We've done the show so many times, but it's still really fun to do and we enjoy performing it. I'm intrigued to see if my energy levels drop a little bit
Another project they do with the youth group is called Shadow Movement, where they focus on creating something within the space of a week. They’ve also worked with a group of young people to create a dance film with a local filmmaker. Lauren says: “The focus there is on the young people, and we make sure that they are the creators and that we kind of guide them and perform with them.”
It’s not just their youth groups that they work with. “The focus will always be on us trying to advocate for whoever is participating with us, and how they can reach their potential as choreographers,” Jennifer says. “We put The Beautiful Game into a prison setting, and we worked with a group of young men in there for a few days, workshopping ideas around it. We also performed it last year for 500 secondary schools across four days, and we did workshops for them as well. Generally we do lots of fun workshops where we get people moving and exploring how creative dance can be, and that it's not just what you see on Strictly!”
They aren’t stopping doing big shows after The Beautiful Game - in fact, they’ve already started planning the next one, and their excitement for it is just as infectious as for the last show. “We've just finished the research and development period for a new show called Swish. We will have to put an Arts Council application to develop it so it can reach its full potential, but we hope that will be finished and ready to tour in 2020,” Jennifer says. “It is a show about clothes and people's relationship and identity with what they wear. That promises to be another fun show, it's family-friendly and will hopefully tour extensively.”
Next Door Dance are performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this month