Two laughing teenage girls in a dance studio create an arch with their arms for two other girls to run under, a further two girls watch and laugh.

#DanceConnect an online collaborative project between dance professionals, young people and a digital artist, from across the West Midlands.

Arts Connect and DanceXchange, are pleased to announce an audacious new project #DanceConnect, bringing together a digital artist, dance professionals and young people, from across the West Midlands, in a dynamic collaboration to explore creative research within the current quarantine circumstances.

The project, which will take place online, seeks to discover new methods of creative exchange and investigate what artistic language can be uniquely developed in lockdown. The aim is to explore new ways of working and open up possibilities for enhanced dance and digital collaborations that create fresh, exciting work.

This new commission is funded by Arts Connect, the West Midlands development agency that works to improve the quality of the arts and cultural engagement of children and young people, and is produced by DanceXchange, the Birmingham-based dance agency, on behalf of the wider Dance Development Leaders Network (West Midlands). The development process will be supported by Artistic Facilitator Orit Azaz, a specialist in creating large scale, outdoor, collaborative performance.

Eleven dance leaders from across the region have been selected to take part, working together in duos or trios to exchange practice and artistic inspiration. The dance leaders are from across the West Midlands, including Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Worcester, Staffordshire, Shropshire and Kidderminster, with specialisms in Contemporary, Street, Martial Arts, Parkour, Inclusive Practice, African and Caribbean Dance, Afrofusion and Musical Theatre.

The dance leaders are working in the following groupings:

  • Oliver Russell and Christopher Radford (Independent Artists)
  • Anna Lines (Translucent Dance Company) and Jamie-Lee Johnson (Jamie-Lee Dance Company)
  • Iona Waite (ACE Dance and Music), Faye Adams (LOCO Academy), Jade Barton (Flexus Dance Collective)
  • Johnny Autin (Man Made Youth) and Catherine Clissett (Brewhouse Arts Centre)
  • Rachel Liggitt (Shropshire Inclusive Dance) and Ashley Jordan (Ascension Dance)

Throughout the process, they will be working closely alongside digital artist, Wayne Sables, supporting digital artist Anthony Shintai, and a group of specifically invited young people.

Susan Goodwin, Associate Director at Arts Connect says, “The Dance Development Leaders Group brings together 45+ dance professionals leading the development of dance participation amongst children and young people and representing all parts of the West Midlands dance ecology. We are excited and energised by the opportunity to experiment and innovate and are delighted by the quality and range of dance practitioners taking part.

#DanceConnect’s ambition is that the creative research will support the development for an audacious, ambitious, regionwide youth dance project in 2021 and 2022, celebrating the West Midlands as seen through the eyes of young people. The project will run from May – August 2020 and accumulate in ideas for ‘creative challenges’ that invite wider participation from young people across the region.

Alex Henwood, Head of Learning and Participation at DanceXchange, comments, “This is the start of an ambitious region wide collaboration and a great opportunity to explore the unique opportunities these circumstances bring. This project is a huge team effort and we are striving to put the West Midlands on the map for innovative work that has been co-curated by young people.”