Tis the season and as such the newspapers, online or otherwise, have been making their picks for the top ten of this or the top five of that with many a dance company lapping up the attention and confirmation of their work they so unnecessarily desire. As is always the case the dance media, such as it is, focuses on the creation and performance of work rather than looking at the wider world of dance and all the moving parts that make it all work.
Here in TheLab™ we thought a group doing something a little bit different, but no less essential, deserved a mention. ProDanceLeeds, based in Leeds believe it or not, set out on a mission last year to provide something that is, more often than not, missing in the wide world of professional dance. Accessible and affordable professional dance classes for, wait for it, professional dancers, the most overlooked of beasts in this business that we call show.
As any recent graduate or experienced professional will tell you, seeking out a regular morning class is akin to finding the Ark of the Covenant when Indiana Jones won't answer his text messages because he's larking about in a galaxy "far far away". (nice work on the Star Wars reference! Ed!)
Rachel Fullegar, Rebecca Holmberg, Sofia Edstrand, Sarah Cook and Kate Cox, all graduates of Northern School of Contemporary Dance, squeezed some money out of Arts Council England to run a six-month pilot project, inviting a variety of guest teachers in to lead morning professional class and the occasional workshop along the way. The big idea is fairly simple, a new professional class teacher each week in a variety of locations (studio space is always hard to come by so the group have no fixed home as yet). It's as simple as it is necessary. This pilot was, evidently, successful because The Big Bad awarded the group some more funds in November to keep the project running for at least the next 12 months.
All but one of the dancers are also members of the company Gracefool Collective (geddit?) also based in Leeds, an ensemble that has made several works during its short lifespan after coming together in 2013.
What this small group of dancers have both achieved and illustrated is very important, particularly for dance students in their final year. They graduated, thought about what they needed and what other dancers needed, formulated a plan and executed it. Marshalling the necessary partner support to wrestle funding from Arts Council England once is no simple task, doing it twice in a row is nothing short of remarkable. Experience is important, that much is certain. However, being fresh out of training does not mean that you can't get something done, build something new and help out your fellow dancers along the way and, lest we forget, provide some additional paid employment for experienced professional dancers.
Here in TheLab™ we don't have a top ten or even a top five of anything but we say ProDanceLeeds for the win and long may they continue. If anybody had any sense they would put these five in charge of something bigger, give them even more money and let's see what happens.
You can find a complete class schedule and additional information on the ProDanceLeeds website.
top image courtesy of Gracefool Collective