Jessica Harris joins the party via Zoom.
On 18th September, Freefall Dance Company launched the celebrations of its 21st Anniversary in an online event which heard from some of those who have been involved in the company’s work over the years and included footage of its work.
Freefall was launched in 2002 following a number of Birmingham Royal Ballet learning and participatory projects in partnership with Fox Hollies School in Birmingham. The projects inspired the creation of the company to provide a platform for talented dancers in a bracket of society for whom provision is limited. The company comprises Birmingham Royal Ballet staff, freelance artists and teaching assistants, who enable a group of ten highly gifted dancers to express themselves and their individualities without the restraint of their learning disabilities.
Over the last 21 years, as well as creating its own repertoire, Freefall has extended its reach through collaborative dance development initiatives, forming relationships with 19 schools and working directly with over 300 young people. This includes workshops led by small teams of company members. For Freefall, not only does this encourage others to become involved in dance but it also enables its dancers to act as role models for other young people.
Teresa Fadden, Deputy Head at Fox Hollies School, gave a powerful testament to the company’s work, talking about how Freefall gives value and recognition to people with learning disabilities, and how it enables its dancers to develop their own creativity and achieve high ambitions. Its work has relevance to the national curriculum and is being embraced by the school to help it secure Artsmark Gold, the creative quality standard for schools.
Freefall is also collaborating with Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Virtual Stage programme, exploring ways in which virtual reality can be used creatively and to extend access to dance.
The company will be hosting a week-long festival at Birmingham Hippodrome to celebrate its 21st Anniversary. This will feature new choreographic works in Freefalling for 21 years – Still Life at the Freefall Café inspired by Sir David Bintley’s ballet Still life at the Penguin Café. The performances will include pupils from special schools’ Fox Hollies School (Birmingham), Hazel Oak Sixth Form (Solihull), Uffculme School (Birmingham) and adults from All Saints Youth Group (Birmingham) and Reddi Support (Redditch). There will also be a specially curated exhibition telling the company’s groundbreaking 21-year journey through film and photographs.
Screenings of a retrospective collection will close the festival, featuring some of the great dance-for-screen films made by Freefall over the years including: Stepping Out, Stepping Up, (Oliver Hodges) inspired by BRB Director Carlos Acosta and the music of Cuban-Iranian band Ariwo; After Bach created from a unique collaboration with Sir David Bintley and International Emmy Award-winning director, Ross MacGibbon; We Are Here a collaboration between BRB principal dancers and Freefall in partnership with filmmaker Sima Gonsai.
The festival takes place from Friday 10th–Friday 17th November, with the exhibition continuing until 4th March 2024. For further information, including information on how to join Freefall visit brb.org.uk or birminghamhippodrome.com.
Pic – Drew Tommons