Freefalling into a birthday

Jessica Harris helps celebrate Freefall Dance Company’s 21st anniversary at Birmingham Hippodrome.

The Patrick Studio was almost full for this celebration performance on 15th November. And rightly so, since 21 years of Freefall, a fully inclusive contemporary dance company, is certainly something to celebrate.

The evening was a double bill. The first piece and a world premiere, Still Life at the Freefall Café, was inspired by Sir David Bintley’s Still Life at the Penguin Café, whilst the second, Chairs, is one of the company’s favourite works.

Collaboration was at the heart of Still Life at the Freefall Café, as the company was joined by performers from schools and community groups with which it has long engaged. The cast of almost 60 worked as an ensemble and also delivered engaging solo pieces, and pieces by pairs and groups. Performances were fluid and expressive and were supported by strong teamwork.

Still Life at the Freefall Café‘s environmental theme was established from the outset, with members of the company sitting at either side of the stage watching the performance – a reminder of the way in which we look on as the world we share is at risk.

Projected backdrops, starting with a scene of a café beside the ocean and moving onto scenes of woodlands, wetlands, meadows, and rivers conveyed the theme of endangered wildlife and of a threatened planet. An impressive musical score, including bird-song, reinforced this. The final scene, set against a projection of the Earth, showed our planet as alive, yet fragile.

Chairs was choreographed and performed by the Freefall company. It explored the ways in which we use the humble chair and how, at times, it shapes our movements and postures. A highly diverse musical score ranged from slow Latin music to Three Little Maids from The Mikado. Scenes moved from aircraft seats to seats in a classroom, contributing to the dynamism of the piece. Reflections on how we behave in different settings were both humorous and revealing.

In both works, the dance tended to take place on one level, with dancers either standing or sitting. Opportunities for work at varying levels would have added to their overall engagement. However, the contrast between the two works made for a strong repertoire, and the dancers’ own enjoyment in expressing themselves through movement, and their inter-relationships on stage, were joyful to watch.

Freefall was joined on stage by students from Fox Hollies School, Hazel Oak Sixth Form, Uffculme School Sixth Form, and members of All Saints Inclusion Group and Reddi Support.

The company’s Artistic Director is Lee Fisher and its producer is Claire Marshall. It is supported by, and works in collaboration with, Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Freefall’s 21st anniversary celebrations include an exhibition at Birmingham Hippodrome until 2nd March 2024. For more information visit

Pic – Drew Tommons.