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wavefunction: snapshot of a creative moment issue one, Spring 2015


wave function issue one, Spring 2015

welcome to Wave Function

inside this issue of

wavefunction: the defining move The constant element at the core of BSDC’s work page 6

Welcome to Wave Function, an occasional publication that showcases the creative development of Balbir Singh Dance Company. Wave Function is a snapshot of possibilities. In the quantum scientific world from which we’ve borrowed the term, a wave function describes the sum of every possible outcome for a particle at the microscopic scale. It’s not until the moment a quantum particle is glimpsed that we can know which way the wave decided to take it. We think it’s an apt metaphor for Balbir Singh Dance Company. BSDC, under the guidance of its Artistic Director Balbir Singh, believes anything is possible. Over the last two years, the company has travelled to some exciting and completely unexpected places. In a trajectory first established with its acclaimed pool-based spectacle Synchronised the company has moved towards a relationship with sport that has yielded rich and innovative collaborations. 2

getting back in the water

point of contact

two wheels better

Taking the sell-out spectacular to international audiences page 8

When sport and art collide page 10

Dance, storytelling... and champion BMX cycling page 12

Collaboration itself has been the trigger for other explorations. It has led to narrative work such as Full Contact, in which stories are woven with dance and live music in celebration of the rich history of Rugby League. Champion of the Flatlands has seen collaboration with international BMX champion Keelan Phillips, in a trilogy of work that opens up new audiences to the possibility of dance.

The programme, initiated by Arts Council England, offers arts organisations of a variety of scales a unique opportunity to learn from each other and grow. With an open brief to explore the areas that best fit its partners’ needs, ROH made available its expertise from across its departments. For BSDC this has meant accessing high level guidance around areas such as marketing, fundraising, sponsorship and strategic development.

This edition of Wave Function celebrates a particularly fruitful collaboration.

When asked to quantify how the relationship has impacted on the company, Balbir Singh takes a holistic view: “It’s not been about taking us in this or that direction. It’s rather that the support has increased our momentum and focus on achieving our aims. As a result of the excellent working relationships we’ve developed with key ROH personnel, our confidence has grown on a number of levels.”

Over the last two years Royal Opera House has been working closely with BSDC to offer support and expertise as part of its innovative mentoring programme ROH Links.

The pages that follow provide a snapshot of some of BSDC’s key projects at the beginning of 2015. The projects selected are a testament to the value of the ROH

And The Artist Invites, an exciting dance/painting/music project with internationally recognised painter Angela Lyn, takes the company into collaboration with the visual arts for the first time. ROH links

tackling a new theme Women’s rugby takes centre stage page 11

partnership – each has been influenced by the relationship and strengthened by it. This influence will continue to resonate for BSDC as it looks towards the coming NPO period. As the company’s next creative wave begins, the possibilities will be so much greater for having been influenced by ROH Links.

Opposite: Illustration publicising Two Wheel Trilogy. Image: Lee Goater Cover image: Synchronised. Photo Maya De Almeida Araujo


wave function issue one, Spring 2015

the richness of dance Whatever collaborative adventures Balbir Singh Dance Company engages in, one fundamental dimension conditions its every move: dance. So a forthcoming showcase for Balbir Singh’s choreographic talents is a welcome opportunity to see once again a defining piece that illustrates the richness of the company’s creative process at its best. Deceasing Infinity will be presented to audiences at London’s Rich Mix on 31 May 2015. The performance is an edge-of-the-seat experience for audiences. The tensions between the two male dancers are amplified by the accompaniment of live Tabla and Human Beatbox. A pure dance piece, Decreasing Infinity draws the audience ever deeper into Balbir’s exploration of the mutual attraction of opposites. Each style lets go of its distinct identity and takes on aspects of the other, whilst both reflect the same concepts through their own particular language.

Right: Sooraj Subramaniam. Photo Jim Rowbotham 4

“Clear and sharp with mesmerising physical articulation” Dancin’ Oxford Festival, Pegasus Theatre

Images: tabla, human beatbox and dancers from Decreasing Infinity. Photos Chris Nash


wave function issue one, Spring 2015

in synch

Back in 2012, BSDC astonished audiences at the Cultural Olympiad that accompanied the London Olympics, with Synchronised, a dance and synchronised swimming spectacular that played to sell out audiences in Sheffield and Leeds. That was followed by a highly successful tour supported by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund, which took the piece to arts ‘cold spots’ around the country. Balbir’s roots in community dance engagement stood the company in good stead as it forged productive partnerships with local authorities and leisure centres in places as diverse as Blackburn in Lancashire, Barking, Dagenham and Leicester. Included in NPO plans as a piece for maturation, Synchronised has huge potential to attract and excite even wider audiences.

Right: publicity shot for Synchronised. Photo Simon Wright 6

Left: Balbir Singh with former Olympic athlete and pilates instructor Heba Abdel Gawad, with whom Balbir collaborated on the development of Synchronised. Photo Gavin Joynt Below: Dancer during development of Synchronised. Photo Xxxx Xxxxxxxx

“A huge congratulations on Synchronised at Ponds Forge last night. To fuse dance, synchro, live music and a choir so smoothly and innovatively was a highly inspiring experience for the audience. You truly embodied the mission of the Cultural Olympiad – well done!” Amy Carter, Head of Arts, Museums and Cultural Promotion, Sheffield City Council


wave function issue one, Spring 2015

getting back into the water The universally positive response to Synchronised from critics and audiences alike when it was first performed in 2012, encourged the company to explore the potential of touring the work further. Since then the company has been working to develop links in the sports and health worlds, both of which have a natural affinity with Synchronised. As a result of this, new opportunities to present Synchronised, both at the national and international levels, are now under discussion. Touring Synchronised internationally will increase the company’s profile while further enhancing BSDC’s reputation for innovation – not only in terms of the artform, but also for its ability to attract audiences far beyond traditonal arts attenders. Meanwhile, at home, the company is working on developing a three way partnership project with NHS providers and cultural agencies in the capital, as a vehicle for bringing together the arts and health agendas, something for which the company is increasingly well respected.


“Rich religious references are matched by popular ones. ‘Serpents of Hollywood’ recalls the athleticism of synchronised swimming with Busby Berkley-inspired abstractions of moving bodies. Jazzy saxophone riffs are joined by flute, piano, guitar, cello and mridangam to transport us to new places. We are taken on musical as well movement journeys, with the rhythmic interplay of dancer and musician in ‘Splash’ focusing the digi-dah and ta-ki-ta at the core of Kathak.” Excerpt from A review of Synchronised by Stacey Prickett, Pulse Magazine, Autumn 2014

Above and opposite: promotional shots created to introduce Synchronised to international audiences. Photos Maya De Almeida Araujo


wave function issue one, Spring 2015

moving stories Combining abstract dance and storytelling is not unique. What’s distinctive in BSDC’S work is the way these two modes of performance mesh and combine – bringing abstraction to the narrative and at the same time creating an emotional ‘story’ through the abstract language of dance. The company’s first major exploration of this approach was Full Contact, an entertaining retelling of the ‘hidden history’ of Rugby League, commissioned and performed as part of Leeds Inspired’s cultural celebrations around the 2013 Rugby League World Cup. Of course, what Full Contact also did was open up a whole new world of audience potential. Since the piece premièred in Leeds, sports bodies have been keen to discuss possibilities for collaborative work with BSDC. 2015 will see these relationships develop as the company explores how Full Contact can be brought to rugby audiences in Rugby Leagues heartlands.

Above: Dan Mallaghan, storyteller from Full Contact. Photo Malcolm Johnson Top: Show publicity was inspired by traditional Baines Cards, popular with fans of the early game. Illustration David Andrassy 10

creative pitch

“In the men’s game it’s about taking down the opponent. Our game is faster, more tactical... with women it’s more to do with thinking two steps ahead, to get the ball where it needs to be.” Insight from female rugby player, gathered during company research for the piece

Hot on the heels of 2013’s successful première of Full Contact, BSDC also began exploring the game from a new perspective: that of women players. Emphatically not a piece about the battle of the sexes, the new work finds yet another borderland world in which two apparently contradictory forces interact to create a third, very different outcome. The working method – as always – is to collaborate, to learn from others. So BSDC is currently busy gathering intelligence from the experts: women rugby players themselves. “Our game is faster, more tactical” points out one of the women involved in early discussions with the Company. “in the men’s game it’s about taking down the opponent – ‘if he hasn’t got legs, he can’t run!’ is the way it often goes. With women it’s more to do with thinking two steps ahead, to get the ball where in needs to be.”

Above: early concept for the Women’s rugby piece. Photo Glen Burrows Right: two dancers in Full Contact, the show that inspired the new work. Photo Malcolm Johnson

How this will translate into live performance later in 2015, is being eagerly anticipated by the rugby world.


wave function issue one, Spring 2015

two wheel trilogy This page: Illustrations from marketing material for Two Wheel Trilogy. Images: Lee Goater

When Roundness of 12 was performed at Nexus Festival 2014, audiences were treated to an extra bonus. In a surprise addition to the show Balbir inserted a prelude – a short experiment in cross-artform synthesis. This kind of ‘live R&D’, which draws on the classical Indian tradition of structuring work explicitly to allow improvisation, is an increasingly common component of Balbir Singh’s work. In the Nexus performance, the unexpected prelude featured world champion BMXer Keelen Phillips who, accompanied by some wild and gripping sax improv from long-time BSDC collaborator Jesse Bannister, enthralled the audience with a dangerous mix of movement and sound. The experiment paid off – the audience lapped it up. And, just as importantly, the artistic potential of the concept opened up a new creative seam for Balbir. So rich, in fact, that the stage is set for a new trio of work from the company in 2015. Two Wheel Trilogy will do what BSDC does best – present work that is accessible to wide audiences, far beyond the traditional contemporary dance crowd, while bringing a sophisticated choreographic expertise to bear on the work.


Each piece has a different flavour – there’s much in it for children and young people, but also nostalgia and reflection for more mature audiences. And outdoor festival organisers will be able to present something fresh to audiences with the third piece in the trilogy, Dancing Bicycles, which promises to be a tour de force of risk and controlled movement.

“To me it's about being creative, all about the way you think rather than the physical aspect. Of course you have to be fit and agile, but without having a creative mindset it's just like another 'sport'. Working with Balbir Singh I am seeing how it's more of an art and fits more with dance.� Keelan Phillips, BMX Flatlands champion

Above: Two Wheel Trilogy illustration. Image: Lee Goater Below: Dancers relive their childhood love of bicycles and Keelan wows the audience at Nexus Festival Leeds. Photos Xxxxx


wave function issue one, Spring 2015



The Artist Invites is an artist led project bringing together a series of evolving collaborations; an attempt to build on art as a foundation for shared experience. A collaboration with Swiss-based visual artist of English and Chinese descent, Angela Lyn, The Artist Invites will see BSDC performing alongside an exhibition of Lyn’s work, responding to it and creating a multi-artform experience which communicates through movement in time and space as well as the two dimensions of the picture plane.

“The vigour that transpires through the overall project and its meticulous execution in the smallest detail speak of her awareness of and deep commitment to her Western and Eastern roots.” Max Koss, from the introduction to Angela Lyn: My China, 2009

The influence of Lyn’s dual heritage on her work echoes Balbir Singh’s own background and formative experiences. Using the work of a visual artist as a source material and starting point for work is a new departure for BSDC. Developing the piece promises to be a rich process which will start with a period of exploration between Balbir Singh, Jesse Bannister and Angela Lyn in her Swiss studios this spring. The Artist Invites is scheduled to be presented in October 2015 at Canvas Studios in Shoreditch, London. Opposite page: Prize Giving Day, oil on canvas, Angela Lyn Left: Talking Through Cedars (detail), oil on canvas, Angela Lyn 15

We hope you have found this first issue of Wave Function informative and interesting. We would welcome your feedback – please get in touch at For further printed copies of this issue of Wave Function, or to receive future editions, please email us at

Balbir Singh Dance Company Yorkshire Dance 3, St Peter’s Buildings Leeds LS9 8AH United Kingdom Follow BSDC:

BSDC is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation and works with the Royal Opera House through its Arts Council England funded ROH Links scheme, part of the broader ROH Connections. BSDC is an Associate Company of the University of Leeds and is part of the CidaCo Creative Capital programme.

Wave Function issue 1  
Wave Function issue 1  

An occasional magazine offering a snapshot of creative activity from Balbir Singh Dance Company