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DANCE ACROSS THE NORTH bringing exciting, culturally diverse dance, live music and workshops to rural audiences across the North of England

BLAIZE opening new doors to the arts

DANCE ACROSS THE NORTH: A MODERN MEHFIL Mehfil derives from an Arabic word meaning ‘a festive gathering to entertain.’ Traditionally, musicians, poets and dancers would travel long distances across rural India to present Mehfils – evenings of courtly entertainment – in the homes of Indian nobility. Dance Across the North draws on this ancient tradition of travelling artists to bring a contemporary mix of culturally diverse dance, live music and workshops to Northern rural audiences. With everything from classical dance to dancing bicycles with human beatbox, from intimate evenings with Kathak dance gurus to flashmobs, Dance Across the North is gearing up to be an explosive cultural experience for audiences in rural settings right across the North.


Northumberland County Durham Cumbria



East Riding of Yorkshire Hull

North Lincolnshire


project overview

setting the programme in motion


Dance Across the North will see over 10,000 people

For these rural touring schemes the project is an

across the North of England experience world-class

opportunity to:

dance and music, within their local communities. Led by Blaize, through a series of performances, workshops, house concerts and flashmobs, Balbir Singh Dance Company

• Offer their local communities high quality dance performances • Learn more about programming culturally diverse dance

(BSDC) will inspire and entertain people of all ages in some of the country’s most remote and difficult to reach places; bringing vibrant live performances to everyday settings, for people who may otherwise never have the chance to engage with this kind of experience. New audiences will be introduced to contemporary dance and Kathak through relevant and meaningful artistic exchanges. A diverse programme will be delivered in locations ranging from traditional rural venues such as village halls, to more intimate spaces including houses and libraries, and even largescale pop-up performances in shopping centres and parks. Dance Across the North is led by Community Arts Company Blaize, who aim to:

• Build new audiences and profile for their schemes and venues through individually designed campaigns including taster performances, profile-raising mass participation events and regional media coverage • Offer participative dance activity to their communities, with its associated health, social and creative benefits We are extremely grateful to Arts Council England for supporting this ambitious project with investment from the Strategic Touring Programme. This project helps ACE to deliver their mission of ‘great art and culture for everyone’, in addition to specific STP aims of: • Improving access to high quality work • Broadening the range of venues presenting work

• Bring exciting, diverse dance to those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to engage with it • Continue to build a strong network of rural touring schemes and venues across the North of England • Offer inspiration and professional development to young people Project partners working alongside Blaize and BSDC include

• Widening audience access • Strengthening relationships between artists and promoters • Broadening the range of high quality touring work • Presenting work which reflects the diversity of contemporary England Dance Across the North builds upon previous artistic projects

Get Moving, ArtERY Live in East Riding, LiveLincs in North

delivered by Blaize and BSDC, existing relationships between

Lincolnshire, Spot On Rural Touring in Lancashire, Cheshire

rural touring schemes, BSDC’s previous experience of

Rural Touring Arts, Highlights Rural Touring in Cumbria,

managing a STP project, Synchronised, and significant

Durham and Northumberland, Arts Out West in West

experience of rural touring from all partners. Dance Across the

Cumbria, Roots and Wings Hull as well as the Performing Arts

North formalises and extends the possibilities of these

Network and Development Agency (PANDA).

partnerships to something larger, more impactful and exciting than previously experienced.


the context

issues the project aims to address

‘Dance Mapping: A window on Dance (2004-2008)’ a report commissioned by ACE and supported by the National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF), highlighted that: There are issues regarding the quality of venues for dance, particularly floors and the height of spaces. • BSDC’s experience of adapting performances to unique spaces will overcome this issue. A number of local small-scale touring initiatives exist, but there is a need for a wider, more joined-up approach to developing small-scale touring networks. • This project clearly addresses this, across a vast area in the North, as well as by linking to NRTF. Identifying suitable companies is a challenge for venues. • BSDC has a strong track record of delivery in relevant spaces, so Blaize are confident the work will fit and adapt to partners’ local communities. There is a lack of confidence in programming dance, particularly among voluntary promoters, alongside budgetary Decreasing Infinity, a duet dramatically accompanied by live Tabla and Human Beatbox

issues and lack of marketing capacity or resources for dedicated audience development. • This project will develop, where needed, venue managers’ knowledge and confidence in programming and engaging their audiences in dance, alongside providing bespoke audience development activity.


The Mehfil House Concerts build on an ancient tradition while introducing contemporary rural audiences to diverse musical and dance styles.

“By bringing together the touring schemes and the variety of work, from pure classical dance and music to more westernised choreography, and presenting it in different ways that adapt and adjust to rural areas; we are confident that this project will not only connect venues across the North, in sharing expertise and collaborative audience engagement approaches, but provide new, innovative approaches to bringing new work into rural areas.

vibrant world of dance throughout the North. We want to reach people from all walks of life and show them just how much fun dancing can be. One day you might find dancers in a public space like the village green or your local supermarket, the next you might be invited to a house concert. It’s all very exciting.” Ellen Thorpe, Director and General Manager of Blaize

“We are specifically working in areas artistically undernourished, where artistic development is hampered. By providing world-class artistic experiences, we hope to spur on young artists to enter the profession and deliver equally transformative future projects. “This ambitious programme will benefit everyone, both young and old. It enables us to reach remote communities, support and encourage emerging artists, create new opportunities and celebrate the



learning from the experience – and from each other

The evaluative process will help all partners to stay

The resulting evaluative report will be shared with artists,

connected throughout the project, continually learning

touring schemes and supporting organisations across the UK

from each other’s processes and experiences.

and internationally, via established networks, conferences and

Sarah Spanton, independent evaluator, will work with all partners throughout the project to capture audience experience and demographic data, lessons learned by all partners, and to measure the impact of audience development, marketing and artistic activity. The evaluative process will be embedded in the project to

digital distribution. As a model for touring the evaluation report will include: • A resource for artists featuring performance venues that may otherwise be unknown to them, and advice on rural touring • Advice for rural touring schemes on developing

help guide progress throughout, as well as producing a

partnerships, and building audiences for culturally

useful resource for future reference. Data and feedback from

diverse art

audiences and participants will be collated via questionnaires, social media, film and photography.

• Evidence of enhanced relationships between touring schemes and the benefits of collaboration during the project • Guidance on collating audience data, both quantitative and qualitative • Filmed audience/participant reactions after performances and workshops • Filmed interviews with programmers and artists explaining how the project has impacted on their artistic development and approach to programming • Diagrammatical evidence of the geographic area covered by the project, and the highlights of BSDC’s experience, to inspire artists to travel beyond urban cultural hotspots

An Evening with Padmashri Guru Pratap Pawar, introduces audiences to North Indian Kathak in a highly entertaining and accessible way


creative case for diversity

relationship building

reflecting the vibrant diversity of contemporary Britain

working together to help build local relationships

Dance Across the North offers a unique opportunity


to immerse our communities in diverse artistic genres and styles reflective of contemporary British culture and communities.

To build on existing relationships with current and potential audiences, the project will provide marketing and audience development support and activities designed specifically for

The partners involved in this project all believe passionately in

each region. Blaize, BSDC and external consultants will work

the power of art in inspiring and developing happier, healthier,

with scheme and venue managers to implement bespoke

more cohesive communities.

activity that contributes to long-term audience development.

Intimate house concerts, intensive workshops and memorable


performances will engage those across the North of England in culturally diverse practice. Delivered by a culturally diverse team of artists, the series of artistic and social events will enlighten audiences, broaden perspectives and enliven imaginations.

Each scheme and venue will have direct contact with BSDC to discuss their particular requirements, facilities and audiences. Producers Project leads at Blaize and BSDC will be in regular contact with scheme and venue managers to support and ensure the

“This project is an opportunity to try something new… to introduce your audiences to a style they may not be familiar with; to ask people to participate; to programme work you may not otherwise have considered.

smooth delivery of the project.

“We will support each other in breaking new ground, building new audiences and enabling great art to thrive in rural areas.”

they’ve been able to fund both.

National links Blaize and BSDC will also link into NRTF, particularly with regards to their newly announced national dance rural touring project, to ensure we complement each other’s projects and learn from each other. Both projects contribute significantly to STF aims and ACE are reported to be ‘delighted’ that

Balbir Singh, Artistic Director, BSDC


rural accessibility


flexibility and adaptability are the key

high quality collateral and a targeted campaign

BSDC were invited to be the artistic lead for this project

Marketing specialists at Blaize and BSDC will work

due to the company’s array of high quality, accessible

actively with rural touring schemes and venues to

and diverse work, relevant to a range of audiences and

maximise audiences and participants for all activities.

communities, as well as their proven adaptability for touring to a broad range of venues. The project will enable BSDC to work flexibly within different types and sizes of venues. BSDC’s Associate Producer Ceri

A comprehensive communications campaign is in place for the project, which includes: • High quality flyers and posters to promote performances

Brierley said: ‘We appreciate that no two venues are the

• A dedicated social media campaign

same, and are primed to adapt performances to suit different

• A high print-run of generic project postcards being

spaces and facilities’. The company has previously performed

distributed at all events across the region, signposting

in such varied venues as swimming pools, town halls, outdoor

potential audience members to event listings on the

festivals, libraries and museums.

Blaize website

The company’s work has adapted well to audiences ‘in the

• An e-invite for house concert hosts to invite guests

round’, on three sides or in the traditional front viewing setup.

• A dedicated PR campaign targeting relevant national,

BSDC has also developed work specifically for informal or passing audiences typically in festival environments or public spaces. The company enjoys working intensively within the communities it visits, staying locally, helping to develop new audiences, involving communities in performances and delivering workshops with a range of groups and individuals.

RIGHT: In Full Contact, storytelling, movement and live music combine to celebrate the history of Rugby League.


regional, local and trade press • Full project details and event listings on the Blaize website

Kathak and rural touring – a historical connection

Native to Northern India, Kathak is one of the eight classical Indian dance forms. An ancient storytelling device, Kathak originated within the Hindu temples as a means of portraying the epic tales contained within the Mahabharata and Ramayana, Hindu scriptures. Poetry combined with rhythmic movement to aid in the worshipful storytelling. However, the stories didn’t stay within the temple walls for long. Nomadic Kathaks, or wandering storytellers, soon began carrying the dances throughout the country in many rural areas. They added emotional facial expressions to their performances, further developing the dance to include elements of mime. In this way, Kathak transitioned from its secluded, devotional origins to a more accessible, multi-disciplined tradition of entertainment.



Balbir Singh Dance Company

Blaize is a community arts organisation who just love to

Balbir Singh Dance Company (BSDC) performances

see people getting all fired up and creative. Blaize bring

have been seen by over 40,000 people in the last three

the very best in quality theatre, music, dance, comedy

years. BSDC was one of just three companies mentored

and cinema directly to rural communities. Blaize work

by the Royal Opera House as part of the Arts Council

nationally, but mainly cover the North of England and are

England Links Scheme and is also an Associate

particularly active in isolated, rural communities where

Company of the University of Leeds.

access to the arts may be limited.

Significant recent achievements include Synchronised, a

Blaize is the project lead for Dance Across the North,

spectacular swimming pool based performance

having devised the project, brought together the

commissioned for Yorkshire’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

partners and secured the major STF funding from ACE.

Subsequently sustained through an intensive, Strategic

Ellen Thorpe, Director and General Manager, Blaize Ellen ensures that everything comes together smoothly at Blaize, organising, seeking funding and commissioning the work. Ellen has many years’ experience with responsibility for

Touring Fund supported, community engagement project, Synchronised was also re-imagined for sell-out performances at Southbank Centre’s Alchemy Festival in 2015. “Dazzling and gorgeously imaginative… A tidal wave of creative genius…a wonderous spectacle.” Metro

programming all Blaize work including the ArtERY rural touring

BSDC provides meaningful, relevant and extraordinary

scheme in East Yorkshire which she founded at the invitation

experiences for a wide range of audiences and participants.

of Arts Council England, Yorkshire and the East Riding of

The company’s diverse repertoire includes:

Yorkshire Council. She also programmes LiveLincs in North

• work for adults, families and children;

Lincolnshire and is a trustee of Ilkley Literature Festival.

Gail Ferrin, dance consultant, flashmob lead Previously Youth & Community Dance Director at Yorkshire Dance, and with a wealth of previous experience leading

• work suited to both traditional theatre spaces and outdoor festivals; • intimate pieces that can be toured to smaller, rural venues and

youth dance groups and rural touring projects in the North of

• spectacular shows for large scale sporting arenas.

England and Canada, Gail will work with the flashmob

The company’s dancers are highly-skilled and adaptable, and

leaders in each area to ensure they produce something

have performed in swimming pools, libraries and museums,

unique and inspirational – engaging their local participants

as well as rural venues in Middlesbrough, Thirsk and across

and creating extensive word of mouth in their communities

North Yorkshire through a long-standing relationship with

about the arrival of the project.

Blaize. Previous experience of producing a large-scale STP

Andrea Hardaker, social media

project took Synchronised into areas of low arts engagement,

Andrea works regularly for Blaize and will be leading the dedicated social media campaign for the project. Ensuring that communities across the North of England know about

creating strong partnerships and developing new audiences through on-the-ground engagement work including splashmobs and community cast integration.

the project, when it will be taking place near them, and how

The company works with many genres of contemporary art,

they can get involved. Raising profile and developing

usually incorporating live music, with a strong grounding in

audiences/participants for all strands of the activity.

the principles of the classical Indian dance form Kathak. This


“Balbir Singh Dance Company were a pleasure to work alongside. We wholeheartedly recommend them. The company produce work of the highest quality which is innovative and inclusive. I was delighted with the working relationship we were able to forge as they understood the festival’s ethos and supported us in our bid to combine audiences across art forms.” Stephanie Upsall, Nexus Festival grounding, along with Balbir Singh’s natural curiosity and

Rhiannon Davison, creative learning

choice of collaborators, ensures the company produces

Rhiannon promotes, plans and delivers all of BSDC’s

culturally diverse work whatever the subject matter. BSDC

education work. The company works with people of all ages

contributes significantly to ACE’s Creative Case for Diversity.

and levels of experiences, offering taster workshops, bespoke

Balbir Singh

residencies and creative projects.

Born in India, but with a westernised upbringing in England,

Sarah Spanton, evaluation

Balbir made inroads into the two cultures by first training in

An artist and consultant, Sarah brings a creative and

Western contemporary dance and then immersing himself

collaborative approach to her diverse portfolio of work. She

into classical Indian dance for many years under the leading

will be involved throughout the project, allowing continual

international Kathak exponent, Padmashri Guru Pratap Pawar.

reflection as well as developing evaluative materials that will

This dual vision allows Balbir to have an artistic sensibility that

provide a legacy for the project.

is rich and complex, seen through his choreographic versatility and output that defies categorisation. Fundamental to his artistic approach is his ability to connect to audiences and cross cultural boundaries, creating work with a warmth and

Dance Across the North: key personnel at a glance

humanity, through narrative and emotion, be it abstract or literal. “intellectual daring of a master choreographer” Dancing Times

Ceri Brierley, associate producer Ceri will use her wealth of marketing and project management experience to support the promotion of all events and the project as a whole. Her career has included senior marketing roles at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Phoenix Dance Theatre and Random Dance.

Anna Franks, audience engagement A marketing and communications specialist who worked closely with BSDC to develop their Audience Development Plan, Anna was previously a Director at &Co The cultural marketing house. She will help us to discover more about potential audiences and how to engage them.

Project lead Ellen Thorpe, Director and General Manager, Blaize Artistic lead Balbir Singh, Artistic Director, BSDC Dance consultant, flashmob lead Gail Ferrin Project marketing and fundraising Andrea Hardaker, Marketing Associate, Blaize Performance marketing and production Ceri Brierley, Associate Producer, BSDC Education programme Rhiannon Davison, Creative Learning Officer, BSDC Flashmob programme Gail Ferrin, Dance Consultant Identifying and attracting new audiences Anna Franks, Audience Development consultant

Full details of all programming partners can be found on page 18

Evaluation lead Sarah Spanton, Independent Evaluator


M CLASSICAL MEHFIL Culturally diverse performances incorporating Indian music, dance and culture. New and exciting experiences for audiences with different levels of knowledge

CHOOSE YOUR MEHFIL MIX Dance Across the North will be touring a fabulous diversity of work to suit all kinds of audiences, and all kinds of venues. To help you decide on the sorts of performances that will attract audiences in your own area, we’ve organised the work into six distinct strands. Most strands include several different pieces, related by style or theme. Feel free to select work from one strand – or mix and match from several, to create your own Mehfil Mix. Many of the pieces can also be adapted to respond to your particular circumstances, so talk to us about your needs and we’ll suggest some options. 14

MEHFIL MODERN Mixed bills of short dance works for theatre performance, synthesising traditional North Indian Kathak and western contemporary styles

MEHFIL MIRAGE As well as the work programmed for the project Balbir Singh Dance Company has a number of other interesting pieces. Talk to us about what else could be adapted to suit your local needs

MEHFIL FEST Family-friendly work ideal for outdoor festivals or unusual spaces

TEAM MEHFIL Based on BSDC’s Two Wheel Trilogy, a series of works inspired by cycling. Ideal for indoor or outdoor venues and festivals


Sports/dance/ storytelling collaborations, working with the tough, technical and strategic game of rugby. Appeals equally to sports or general audiences

MEHFIL HOUSE CONCERTS A social occasion offering close-up performances of Indian dance, music and storytelling, interspersed by explanations and the opportunity to discuss the work


suggested schedule of activity 23 performances, 5 house concerts, 18 workshops and 8 flashmobs over 8 months during 2016.

September 2015 Confirming partners and appointing consultants

October 2015 Begin marketing planning; Creative Engagement Day involving all partners; Flashmob planning and apprentice recruitment

November 2015 Confirm all bookings for house concerts, workshops, performances, and flashmobs; Balbir to visit schemes / venues where useful

December 2015 Steering group meeting; Establish opportunities for apprentices’ CPD

January 2016 Launch marketing campaign; BSDC rehearsals

February 2016 Delivery begins: flashmobs, performances, workshops and house concerts

March 2016 Evaluation begins

project management





April 2016 Mid-point steering group meeting

April–October 2016 Delivery continues: flashmobs, performances, workshops and house concerts

September 2016 Marketing campaign ends

October 2016 Delivery ends

November 2016 Arrange evaluation day and collect data for evaluator

December 2016 Evaluation day and steering group meeting; sharing and dissemination of the evaluation report


Cheshire Cheshire Rural Touring Arts

Lancashire Spot On Rural Touring

Contact Claire Smith and Jen Henry:

Contact Sue Robinson:

Cumbria, Durham and Northumberland Highlights Rural Touring Scheme

North Lincolnshire LiveLincs

Contact Ellen Thorpe:

Contact Barbara Slack: or Rosie Cross:

West Cumbria Arts Out West

East Riding of Yorkshire ArtERY Live

Contact Chris Bridgeman:

Yorkshire Get Moving

Contact Ellen Thorpe:

Contact Gail Ferrin:

Hull Routes and Wings programme Contact Isabell Tracy:


Two Wheel Trilogy is a suite of works that brings dancers together with the likes of world champion BMXer Keelan Phillips and long-time BSDC collaborator saxophonist Jesse Bannister, to create a thrilling mix of movement and sound.


With over fifty events right across the North of England, including 23 performances, 5 house concerts, 18 workshops and 8 flashmobs, Dance Across the North will be an important part of the Northern rural arts calendar throughout 2016. Make sure you’re part of it – go to: to get the latest project news.

Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require any further details, or to discuss further the bespoke performance and education options. Email: Telephone: 07921 645839

BLAIZE opening new doors to the arts

Designed and produced by

Dance Across the North  
Dance Across the North  

An overview of this STP funded rural touring project, produced for project partners and stakeholders, October 2015