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NO. 4 AUTUMN 2020


Cover Photo Credit: Tabanka Dance Ensemble


Pawlet Brookes


Mistura Allison Dan Baxter Amy Grain

Vanguard c/o Serendipity 21 Bowling Green Leicester LE1 6AS CL00.14, Clephan Building De Montfort University The Gateway Leicester LE1 9BH

+44(0)116 482 1394



Editor's Welcome Pawlet Brookes


Making Work for a Digital Audience Alleyne Dance


Diversity at Arts Council England Abid Hussain


Recharging, Rethinking and Realigning through Lockdown Dollie Henry


Ballet Classes in the Kitchen


Black History Month, Leicester 2020


Grin: Exceptions of Generosity

Javier Torres

Mele Broomes


Where Are All the Black People in Dance? Jeanefer Jean-Charles


World Arts Festivals and Events

Exploring artistic practice and the changing face of dance today Featuring Eduardo Vilaro, Cynthia Oliver, Lénablou, Gladys M Francis, Annabel Guérédrat, Henri Tauliaut, Thomas Prestø, Alice Sheppard, Makeda Thomas, Vicki Igbokwe, Mele Broomes, Ashanti Harris, Rhea Lewis and Jonzi D



Image Credit: Pawlet Brookes Photographer Stuart Hollis


Welcome to the latest edition of Vanguard. It would have been almost impossible to not have made this edition focused on how artists and creatives have been adapting their work and practice through lockdown. With this edition the contributors have focused on the positives and learnings that lockdown has had on them. From creating work for a digital audience to how they have maintained mental and physical wellbeing.

Thanks to the contributors Kristina and SadĂŠ Alleyne, Abid Hussain, Dollie Henry, Javier Torres, Mele Broomes and Jeanefer JeanCharles. I hope you enjoy this edition of Vanguard and thank you for being part of our Serendipity Connect community.

As well as the effects of COVID and following the recent resurgence of the Black Lives Matters movement we have seen a refocusing of the conversation around diversity, inclusion and race. I am pleased to include in this edition an In Conversation question and answer session with Abid Hussain, Director of Diversity at Arts Council England.


Image Credit: Still image Michele Cadei, Edit Antoine Marc

MAKING WORK FOR A DIGITAL AUDIENCE Alleyne Dance - Kristina and Sadé Alleyne Founded in 2014 by sisters Kristina and Sadé Alleyne, Alleyne Dance blend African Caribbean, hip-hop, Kathak and Circus Skills within contemporary dance.

This year the company produced the interactive dance film (Re)United which premiered at this year’s Let’s Dance International Frontiers 2021 Preview festival. A heartwarming and interactive short dance film that highlights the strength of family connectivity. (Re)united depicts anticipation, joy, fear and excitement leading up to the moment adult siblings reunite after being separated for over half of their lives. Kristina and Sadé Alleyne discuss their process of creating the piece for a digital audience. Creating dance for screen was very exciting as it allowed our dance story to transcend over different time periods; creating a world within a world.


As dance artists we love to share and tell stories, to have the ability to create this interactive dance film was exhilarating. We were able to have two parallel stories happening at the same time, showing two different experiences of the same story. The audience had the opportunity to choose which twins’ story and character that were more drawn too and curious to know more about. The audience then witness that singular story and follow their journey to the reuniting. Being twin sisters that also live together, we were lucky to be in one social bubble, which meant that we could create together during the restrictions of COVID-19. This was the quickest project that we have ever planned, created and produced with all our collaborators. Everyone's schedules were clear due to the pandemic, which made it easier for all of us to get together.

We refer to our collaborators as ‘The Dream

There was a lot of stopping and starting

Team’, as we felt lucky to be able to work

during the shooting, which demanded a

with all the artists that inspire us and share

longer period of maintaining a warmth in the

our thirst to create.

body, having to maintain strength, keeping mobile and physically flexible in order to be

Creating a film is very different from

ready to perform when the director said

performing live. During a live performance

‘ACTION’. We found that we had to be more

we enjoy feeding off the audiences’ energy,

creative with how we worked with music, the

responding and playing with their responses

costumes, the camera edits and the

and also anticipating their reactions. Dance

movement. A wonderful element of creating

for camera is different, as it required us to

dance for the screen is the control you have

create a world in front of a small plastic box.

over what you show, therefore what the

The camera was the eye of many viewers. It

audience sees. As creators, there are

was very interesting to think about how we

sections or moments that we feel are

would project our energy and emotion to the

poignant to the story we are trying to relay,

many individuals watching in many different

that might be missed or lost on stage. When

environments. We also have the challenge

presenting something on film, we are able to

of not filming in a chronological order. We

capture and focus in on those moments, and

couldn't rely on the journey of the piece to

present them clearly for the audience to take

pull us through the performance. We had to


know and deliver every point, every detail, every thought and emotion of the character

(Re)United was directed by award-winning

in which ever section we were shooting.

filmmaker, Antoine Marc, Producer Grace Okereke and performed by award-winning dancers Kristina and Sadé Alleyne



Image Credit: Still image Michele Cadei, Edit Antoine Marc


DIVERSITY AT ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND In Conversation with Abid Hussain, Director for Diveristy,

Arts Council England

Interviewed by Pawlet Brookes, Abid Hussain explains how Arts Council England are keeping diversity and inclusivity at the heart of what they do in response to the Windrush Scandal, Brexit, COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter. What do you think has changed since the

The work of Naseem and her successors

publication of Naseem Khan’s ‘The Art

both at ACE and across the sector has

Britain Ignores’?

served to amplify and increase prioritisation of the Equality and Diversity agenda. We’ve

I was incredibly fortunate to have the

experienced and benefited from the

privilege of getting to know Naseem albeit

cumulative impact of multiple generations of

many years after she published her seminal work that is ‘The Arts Britain Ignores’. Naseem’s work and dedication is the reason we have an Equality and Diversity directorate at the Arts Council. Her work set the precedent for our work on the Creative Case for Diversity and our developing work on our new Inclusion and Relevance principle we are developing at the Arts Council. Naseem’s provocation in the 70’s was a call to action, it drew on the work of exceptionally talented Black, Asian and Ethnically diverse peers working across the sector as well as drawing on the influence and experience of disabled activists to develop a mandate for change.


exceptionally talented Black, Asian and Ethnically diverse creatives who have inspired, challenged and moved us. Today we are tantalisingly closer to achieving the ambitions of Naseem’s work, but only if we’re prepared to be bolder in our decision making when it comes to the distribution of public funds and entrusting the future of the arts and cultural sector into the leaders that bring different insights, perspectives and viewpoints with a commitment to presenting and relaying the talent and stories of all our communities across our stages, galleries, museums and concert halls. We need to ensure the artistic and creative ambition we have is matched by the resources to deliver it and do it justice. .

What are your observations of the last year

I’m genuinely indebted to artists and activists

or so particularly in relation to Windrush

who have found the courage to speak their

Scandal, BLM, Brexit and COVID-19.

truth, to organise, galvanise and call for change. As artists, policy makers,

From my vantage point as a policy maker I’ve

programmers, curators, choreographers and

not experienced a macro-environmental

arts administrators we need to ensure we

backdrop that has been as challenging as

emerge from the multiple challenges we’re

we’ve seen in the last few years in nearly

navigating stronger and more committed to

two decades of working in the sector. We’ve

change than ever before.

experienced and encountered challenging and uncomfortable moments that have

History will not judge us kindly if our words

tested our sense of social justice, civic pride

turn out to be empty. I was struck by an

and engagement.

incredibly powerful quote a fellow speaker shared at a recent conference. ‘There are

In the face of adversity, we see the best and

years which ask questions, and there are

worst of ourselves. For every moment of

years which give answers’. If 2020 raised

inspiration there have been countless

difficult questions, 2021 needs to provide

moments of frustration. For every truth

meaningful answers.

spoken about racial injustice we’ve also encountered words and statements that have fallen short of the standards they set out to achieve.

Image Credit: Canva


What do you think needs to change?

The development of a new Inclusion and Relevance principle will enable us to

The two priorities for change for me

increase accountability and to widen the

personally would be to increase investment

conversation from a focus on programming

and provide more support for individual

to also addressing workforce, leadership and

practitioners and to dedicate more of our

governance diversity in a more meaningful

resources as a development and funding

way where organisations are responsible for

agency engaging directly with people who

delivering real change. Change that can be

we’ve had limited or no engagement with

defined in a more nuanced way taking into

previously. This is where our work on

consideration scale, geography, discipline,

Inclusion and Relevance will be so critical

practice and levels of investment.

over the next 10 years as we deliver our Let’s Create strategy. If we are serious about meaningful change, we need to start more conversations in the places and communities where historically we’ve been absent or relatively invisible. What are your hopes for the future in terms of the Creative Case as it moves into Let’s Create?

In one of my last conversations with Naseem before she passed away, we reflected on the all to frequent cyclical nature of diversity initiatives and how moments of real innovation and change were often few and far between. I reflect on the impact recent initiatives like Elevate and Change Makers have made in diversifying our national portfolio and the pool of ethnically diverse and disabled leaders.

The Arts Britain Ignores: The Arts of Ethnic Minorities in Britain by Naseem Khan 1976

As we transition to the Let’s Create I want to build on the work of the Creative Case for Diversity which has amplified the importance of ensuring diverse talent and stories are not restricted to the margins but are celebrated at the centre.


BLACK The 10 Commandments: MANIFESTO! Black Women Speak Out The new 10-part podcast series hosted by nora chipaumire and Pawlet Brookes. Episode 1, 2 and 3 out now. Availble to stream at, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Apple.

RECHARGING, RETHINKING AND REALIGNING THROUGH LOCKDOWN Dollie Henry Acclaimed jazz practitioner and choreographer and Bop Jazz Theatre Company founder Dollie Henry discusses how she was forced to adapt, recharge, rethink and realign due to the lockdown and also goes into her hopes for the future…

Interestingly as COVID-19 and Lockdown hit us all back in March, I went into natural survival mode. I saw the whole pandemic as a sign and a moment for personal change. Little did I know how many levels of change would happen both personally and professionally! On a practical level, I was set for a very industrious and rewarding 2020, with some fantastic projects and creative commissions. Like everyone, the loss of all my creative contracts, international work and theatre productions, imminent and foreseeable future were cancelled immediately. That’s when you kick into another mind-set and serious decision making. Over my now 39 years’ career in dance, theatre and education, you can truly understand the vagaries of being selfemployed creative and performing artist. You learn to become very adaptable and resilient. Lockdown allowed me to tap into the tools and lessons learnt along the journey, to rearrange and reset myself for a different 2020, Everything as we knew it had changed, so I prepared my plans and schedule to develop myself, my creativity, my vision for the future and of course survive in the ‘meantime’ we had all found ourselves in.


In regard to my company, BOP Jazz Theatre UK, we had to close down for the interim too. This effected the company as we were set to perform from June through to November 2020, so an opportunity lost to make the Jazz Art form more visible to the mainstream. We also lost three of our beautiful company members who had to return to their homelands in Europe. Financially as we are not a public funded creative organisation, supporting our dancers through furlough was not a possibility. So there was a loss for us as a creative family and Lockdown certainly broke our immediate BOP creative set up. However, many positive outcomes have come from the lockdown and in truth the positives outweigh the negatives. I realised the negatives I could not do anything about, so I focussed on the positives. On a personally journey, I had time to reset me! I had time to really recharge, rethink and realign my mind, my spirit and my physical body. Emotionally, like everyone else I am as human as the next person, and had days which were up and down, but happy to say mostly up! When you are forced to stop, you realise that actually most of the time you are going at 100 miles an hour and miss many things trying to make life and work happen, chasing your dreams and fighting your battles. Lockdown allowed me to literally stop and view things in my own life with more clarity. It also gave me that time to really rest my creative mind and sift through ideas or possibilities that were working and not working and remove the rubbish and baggage I didn’t need anymore. Even people in my life came into that clear out. What did manifest over the months, was a clear direction on how to see with clarity, spend time with family and myself without distraction, reconnect with my own purpose in life and look forward to what was going to be the new normal.

When you live a creative life, the world does not stop or you do not allow it stop! You continue to rise up and meet the challenges. You find ways to create, reinvent and empower a world that can work for you and hopefully for those around you. The Lockdown, also allowed quality time for myself and my, husband, creative partner and Co-Director of BOP, Paul Jenkins, precious time to sit down, really talk and work through what we wanted to further achieve for our company going forward. We were able to stay creative as we had the quality time together working as choreographer and composer. It gave us both time to break down our thoughts and refine ideas, which lead to sketching out two new BOP Jazz Theatre productions. As the music studio is at home Paul was able to further realise new jazz compositions and myself sketch out the narrative of the new dance pieces. To be honest we were both in lockdown creative heaven! It also gave us time to connect further with fellow creatives and discuss and facilitate further possibilities and opportunities for creative and artistic collaborations in the future. I am a great believer creativity is around us at all times, we create our own environment and thinking and for me staying in my creative bubble keeps me sane and more importantly heals me. No matter what the situation I find myself in, I can find creativity in most things I do. That way I do not get bored, stagnant or complacent. Staying in my creative head also allows me to let go of the mundane things in life and gives me an outlet to make sense of my thoughts which in turn builds my creative storeroom of dance. I am what I do, so being creative is part of my everyday life. I am a jazz artist, so Life is all about improvising and creating so it’s a natural and intuitive way of life.



With my BOP Company, we stayed connected weekly via Zoom Chats (thank goodness for zoom). It was very important to me as the director to keep everyone engaged and communicating. This allowed the company members to share in a safe place, how they were feeling and also laugh about life and the situation. To keep us all creatively active, I set the company tasks from which we would create a COVID-19 dance film project. Taking a narrative creative idea, I had been developing in rehearsals prior to lockdown, each dancer was given the task to film sections of the choreography with additional improvisation. The outcome was very special for me to watch and edit and for the dancers to connect to as a company. Having a goal is always important. I intend to share the finished film as a gift to the company dancers for Christmas, just to see 2020 out! In all seriousness, the project kept the company creatively connected during lockdown and kept us all close regardless of the lockdown separation and distance between countries. Very quickly you find new ways of working and sharing creatively. Much of my educational work, open classes and creative projects, residencies, judging competition and creative collaborations continued, transferring from the studio and live situation to the new online and digital world. I made the most of all the possibilities of keeping my Jazz classes available to my company dancers and the dance community. Instagram became a platform to share globally my open Jazz dance classes and Company warm-up program. I also made use of new apps that offered a chance to provide a platform to update our BOP Creative Shop to facilitate download purchasing our BOP Jazz dance exercise program and my Instagram classes, which I recorded, saved and made available to download.

It was very successful as a way to stay connected to the dance community and served both myself as a practitioner and the global dance community who were able to continue taking class with me, be it online or digitally. Taking advantage of the digital explosion, it allowed myself and Paul to look at how BOP could promote and highlight BOP and the jazz theatre art form. With that we created a BOP digital online series called Let’s Talk Jazz. The weekly program over six weeks provided an open and needed platform that represented some of the Black & British jazz practitioners who have influenced the creative aspects of the UK jazz dance art form over the last 30 years. It was a busy two month period through August and September. The process of gathering all media resources, conversations with each guest, biographies and career information gathering all needed takes the time. The admin of setting up weekly information and provision for Eventbrite ticket sales. Then there is setting up the technology and production, creating and editing show reels as part of the visual dance experience for each weekly program, the live presentation and production style, script writing, questions and making sure to record everything for editing down to share socially at a later stage. Finally, all you want is to be able to present and share each of your guests, their careers and journey as positively and freely as possible. I am not going to lie, it was a whirlwind, but it was a great experience and special time. Many new lessons learnt and looking back it was very exciting making it all happen. Being creative in the digital form was a new addition to my creative work life. There are however positives and negatives to this. For me there is nothing like the Live experience, be that on stage or in the studio, particularly for those of us in the arts, performance and education.


However, finding the digital tool was something that grew out of necessity during lockdown as a vehicle to potentially continue to present ourselves and offer creativity in a new way. It has certainly made the arts and artists more accessible, but I hope we are not lost to just the digital experience. My wish is that digital and live arts they can sit alongside and complement each other, but more that we can get back to the Live creative and theatre experience as soon as is possible.

I now have many personal and professional and creative goals set out for the coming years ahead and will stick to the truth of my journey to achieve them. I am looking forward to 2021 to get going on new company creative ventures, performances and collaborations with creatives both here in the UK and Internationally.

I am a positive individual and it takes a lot to bring me down. Not only have both the lockdowns dented our way of living and achieving right now, we also had to take on all that went with the death of George Floyd in America and the uprising of the Black Lives Matter Movement that reverberated across the world in June. The elephant in the room is now very visible and so this has brought with it a great shift in how we all have to move forward with all that has been presented to us. However, there is some healing and reconsolidation to be done still and much more transparent and honest conversations to be had.

tangible and hard hitting moment in time to

I believe wholeheartedly, the situation we have found ourselves in during most 2020, with COVID-19, two lockdowns and the scars of Black Lives Matter, has given us all a very reflect, reset and restart. I’ve been reminded by the whole global spin, that the changes we want in our lives must first start with ourselves and I believe the world will be in a better place if we all take responsibility and accountability for our part in that change. We can only go forward and hopefully learn from the past.

Change is never easy, but it’s definitely time to create a new order, perception, outlook and landscape, specifically in the arts. Diversity and inclusivity in our arts is vital and needs to be visible and accessible to everyone. So my hope is not just for myself, but for all my fellow creatives and artists whom like me are a darker shade of melanin. My final hope is this, I hope that everyone will be accepted and treated fairly, the performing arts landscape will offer and support more diversity and inclusivity, that the meaning of equality and respect is not for some but for everyone and that through our art endeavours whatever form that comes in, we share a true reflection of ourselves that encompasses and connects everyone, bringing us all closer together as a human race.




BALLET CLASSES IN THE KITCHEN Javier Torres Javier Torres is Northern Ballet’s Premier

So, I found, for example, body-weight exercising,

Dancer, originally from Cuba having studied at

running and the outdoors very helpful. That hour

the National School of Ballet in Havana-Cuba

or so one was allowed to exercise outside I did

he has performed all across the world for

use it at its maximum, at times I even did a ballet

numerous acclaimed companies including

barre in my driveway, so I could feel like if I was

Ballet Nacional de Cuba.

a bit freer with space. I found new alternatives to keep my body fit, and at the same time, found

Javier tells us how he has been keeping

new options to stay mentally happier with the

focused and motivated during lockdown from

physical restrictions. And although at the

taking ballet classes in his kitchen to ballet

beginning it felt like if lockdown was going to

barres in his driveway.

consume us all as artists, and that our lives would have become lonelier, more isolated — it

There is no doubt that lockdown has had a

surprisingly and arguably also brought us a new

profound effect on the mental and physical well-

and more thoughtful sense of creativity and

being of every artist, dancer, choreographer. We,

connections. When I say connections, I mean a

dancers/artists, we are creatures made to move,

connection to oneself, it brought us to connect

to fly to express without restrictions, without

with an inner-creative spirit that many people


included myself didn’t know they have; and in that sense, I think the lockdown also had a

For myself, the most challenging part was to

positive effect on us.

cope with the keeping fit part of it. Like everybody else, I started to take ballet classes in

Lockdown also highlighted, among other things,

my kitchen; the first couple of weeks were really

the importance of taking care of ourselves.

fun, after week three or so it became a little bit

Now, more than ever, we must look after our

harder, trying to do a proper training using a

mental health. The lockdown situation had and

windowsill as a barre and avoiding all type of

is still having an impact on a lot of people’s mind-

furniture, fridge, dining table etc. became a

sets. We know that when we talk about mental

hazard instead of something fun to do. I have

health, there is no discrimination, mental health

to say I hated it. I started feeling that I was not

does not discriminate. Even people that never

getting anywhere and that my fitness level was

suffered from it previously may now be

dropping quickly. After week four/five, I could

struggling, and that it is essential to recognize it.

not get motivated. So, I had to find a different

The uncertainties of the current situation we

alternative, a new way of getting fit. I did not

are all living are too broad and can affect us in

take the class at home very well. It did affect my

many different forms. That is why I think now

mental and physical wellbeing, I felt like the

more than ever; we need to educate ourselves

classes at home were there to fill the quantitative

about it and not to reject the fact that we all can

gap part of exercising instead of fulfilling the

suffer from this issue. The cultural sector needs

qualitative aspect of dancing which is what I

to actively start working in a recovery plan that



not only includes financial and audience

situation, the context on which we need to work

recovery strategies, but it will also involve mental

on and to find alternatives to bounce back from

health recovery. I believe our leaders; the

what we have just experienced. We need to

cultural sector leaders are responsible for

start understanding first how we will start

wanting to take care of this post-lockdown issue

capturing our freedom again from the

because it will happen, and it is already

unacceptable risk we have all lived through. The

happening. I also believe that dance, as an

basic idea of sense making will help us to accept

ancient way of healing, will also help us to go

that reality is only "an ongoing accomplishment

through this dark post-lockdown effects.

that emerges from efforts to create order and make retrospective sense of what occurs"....and

To get ready for a post-lockdown life we need to

making sense of what just occurred in a

start building resilience. But to understand how

profound and non-paternalistic way will be, in my

resilience will help us recover we need to start

opinion, the only step we can take to address the

making sense of what just happened. The sense

post-lockdown life.

making process will allow us to understand the


Image Credit: Kuicphotos


BLACK HISTORY MONTH 2020 Utilising digital technologies but also bridging the gap between digital and physical work, where and when safely possible, this year Serendipity delivered another programme of high quality and relevant events for Leicester and beyond.

BlackInk Magazine

A new magazine of international voices from across the African and African Caribbean Diaspora and indigenous communities. Launched for Black History Month the publication feature over 30 artists, writers, poets, illustrators, photographers and more. “Articles of real depth and insight with every turn of the page. Raises aspirations and points to forgotten histories.” Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England

The publication has sold copies across the world BlackInk is available at

Decolonising the Curriculum Following on from the success of the Windrush Day Lecture, Professor Stephen Small was invited back to give an online lecture on Decolonising the Curriculum. The lecture examined the steps that can be taken to create a more equitable and representative curriculum across education. Those attending the lecture also received a link to the e-publication of Professor Stephen Small’s Windrush Day Lecture Windrush Generation As Living History and the podcast recorded following this lecture. Contributing to a winder conversation about Black History.


Resilience Exhibition

Running throughout the month of October with a socially distanced COVID-19 safe capacity, Resilience Exhibition was presented at Leicester Gallery at De Montfort University. The exhibition featured new work from Ade Coker, Tolu Coker, Stephen Anthony Davids, Shagomola Edunjobi, Patricia Vester and Ana Paz who were part of BlackInk. Covering photography, film, illustration, manga, comic art and visual art, the space was also animated by quotes of resilience by Black artists and leaders. Following the exhibition, Serendipity hosted Resilience: In Conversation, a zoom discussion where artists could talk about their work, being part of the experience and their hopes for the future, and was also an opportunity for the audience to ask questions about their work.

Let's Dance International Frontiers 2021 Preview

Image Credit: Léna Blou

LDIF21 Preview also played host to two online workshops by Lénablou and Thomas Prestø. IImage Credit: Shutterstock

Growing out of the success of Alternative LDIF20, LDIF21 Preview was programmed to keep a spotlight on the festival with a series of digital dance events and performances ahead of the return of live programming in 2021.

LDIF21 Preview and Black History Month closed with 30 Seconds to Treasure. Inspired by an earlier dance film, 30 Seconds of Freedom, the film brought together dance practitioners from across the African and African Caribbean Diaspora, based across 11 different countries.

LDIF21 Preview featured 12 dance films, including the world premiere of (Re)United by Alleyne Dance to launch the festival and 6 dance films from Signatures, the emerging talent platform in partnership with Dance4.

Black History Month Education Pack Commissioned by the National Education Union (NEU), Serendipity created an education and teaching pack for Key Stage 3-4 for Black History Month. A highlight of LDIF21 Preview was The Big Debate: Where is Dance Now? With Pawlet Brookes, nora chipaumire, Jonzi D, Sharon Watson and Javier Torres as panellists, the discussion focused on the impact of COVID-19 on the dance sector, the impact on diverse representation within the dance sector, support for independent artists and next steps in the recovery of dance ecology.

Available through the NEU website, the education pack covered four key areas; reframing history, social histories, activism and art. The education pack featured discussion points and activities for young people, and offered up an opportunity to address Black history from a local perspective using Leicester as a case study, simultaneously putting Leicester’s Black history on the map.


Image Credit:: Christian Noelle Charles

GRIN: EXCEPTIONS OF GENEROSITY Mele Broomes Award-winning choreographer, performer,

Why did you choose the practitioners you are

director and co-founder of Project X Dance,

working with for this publication?

Mele Broomes talks to Pawlet Brookes about her latest publication Grin.

Grin was selected to be part of the Made in Scotland Showcase for a two week run at the

What was the motivation behind creating

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2020. When COVID-


19 hit the festival was cancelled and shortly after our social media was churning more than

Grin is a visceral performance of sound, visuals

usual abuse inflicted on the Black body. It

and choreography which subverts hyper

seemed that an abundance of white people had

sexualised notions of African and Caribbean

come to some kind of “awakening”. It made me

people. A masquerade of dance sculptures

question where were you before? The lack of

where body and costume accompanied by a

awareness continues to concern me. A friend

pulsating sound score. Grin was a community

and I read “sign the petition to end racism” Like

expression of my voice.

a click of button will make this all disappear. So deeply rooted in racism. So arrogant and just

Responding to the white noise, the oblivious

dame right stupid.

nature of harmful whiteness. A journey of


community building. Learning and supporting.

I have always used my anger as fuel. Grin

Saying it through the body. The pain,

still had more to say the conversation needed

subjectivity and labour endured by Black

to continue. This then felt like a good

people. This work endeavours to support the

opportunity to reach out to Black writers based

Black imagination, the rant, the vent, the joy and

in Scotland. These are the writers that should

love of Blackness”

be writing about our work.

Along with a preview from Alberta Whittle that was already written for Grin’s 2019 presentation at Dance International Glasgow at Tramway. Aisha Oyedepo, KJ Clarke- Davis, Natasha Ruwona and Micheal Issac Temple were selected from the call out. The writings were then embedded in zine (small publication) designed by graphic designer Christian Noelle Charles and Grin: Exceptions of Generosity was produced. What are your hopes for Grin moving forward?

Currently I am in the process of finalising a sound collage made up of vocals, melodies and poetry from Paix and Jeremy Mibiba. Audio recordings of reflective conversation with myself, Kemono L.Riot, Divine Tasinda and Levent Nyembo. These elements were arranged and developed by Music Producer Shaheeda Sinckler with myself as Executive Producer. From this The Refusal was produced

Image Credit: Tiu Makkonen, Devine performing in Grin

soon to be released in some capacity (still working on it) alongside a music video developed by rapper, dancer and music producer Kemono L.Riot. It is hoped that Grin can be presented live to a live audience at some time. But the truth is the work manifested by these wonderful artists is a dream. If 2019 was the last time I believe this work has been on a beautiful journey. Getting a tour is a challenge regardless of times so the music, video and publication are the elements used to reaching a wider community and audience. Grin: Exceptions of Generosity is available at



WHERE ARE ALL THE BLACK PEOPLE IN DANCE?’ Jeanefer Jean-Charles Artistic Director, Mass Movement specialist and Creative Consultant, Jeanefer JeanCharles tells us about how an email during lockdown to her network has led her to becoming an activist for change within the industry.

Since starting my journey as the co-founder and artistic director of Bullies Ballerinas Jazz Dance Company (1990-2000), my work has taken me to over 21 countries. My unique creative process aims to bring to life the talents, strengths and shared stories of local communities and artists in inspiring and unforgettable ways. Cherilyn Albert - Image credit festival.org_Greenwell

During lockdown, when all of my work came to a halt, I felt threatened by the idea that my career as an artist might come to an end. I wanted to know how everyone else in my industry was getting on and decided to join online zoom sessions. This was because of a feeling of solidarity with fellow artists to gain (or give) support. But what struck me was the lack of Black people in these meetings. If it was not specifically on the subject of Black Lives Matter, there were very few to be seen. On one occasion I remember counting eight Black people out of 250 attendees in a meeting all about the future of our industry, and that was a frequent experience. As a child I remember being glued to the television anytime there was a dance show on. My family would call me as soon as they

Bafana Solomon Matea- Image credit festival.org_Greenwell


saw anything to do with dance.

If it was a Black person it would be: ‘Jean! Quick!

Some of the themes were:

There’s a Black person on the TV!’ That’s because it was so rare. I realise now that’s how ‘Where are

A need to come together more

all the Black People?’ commenced. As I left my

Being advocates for each other’s work

safety net and joined the big wide world ‘Where

Sharing our database

are all the Black People?’ became a silent protest.

More leadership training opportunities being needed

I did not ask aloud, but scanned every space to look for people who looked like me in order to

The ultimate aim of ‘Where are all the Black

build confidence and strengthen my voice. Perhaps

People in dance?’ is to provide support and to

I did not speak up because of a lack of courage or I

nurtureopportunities for more Black voices to be

lacked a platform – the seed remained dormant,

seated at the decision making table; to be

but it never left me.

unmuted and be heard. Having instigated this initiate, I know I have an audience: people with

During lockdown and because of the Black Lives

lived experience of inequality who want change

Matter movement, I found my voice and I

and a chance for their voices to be heard. It

sent an email to my network.

feels more than I can continue on my own.

Would you describe yourself as a Black person

Thanks to Vicki Igbokwe who has teamed up

working in the dance industry?

with me, and the support from Pearl Jordan,

Are you feeling anxious in this present climate?

Judith Palmer and Mercy Nabirye, Heather

Have you ever asked yourself where are all the

Benson, Louise Katerega and Pawlet Brookes, I

Black voices in dance?

know I have more to give. The challenge is capacity. After all, I am an artistic director, mass

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then

movement specialist and creative consultant. I

let’s have a conversation...

never saw myself as an activist or a campaigner.

Boom!... it was out there and public.

But, I have taken inspiration from people like Amanda Parker from Inc Arts, who creates

I organised two open meetings attended by over of

platforms for open debate for people with share

100 Black people in the dance sector from across

lived experiences of racism and inequality, and

the UK, and it was great! There

is campaigning for the acronym BAME (Black,

were people who were meeting for the first time.

Asian, Minority, Ethnic) to be over. And my

We shared stories and we celebrated each other’s

involvement with Black people in dance in the

work. We discussed what we

UK - a collective of nine leaders in the dance

needed in order to attend meetings and to be

sector; again lobbying for change. So, I can’t

present at the decision making

stop now and tick the box - Black Lives Matter –


done. No. This is a step change in my career, and I am now taking time to pause and reflect, to decide what next?







Vanguard is a bi-annual magazine, circulated digitally and archived online for Serendipity Connect members. The magazine has a wide international reach across the arts and heritage industries.

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