Black Country

The Black Country has been involved with Boys Dancing since 2009, with regional artists creating some amazing work in theatres and site-specific locations including Fort Dunlop in Birmingham - our location for one of the Quiet Man Suite dance films. For the first time, 2013-2014 activity brings together Sandwell and Dudley under the umbrella of the Black Country Dance Hub (BCDH).

Project Updates:

  • Learning stillness

    Halesowen, 4th March 2014

    Our last full day together started with a lengthy recap of our previous work. The majority of the material was intact, meaning we could spend time cleaning and clarifying. The challenge today was ensuring that the group we currently have are retained for the performance. It’s been about four weeks since I last visited and some of the boys seem to have forgotten their enthusiasm! Not to worry though – within 20 minutes of us starting to work, the enthusiasm returned!

    Once the previous work was remembered, we set to work developing material for the rest of our piece. The boys were able to draw on their experiences from our previous sessions to enhance the material they created and the final few sections fell into place quickly. We were then able to spend time clarifying and detailing the movement we had created.

    A large portion of the conversation between the boys and myself today has been about the similarities between team sports and dancing together. As a group performing work, we discussed how our performance can only be as strong as our weakest performer. We identified a number of different habits that can compromise our performance quality: chatting, fidgeting and moving when we shouldn’t be distract from the hard work the boys have and are putting in. So our focus is on stamping these bad habits out. But, when the boys aren’t aware that they are moving, it’s harder to stay still!

  • Dudley boys in at the deep end

    St Margaret’s at Hasbury – 14th Feb 2014

    Day 1 at St. Margaret’s at Hasbury. Well, once again, I am so pleased to be able to say that I spent the day working with a very enthusiastic and very capable group of Year 5 and 6 boys, who really engaged with and got stuck in to the project.

    Following our warm up I decided to throw the boys in at the deep end and ask them to work creatively around the idea of individuals who have had a positive effect on the world and those who have had a not so positive effect. The responses both in terms of the individuals they chose and the physical language they began to create was astonishing. The boys picked some excellent examples and then really experimented with how they could represent these people through movement.

    Having spent some time working on contact skills, we then explored movement ideas relating to the idea of whether we help or hinder individuals, and whether our response is sometimes counterintuitive. Travelling across the space, the boys looked at how they could manipulate each others' pathways by physically interrupting the movement as a hindrance to the journey. We then began to explore lifting and different ways of enhancing each others' movement.

    All in all, a very productive day! I’ve definitely been left with lots to think about and will be planning our next line of inquiry very shortly!

  • Impressive Coseley

    Coseley – 11th Feb 2014

    Two really fantastic and productive days! Working with boys from Years 7 and 8, all of whom have danced before, Coseley School has Dance as an obligatory subject for Years 7 to 9, with students able to opt in to dance all they way through to Year 11 and the strength of the Dance Department became clear as we began working.

    Still thinking about individuality, at Coseley, I wanted to examine how groups of individuals band together, whether for friendship or for safety and how this affects their unique identities. The ideas came thick and fast. The boys were not afraid to get stuck in and started to produce some really interesting solo, duet and group work. As we moved into the second half of the first day, we began to learn basic contact improvisation techniques, which were quickly incorporated into the material that had already been devised.

    Having developed a good understanding of the boys’ abilities on Day 1, I began Day 2 by working with the group of Year 8 boys to create some intricate group contact work, whilst the Year 7 boys worked on a different task with their teacher. In both cases, the work that was devised and the lads’ execution of said work was impressive. The whole group demonstrated a passion and enthusiasm for dance, which really got me thinking about how positive an influence the school’s subject delivery has.

    I still find when I work in schools with boys that there is a stigma attached to men in dance. The strength and athleticism required is often overshadowed by images of pink tutus and tights. While at the school I discussed how the enthusiasm for dance the boys demonstrated would make them the ‘individuals’ at many other schools, but that here it was the norm. We also considered whether some of the current attitudes to men in dance that persist are generational and will eventually change due to a lack of people holding the opinion. We’ll see!

    Suffice to say – I’m looking forward to the end result at Coseley. It’s going to be spectacular!

  • What makes us individual?

    Halesowen 4th Feb 2014

    It’s 2014! Dudley’s Boys Dancing starts here! This year’s project features a new line up – 5 out of our 6 schools are new to Boys Dancing, we’re now working under the umbrella of the wonderful Black Country Dance Hub and we’ve got Ben Morley (former participant) joining the artistic team. So, with schools booked in, the team ready to go and the ideas flowing, BD Dudley kicks into gear!

    This year’s theme being 'avoidance', Ben and I spent some time thinking about subjects that men and boys avoid. We talked a lot about what we avoided when we were young and began to realise that, as young men interested in dance, the very thing that made us individual and different we avoided rather than celebrating. And so, individuality and the differences between us became our subject matter.

    My first foray into investigating this in terms of movement came at Halesowen CE Primary where we began thinking about what makes us individuals. In particular, I wanted the boys to identify issues that were pertinent and relevant to them. We established all sorts of criteria that can make us different and then we talked about whether we thought this was advantageous or not. Many of the lads were of the opinion that enforcing our individuality might make us separate and lonely.

    Something that I really enjoy about BD is the time we get to engage the participants in dance – particularly when their previous experience is minimal (as it often is with contemporary dance.) We spent the day experimenting with tasks and movement ideas, exploring what the boys’ responses to the theme could be and how it could develop. We also had chance to write and experiment with text and delivery of text – something I’m becoming more and more interested in.

    One young gent revealed to me quietly that he is trained in and competes at Ballroom dancing. He showed me some of his repertoire and told me about the styles he prefers. He was reluctant to allow me to include some of this in the piece we were creating – his reaction and conduct being exactly the thing we’re thinking about for our performance. Though the room was filled with boys and men participating in dance, he was still slightly embarrassed about his skills – a feeling I remember, and one that reiterates the importance of projects like Boys Dancing.

    Now, I don’t want to give too much away, but over the two days I was at Halesowen, we began to refine and define our ideas and our movement output, incorporating my ideas with the lads’ and by the end of day two, we the beginnings of some very promising work! NUFF SAID!