Earlier this year Balbir Singh Dance Company (BSDC) received a grant from Leeds Inspired to create Full Contact, a new dance performance to celebrate the Rugby League World Cup games in Leeds. Elisa Heikkilä, BSDC Company Manager, tells us about the dance/rugby connection.
"BSDC is no stranger to working across sport and culture. BSDC created Synchronised, a pool-based spectacular with over 150 performers bringing together dance, synchronised swimming and music for summer 2012 as part of Yorkshire's Cultural Olympiad, commissioned by imove. As part of this the company worked with Team GB. BSDC was also commissioned to create three high profile pieces for Olympic Torch ceremonies, one of which went on to perform in Parliament. The company relished the challenge of creating new risk-taking work around high profile sporting events. While busy developing numerous works for touring – including Synchronised (to London, Leicester and Blackburn), new work (nationally and internationally), and a triple bill – BSDC is pleased to be making a piece with Leeds at its heart, where Artistic Director and Choreographer Balbir Singh studied at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance.
Balbir took inspiration from meeting and listening to Rugby League experts such as rugby historian Professor Tony Collins and Leeds Rhinos and national squad player Jamie Jones-Buchanan. “When I saw how integral Rugby League was to Leeds' history, I saw the performance as something much more personal and needed to convey that to the audience.” Balbir also brought on board storyteller Dan Mallaghan and Composer Jesse Bannister to tell the story of rugby league in a way that has never been done before.
To gain an insight into the life of a rugby player, Balbir recruited Jon Beney. Jon played rugby from a young age, and was selected to represent Great Britain from the West Hull Rugby Club at 18, where he was awarded British Player of the Year. Jon was headed towards a promising career in Rugby League when an accident on the pitch forced him to give up the game. He turned his ambition towards dance, “there are a lot of similarities between dance and rugby. They both require coordination, training your body a certain way, learning routines and quick thinking, and perform in front of audiences.” Now Jon is one of a handful of dancers selected to deliver the national dance choreography in communities, and is working with BSDC on Full Contact. “I've gone from the potential of playing at these stadiums to performing on them. It's like I've come full circle.”
Full Contact complements the national Dance Programme accompanying the RLWC games, a million pound project supported by Arts Council England, adding a new performance style to the dance offer in Yorkshire. For players and fans alike there is a strong appreciation for the richness of the game beyond sports, and its importance to the people is rooted in its history. BSDC has rejoiced in making work that has resonance and connection with people around the world. Company Manager Elisa Heikkilä stated, “producing this performance has turned into a much bigger project than we imagined. The excitement and support towards the project from the rugby league world has been great and shows that the project has much global appeal.”
BSDC works in partnership with Leeds Libraries to showcase the work locally, before developing it for touring. The Central Library opened its doors on Light Night to host BSDC's rehearsals, where members of the public gained their first opportunity to see sections of the performance."
Check out the Leeds Inspired events page for details of Full Contact performances: http://www.leedsinspired.co.uk/events/balbir-singh-dance-company-full-co...