In autumn 2020, in response to the coronavirus pandemic and with the help of funding from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund we launched the Back to the Studio scheme – offering dancers and physical theatre performers a week of no-pressure studio time and £1000 to cover living expenses to help restart their creative practice.
The programme included 26 artists – 10 were artists we hand picked because of our long standing working relationships and the other 16 came from our open application process. We were overwhelmed not just by the number of applications we received (8x times more than we had funding available for) but also the quality and talent on display. It was very difficult to decide who to support (we are grateful for Balbir Singh’s help with the selection process), so we extended the scheme as far as budgets would allow and is clear that this kind of support is vital to the sector.
Artists are rarely given the space and time to use the studio freely – without working on a specific project or piece of work – but after many months of lockdown, with no access to suitable dance spaces, we felt it was vital that they were given freedom to just be in the studio, whatever form that took. For many it was both an emotional and inspiring experience. The artist’s worked across a range of styles, including Hip-Hop, Breakin’, Bharatanatyam, Kathak and Contemporary Dance. Some worked solo, while others with partners (following appropriate social distancing rules). Photographer Karol Wyszynski spent an hour with each artist towards the end of their week. The images on display here is just a small selection of the images he captured.
Photos c. Karol Wyszynski
Akeim Toussaint Buck
Akeim Toussaint Buck is an interdisciplinary creative based in the UK. Akeim choreographed and performed in works: ‘Snakebox’s PLAY’ & ‘Windows Of Displacement.’ He’s recent commission ‘Marvin’s Service’ with NSCD 2nd year BA students will be premiering on December 4th 2020.
I am a choreographer, writer and performer who trained as a contemporary dancer and has since gone on to perform with many organisations of varying scale. For the past 3 years, I have worked at Northern Rascals, a Yorkshire-based dance theatre company that I proudly co-direct with a style that has been described as ‘rich, compassionate and utterly unself-serving’.
‘I am thrilled to be a recipient of the Back to the Studio package offered by Kala Sangam. The support gives me vital space to put my desk-based research into motion – there’s only so much I can do in the confinements of my home… Whilst it has been a turbulent year, the uncertainty of the pandemic has made me wish to embrace the unknown, trust my instinct & continue upskilling my artistic process – the support offered by Kala Sangam will allow me to do this. I can not wait!’
I am a Kathak dancer with a keen interest in experimental freestyle and choreography. I have trained, performed and competed in crews and individually over the years in various styles including Breakin’, House, Popping and Experimental. My main focus is developing a fluid dance style that brings together the grace, accuracy and poise of Kathak with the raw energy and vibes of the freestyle dance battle scene.
‘This will allow me to bring to life my experimental freestyle-choreography vision and explore my style and voice as a choreographer.’
I am a multi-disciplinary artist that likes to share my personal politics on sexuality, gender, racism, classism and homophobia through live art and film using poetry, breakdancing and theatre.
Throughout my developing career, I have worked with a variety of artists such as, playwright Roy Williams, Company 3 and Talawa Theatre Company.
Through my creative journey my aims are to identify the struggles faced in trying to maintain individuality, but also highlighting the cultural limitations, beliefs and society’s stereotypes that I do not adhere to. The work I have created so far has developed from some element of truth and has a specific connection to myself. I really enjoy using my art, creativity and writing as a platform for catharsis and expression. Creating work that unites a desire for introspection within the audience and myself is one of my aspirations, but through that a celebration of individuality should reign supreme.
Bobak Champion has had a passion for dance ever since seeing hip-hop styles on the then hit TV show Top of The Pops. He’s on a mission to create work that challenges negative stereo types of Islam and the middle east. Combining live music, dance and storytelling, Bobak draws on his identity as a Bristolian, Iranian, Yorkshireman, Hip-Hop head as well as his travels to The Islamic Republic of Iran, to create his latest work in progress ‘I’m Muslamic, Don’t Panic’.
‘Back to the Studio has already made a huge impact on my practise and at this point I’ve not even been into the studio yet. At a time when the last thing you want to do is spend more time online the application process was straight forward and simple.
To begin to challenge myself properly again artistically and physically is fantastic and was only made possible by the space and financial support provided. The limitations of lockdown haven’t entirely kept me from my practise however the challenges have been exhausting. To get back to a full week in the studio, safely beginning to chip away at my solo and getting back to dance fitness is a wonderful opportunity.’
Collaboration is everything; I’m an interdisciplinary, movement improviser, as well as a producer, who creates events and happenings with people in communities. This is my 10th year working in Bradford, what drives my work is seeing the collective magic people create when working together. As well as my solo work you may know me through being associate artist with The Brick Box or a collective member of Wur Bradford.
‘It’s been a tentative and complicated year, therefore, Kala Sangam creating this opportunity is having a powerful ripple effect on my practice providing me with support and giving me a chance to invest in my creative practice.’
Debbie Bandara is a choreographer and director making immersive work. Her repertoire is a collection of carefully mastered dance genres from hip-hop, African, Dancehall to physical theatrical dance. Her choreography explores emotional narratives and how it resonates with her audiences. She takes great care in ensuring her work has integrity.
‘The package has come at a time where the opportunity to explore ideas and find space is such a rarity. I will really value the time to develop my own creative ideas and appreciate Kala Sangam in recognising this vital need for artists at such a challenging time.’
Displace Yourself Theatre
Displace Yourself is made up of core members Jennifer Nevin and Mike Auger and the Creating Together Collaborators. We work closely with a creative producer and some fantastic other artists on a project basis. We also work with grass root organisations and local communities in the towns we visit who are integral to the development of our shows.
Ella is an established professional artist with over 15 years of experience in dance and movement. Performance highlights include Russell Maliphant Company, Lea Anderson (The Chomondeleys), Olympics Opening Ceremony. Director of international touring Ella Mesma Company, she collaborates with incredible artists to make powerful, personal and political dance theatre.
‘This package is such a blessing, because it will enable me to keep making work even in these different times. There have been times I thought I won’t get back in a studio again, that I will need to quit the job I have been doing the past 15 years, and this package has given me hope. I will put in a bid to arts council and I am determined to get out touring again too!’
Founder and Artistic Director of Bharata Natyam Leicester – Hiten is one of the UK’s leading Bharata Natyam Practitioners of the current generation. Hiten holds a Master’s in Performance Practices from De Montfort University in Leicester which focused on his contemporary dance practice rooted in classical Bharata Natyam roots.
Hiten is a Vibrant and Creative Choreographer who is always inquisitive to push the boundaries of the Bharata Natyam Dance form, maintaining its authenticity whilst exploring and exhibiting its versatility. He will be using this one week residency at Kala Sangam to work on an interdisciplinary online series of engaging dance, narratives and critical discussion – ‘Tales They Don’t Tell You’.
Jaivant Patel Dance
Jaivant Patel is a dance artist, choreographer and curator rooted in The Black Country. He is Artistic Director of Jaivant Patel Dance. Jaivant’s artistic journey seeks to incorporate Kathak into his creative practice to compliment his contemporary dance background. Jaivant’s approach to Kathak integrates a curiosity in understanding the classical form’s unique nuances rooted in diaspora heritage and relationship to his own British-Indian identity.
‘There is a real value in the relationship that continues to grow between Jaivant Patel Dance and Kala Sangam. The support Kala Sangam provides is meaningful to the ambitions and artistic work of Jaivant Patel Dance. Kala Sangam hosted the preview of our recent YAATRA production and we are pleased they are involved as a seed commisioner for the R&D towards our next production entitled Waltzing The Blue Gods’
Jake is a dance artist based in Leeds. He started dancing aged 17 at a community youth theatre before going on to complete both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, performing in the UK, Europe and the US during this time. Since then he has gone on to tour productions by Vincent Dance Theatre and Gary Clarke Company. Jake is also a drag performer, club host and a member of the House of Decay. Since 2017 he has worked throughout the UK both as a solo artist and with performance collectives AgeOfThe, Delerium and Little Gay Bro. His own work explores themes relating to aesthetics, the self, and queer identity.
‘The Back to the Studio package is important because I can actually dance properly in a studio for the first time in 9 months! The pandemic meant I lost absolutely all of my work and the future is looking so uncertain right now. This is a huge opportunity for me to develop my own creative practice with the economic and professional support that is invaluable to artists, particularly at this moment in time. Like others, I felt like I took quite a battering financially and emotionally, so the package will provide a lot of help and fuel me to take the leap and start making work I’ve been thinking about for years. Also with it being in West Yorkshire too, I feel very lucky and grateful.’
Kamala Devam is an international and multilingual dance and performing artist. Her training in classical Indian dance, contemporary dance, physical theatre and vocal work has led her to perform in a wide range of companies and choreograph using all elements of her unique training, both in the United States and United Kingdom
Kapow is a female-led CIC. We use dance, circus and theatre to create outdoor art and deliver creative projects in the community.
Our work focuses on themes of personal wellbeing/empowerment, environmental issues and responsibilities.
‘It’s so inspiring and welcome to see an organisation really understanding and providing the sort of support that freelance dance artists and small companies really need, especially after such a challenging year. It means that we can get into a studio and have crucial time to process how it feels to be back working physically again, before we tackle making and delivering work in the community.
As a small company it is a real rarity that we get the time to focus on being in a studio without the pressure to make or deliver something, and it’s in times like that when you can develop yourself and the direction of your work in a new way. This support allows us to recognise and take into account the unusual times we are living through with some preparation time to get our heads and bodies ready for the year to come.’
Keira, is an independent international performing artist from Barnsley currently based in Leeds. She’s a versatile storyteller, telling stories of the underrepresented through Irish-contemporary dance, music and song.
‘Receiving the space and funds form Kala Sangam has given me hope and faith that they shows must and will go on. Appreciated with my whole heart thank you’
2020 marked the 20th year of my dance journey starting as a pupil at a local church class at St Johns Bowling, Bradford to becoming a leading international bboy having performed, judged and run workshops across the globe. I am the owner of Tranquil Productions one of the UK’s leading breakin workshop and performance specialists and the director of Tech Styles International a fast-growing organisation leading the way for Bradford and England’s community hip hop events. I thank God I have been able to have so many amazing experiences that I could not have imagined when I began my journey and I hope to be able to help many other people in their journeys.
‘This package is an amazing opportunity to enable me to develop and regain skills lost due to the difficulties faced in 2020. I can’t wait to begin.’
Lucie Lee is an artist whose practice combines contemporary dance techniques, improvisation and digital dance. Using modern digital technology, Lucie and her company of collaborators, create live art installations across the country.
Lucie’s work, and the work of the Lucie Lee Dance Company, provides an insight into how the technological advances of the 21st century is shaping art for the future Visitors to their exhibits and audience members at their performances will find work with more dimensions than that of simply dance, and an engaging consideration into the mind of one of Yorkshire’s innovative performers emerging today. The Lucie Lee Dance Company is an emerging professional Dance Theatre Company, which embraces the use of digital technologies within performance. The company produces experimental dance theatre and site-specific work.
‘I am excited to get Back into Studio and work on some creative ideas with movement and technology. This scheme from Kala Sangam will allow me to focus, explore, get feedback and plan for the year ahead in what I would like to achieve in 2021. Thank you for having me and let’s do this.’
Mez Galaria is an actor, dancer and singer from Bradford. She studied at the prestigious Northern School of Contemporary Dance and Acting School North. Recent stage credits include Partition (Leeds Playhouse), radio credits include Breaking up with Bradford (BBC Radio 4), TV credits include Crimes That Shook Australia and she appeared in the Clio Barnard movie Ali and Ava (2021). In 2018 Mez was awarded an Artists’ International Development Fund which led to her spending a significant period in India researching dance styles and studying Odissi Dance. She is represented by North Of Watford Agency.
‘I’m so pleased that the Back to the Studio package at Kala Sangam is enabling me to access a dance studio locally in Bradford while I am pregnant. This is a changing time for my body and getting into a studio and having the space to explore this is exciting for me. The pandemic means I have not been able to get into a studio to practise or to make work so this is just what I needed: to spend some quality time going over the basics of Odissi dance and getting some time to refine and reacquaint myself with my body as a dancer.’
Ruqeeya is a disabled queer Trans Womxn of Bengali muslim heritage. Her current work spans Dance & Choreography, as well as supporting her peers with Accountability processes & fundraising. They are also training to work as a Somatic Bodywork healer. Her practise is informed by prison abolition, community self-defence & healing justice. She centres working-class Queer disabled Black & Brown folks in her work.
‘I’m hugely thankful for KS for reaching out to support me – this package gives me the breathing space & time that’s so needed amidst the pandemic, to help me stay afloat & to continue work on my current practises.’
Sarah is a movement artist working across theatre, circus and performance art. Her work is infused with the discovery of human connection and tenderness in unlikely places, and explores unusual environments and spaces through the body.
‘It’s allowing me to dive back into creating my own work, with pressure free time and space to explore queering my creative process and sew new seeds for work. After many months of introspection it’s an opportunity to finally put ideas into the space to play with.’
Sheetal is a multi-disciplinary artist based in the North West. A graduate of Dance Studies with a specialism in choreography and performance, a PGCE in Primary Teaching and a professional make-up and hair artist, Sheetal has worked internationally and has varied work experience in the arts and education sectors.
‘As an artist, it’s so important to be able to nurture your artistic practise. In the current situation, we’re able to work online and be creative about how we use space in our home environment. But there’s only so much movement you can do in your bedroom/ lounge or kitchen… So I’m really looking forward to getting into the studio to explore ideas without those limits. It’s like brainstorming all your ideas on paper, but in a studio with the body as your writing/ drawing tool. This opportunity will also allow me to nourish my hunger to create without the pressures of timelines and end an product – the journey is JUST as, if not MORE important than the end masterpiece.’
Shivaangee Agrawal is a dance artist with a practice that concerns choreography, writing and advocacy. Having trained in Bharatanatyam in both London and Bangalore, she graduated from Trinity Laban in 2018 where she was awarded The Choreological Prize. Shivaangee has worked for a range of choreographers including Janine Harrington, Rosie Kay, Sonia Sabri, Seeta Patel, Shane Shambhu and Suba Subramaniam and continues to train at The Bhavan, London. She’s been awarded choreographic support from Akademi’s Choreographic Commissions and ACE’s Developing Your Creative Practice. Shivaangee’s newest work “North” premiered at Bloomsbury Festival 2019 and then at the opening night of Resolution Festival 2020. Last year, she led the creation of ReRooted Dance Collective which is developing a methodology for classical Indian dancers to work collaboratively and experimentally in the studio and she is also co-founder and member of Company Concentric.
‘This residency at Kala Sangam comes at a crucial time for me, coming out of a year of feeling uncertain and into a year of feeling braver.’
Theo Clinkard is based in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire and his practice spans choreography, performance and design. Since launching his company in 2012, he has steadily built an international reputation for creating affecting and visually arresting dances for small to large-scale theatres and non-theatre settings. www.theoclinkard.com
‘I’m dead happy to receive one of the brilliant support packages that the team at Kala Sangam have created. It offers me a focused week near my home to kickstart ‘Century Project’, a new dance work that spans 100 years and is passed on between generations of dancers. I’m passionate that such an epic endeavour is launched locally and I’m excited to see how the conversations held with this organisation might contribute to journey of this hopeful work which is planned to begin in 2021 and complete beyond our lifetimes.’
Vince is a Bradford born and bred professional contemporary dancer and Tong school alumni who has performed in over 50 dance productions in 22 countries across 6 continents. His commissioned outdoor dance duet for the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival 2019 Pop, will tour to Bradford Schools and the Awesome Arts festival, Australia in 2021 (get in touch if you want your school involved!). Last year he led the professional choreographic workshops at Famfest in Chile and created a new work on young people that opened at the Avignon Festival in France. Vince was an artist in residence in Shanghai earlier this year where he led the national dance campaign ‘Wuhan Jaiyou’ during China’s lockdown. Vince is a member of the Bradford Creativity council and is currently choreographing on the Beijing Acrobatic Troupe from Bradford via Zoom. www.vincevirr.com
‘This Back to the Studio package has been vital for me to positively get through my third national lockdown of 2020. Nothing can replace the studio as a dancer and having the time and financial support to be in the dance studio means I can catch up on some of the missed months of non-dancing, help me to re-find my physicality and regain my identity as a dancer ready for 2021. Thank you Kala Sangam for providing such an essential opportunity for Bradford based/linked dance artists’
Yuvel Soria (he/him) is a British-Bolivian Latinx diasporic artist; heritage, (dual) nationality, locality, ethnicity and culture are the central elements to his artistic enquiry while traditional Bolivian dance, Latin and contemporary dance are the main elements in his movement vocabulary. He has a multidisciplinary approach to his creative process and within his collaborative projects, and he is now developing a more diverse practice, which straddles live art and performance.
‘Restart your Creative Practice is a great programme that will allow me time in the studio to reconnect with my practice without any added pressure. Kala Sangam have always been really supportive and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity.’
Zoe is a performer and maker with background on dance-theatre, devised physical theatre, polyphonic singing and improvisation. With an interest in relationships between choreography and text, Zoe creates interdisciplinary performances which reflect upon her observations of the everyday.
‘Back to the Studio is a much needed opportunity to return to a creative working space, both in a literal and poetic sense. Having spent a long time dancing and training in my lounge room, it feels essential to be provided with precious time to move away from the domestic environment and tap into a more focused, solely creative space, with no pressure about producing a final piece. I am grateful to Kala Sangam for this, and I am very much looking forward to spending a week just experimenting and making.’