See the East African Dance Collective perform.  Join us for a free performance on Thursday 24 May, 6pm, at the Whitworth Art Gallery.  No need to book – just come along. 

Sound artists, Ugandan hip hop and traditional Ethiopian dance. In an exciting British Council project, Company Chameleon take part in an international dance collective, which will blend the styles and approaches of UK and East African dance, to create something unseen and new.

Our Co-Artistic Director, Anthony Missen, tells us more.

Tell us about the project.
The project, supported by The British Council, is a first collaboration of its kind and sees three socially-driven dance companies from Ethiopia, Uganda and the UK collaborate through merging expertise in choreography, youth engagement, individual dance styles and outdoor performance techniques.

The project begins in Ethiopia (6-20 May 2018), where a week of sharing, creative investigation and experimentation will give the building blocks for a series of pop-up and promenade performances, starting in Addis Ababa before travelling out to Awassa and Bahir Da.

Outdoor, site-specific and promenade performances have seldom taken place in Ethiopia, so this project is expected to create a lot of curiosity and interest for young people in contemporary forms of dance.

The UK leg of the project (22-26 May) involves a series of performances at three selected Manchester Co-operative Academy Schools.  A workshop programme will accompany these performances to introduce groups of young people to both traditional and contemporary Ugandan and Ethiopian dance styles, and a co-delivered session by all companies will spotlight choreographic collaboration.

The project culminates in a free performance open to the public at the Whitworth Art Gallery on Thursday 24 May in Manchester and an outdoor performance in Manchester City Centre (location tbc).

Who is involved?
Three dance companies. DESTINO from Ethiopia, Batalo East from Uganda and ourselves from the UK.  All three companies are very different in their style and approach.  DESTINO’s expertise is in contemporary technique rooted in vibrant, rural and traditional Ethiopian dance culture, whereas Batalo East specialise in hip hop, urban and street style dance. Chameleon’s dance theatre approach is different again and works with theatricality and contact work.

The combination of the three companies and their influences and strengths will permit a re-examination of approaches to dance technique and choreography, particularly suited for outdoor performance. What is for sure is that we will co-create something that has never been seen before.  The possibilities are exciting!

The project also includes an original soundtrack developed for the production, and in the collaborative spirit will be created by two sound artists – Faizal Mostrixx Ddamba from Uganda and Sheba Sound from Ethiopia.  Traditional sounds from their respective countries will be mixed electronically and used in the UK performances.

What makes the project special?
What makes the project special is the bringing together of so much knowledge, so many ideas, processes, technique and perspectives. Each company is very successful in its own right, and all work in a very different ways, in terms of practice, conditions and social and cultural considerations.  The common denominator (aside of dance!) is the belief from all parties in the social value of dance practice, and what it has the capacity to bring to people’s lives, both audiences and participants.

What are your aspirations for the project?
The project mirrors the British Council’s efforts to bring together UK and East African art, blending traditions, styles and approaches.  Our aspiration is to learn from each other, be exposed to completely different types of practice, and to collectively create something new and unseen anywhere.We hope it will be the beginning of the conversation, and a catalyst for further UK-East Africa collaborations, exchanges and artistic productions.

What can audiences expect from the performance at the Whitworth?
Part of the excitement from all our perspectives is that the end result is entirely unknown! What audiences can expect is very experienced and powerful performers, creativity, experimentation, and to see something exclusive and unique.  They most certainly won’t have seen anything like it before- partly because it doesn’t exist, and partly because of the lack of exposure to East African traditional and contemporary movement styles in the UK.

Given the breadth of performance locations and contexts, whatever we make will be in smaller ‘modules’, so no two of the performances we do between the UK and Ethiopia will be the same. We will of course have an element of site-responsiveness time permitting.

READ MORE: Click on the links to find out more about DESTINOBatalo EastBritish Council East Africa and Sound Artists, Faizal Mostrixx Ddamba and Sheba Sound.

WATCH A PERFORMANCE: Join us for the Whitworth Art Gallery performance in Manchester on Thursday 24 May 2018. Further announcements will be made about the date and location of the outdoor performance. Both performances are free to attend.

FOLLOW ON SOCIAL: Also look out for pictures and updates on twitter, Facebook and Instagram of our travels in Ethiopia. #EastAfricaArts

Supported using public funding by Arts Council England Manchester City Council

Lovingly designed and built by Fuzzy Duck