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Freefall Dance Company, a partnership between Birmingham Royal Ballet and Fox Hollies Performing Arts College, enters its second decade high on the success of the first


In 2012 the company was an integral part of Mencap’s hugely successful Cultural Olympiad project WE DANCE, creating a brand new commission and a short film shown at the 2012 Normal Festival in Prague


Freefall’s forthcoming performances look back at the last ten years and forward to an exciting future



Led by former Birmingham Royal Ballet dancers and staff from Fox Hollies Performing Arts College, Freefall Dance Company was founded in 2002 to provide opportunities for dancers of school-leaving age with severe learning disabilities. Members are invited to join in recognition of their talent, creativity and enthusiasm for dance. This enthusiasm emanates throughout the company’s performances, and was particularly evident this year in Mencap’s Cultural Olympiad project, WE DANCE. Freefall’s forthcoming 10th anniversary performances at Birmingham Hippodrome’s Patrick Centre on Thursday 31 January and Friday 1 February 2013 will premiere a new piece and revisit work from the last decade.


Lee Fisher, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Head of Creative Learning and Artistic Director of Freefall, said: Everyone involved in Freefall is really proud of what's been achieved over the last ten years and equally excited about plans for the next decade. The 10th anniversary performance promises to be a great night, reflecting the past as well as future ambitions.”


The first ten years have seen Freefall go from strength to strength, culminating in an exceptionally busy 2012. Partnering Mencap in their Cultural Olympiad/Big Dance project WE DANCE brought the company fresh challenges as trainers, mentors and creative dance practitioners. Freefall was instrumental in facilitating this grass roots dance scheme, which saw hundreds of people with a learning disability take part in dance workshops across the West Midlands. In addition, they created a specially-themed commission, ‘The Clean Sweep’, performed at the WE DANCE festival in July at mac Birmingham. Reflecting the excitement of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the story begins with a humble stadium cleaner starting his daily chores and then transports the audience through a range of archery and swimming events, on to the pentathlon and hammer throwing.


Freefall also made a five minute Dance for Camera film which was shown on the 22 BBC Big Screens throughout the UK during the Paralympics. The film has been submitted to a number of international dance festivals and disability festivals with extremely positive feedback and has already been shown in the 2012 Normal festival in Prague.


Gus Garside, national arts development manager for MENCAP, said “Freefall always astound me in the articulacy of their movement, especially remarkable for a group of individuals who are, in relative terms, verbally less articulate than most. Freefall were central to Mencap's hugely successful Cultural Olympiad project WE DANCE as trainers and mentors but most importantly as dancers. They worked with us on a Dance for Camera film that, according to BBC estimates, was viewed by 1.5 million people and is scheduled to be shown at dance festivals around the world. And they created the highly entertaining WE DANCE commission ‘The Clean Sweep’ that was enjoyed by theatregoers at our festival and in the centre of Coventry and Birmingham in July and August 2012.”


The success of Freefall Dance Company opens up opportunities for its members to act as role models and inspire other young people. To accommodate demand, Junior Freefall was established as an out-of-hours dance club open to gifted, talented and enthusiastic pupils from Fox Hollies, aged 11-19 years. Current Freefaller Josef Reed was a founding member of Junior Freefall and joined the main company in 2009. His mother, Joanne, says: “Josef has lived and breathed dance for as long as I can remember. Dance has helped Josef with his communication, concentration, movement, muscle tone and posture. When he performs he comes alive. There’s a little spark of joy there… I hope that he’ll always have Freefall.”


After a hectic year, there’s no rest for Freefall whose next performance, ‘Freefall’s 10 and ¾ - Looking back and moving forward’, takes place at the end of January. With a curtain raiser from Junior Freefall, and a showing of the Dance for Camera film, the evening offers another chance to see the popular ‘Seaside Rendezvous’, an abstract piece created in 2011, inspired by Freddie Mercury, the music of Queen, bygone holidays at the coast, and the saucy postcards of Donald McGill. The company will also premiere its latest work, ‘Chairs’, also abstract and incorporating a variety of different dance styles.


The first public performance of ‘Freefall’s 10 and ¾’ takes place on Thursday 31st January 2013 at 7pm, at the Patrick Centre, Birmingham Hippodrome, followed by a matinee performance and PGCE workshop/lecture at 1pm on Friday 1 February 2013. Tickets priced £6 are available from Birmingham Hippodrome box office on 0844 338 5000 or online at www.birminghamhippodrome.com.


Freefall Dance Company is supported by generous donations from charitable trusts and foundations. Supporters play a vital role in funding the work of Birmingham Royal Ballet, including small and large-scale schools and community programmes, the creation of new classical ballets and dancer welfare, injury prevention and research.

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