History

How could England’s second city, a hub of industry, productivity and creativity, become a viable destination and home for the best dance artists in the world?

That was the question asked by  Patsy Browne-Hope, Rebecca Randall (formally Becca Thomas) and Genevieve Say in 2013, three dance artists who already lived and worked in the city but felt more could be done to make Birmingham a sustainable centre for dance outside London.

Patsy, Rebecca and Genevieve invited dancers to come to a series of open meetings to discuss exactly what professional dancers needed to keep them in the city as working, flourishing artists. Mostly, dancers wanted places to meet other dancers, maintain their practice to a professional level and be connected to a community that felt full of opportunity. These meetings led to the establishment of Birmingham Dance Network, and a commitment by it’s founders to support professional dancers living and/or working in Birmingham and the West Midlands.

BDN’s initial focus on development and training manifested in regular projects like Introducing…, ChoreoMatch and Production Lab which were produced to give artists the freedom to play, create, learn and perform. Weekly professional class has been the backbone of BDN’s offer and we are committed to what is now Brum Pro Class, a city-wide multi-partner membership scheme. This progressive approach to sustainable class came from humble origins, beginning life as a self-financed initiative by Patsy Browne-Hope and taught in a tiny studio in the city centre. BDN took on the financial responsibility for those classes and brought on DanceXchange as a partner so we could deliver high-quality classes in purpose-built studios. Since then Brum Pro Class has grown in the city as we continue to refine a beneficial and sustainable model for dancers.

Over the years our work as an artist-led network has shifted in an attempt to acknowledge the broader struggles faced by dance artists already in or trying to forge a way into a sector which is notoriously competitive and exclusionary. We’ve spent more time examining the systemic issues that deny us a truly reflective sector, that deny artists financial stability or affordability and that prioritise buildings and organisations over artists and the art they create. In response, BDN is moving away from replicating support models that feed into a flawed system of artistic production and is instead heading towards a programme that aims to enable artists with individual and collective power, that encourages artists to question their practice, the funding structures they engage with, institutional support structures and the (in)accessibility of the sector.

Values

BDN is artist-led and part of its community. We advocate for our community and for the betterment of the dance sector. Led by a team of independent dance artists based in Birmingham, we strive to make dance artists in the region feel held, heard, and nurtured.

Community:

We want to retain and support a strong, diverse and thriving independent dance sector in the West Midlands which embraces and supports dance freelancers. 

Care:

The individual and collective experiences of our network members are equally important to us. We want each dance artist to feel heard, held and nurtured. We want members to support each other and engage in the collective push towards sector change.

Power:

We want to lead the way for freelance dance artists to access leadership roles regionally and nationally, getting more artists into rooms where strategic decisions are made about artist welfare, sector policy making and strategising.

The Team

Genevieve Say

Artistic Director

Genevieve Say is an independent dance artist, performer, choreographer and movement director based in the UK. She gained a place on One Dance UK’s Future Leaders mentor scheme, and received mentorship from Jude Kelly MBE. In 2019 she was a recipient of the DanceXchange Choreography Award in Birmingham and in 2021 was shortlisted for the AWA women in dance award. She is the current chair of Equity Union dance committee and has sat on the committee and been an advocate for the union since 2019. Genevieve graduated in 2006 from the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts with First class BA(Hons) in Dance and Performance. Genevieve makes ensemble pieces and solo work under her own name, often in collaboration with theatre, visual and sound artists. She also works with a number of dance and theatre companies taking her across the globe as a performer, teacher choreographer and movement director.

Karen Wood

Co-Director

Karen is a Birmingham-born dancer, maker, researcher, educator and producer. She is co-founder of Manchester Dance Consortium, an artist-led organisation supporting other artists, and brings that experience to BDN. She is on the steering committee for Brum Pro Class, co-founder and steering gorup member for Tap Dance Research Network UK and is Chair of the Board for Vanhulle Dance Theatre and has sat on other boards. She worked as a freelance dance artist and teacher in Manchester, London and now Birmingham. Her work has previously been supported by Arts Council England and other funders, and involves collaborating with film, visual arts and sound. This work has been shown at multiple venues such as Contact theatre in Manchester and Light Moves Festival of Screendance in Ireland. She studied at Trinity Laban and has a PhD from the University of Manchester. Since her early involvement (2008 – current) with the Centres for Advanced Training in London, Manchester and Birmingham, she has been a keen advocate of mentoring graduates and finding opportunities to retain graduates in the region. She also works as an Assistant Professor at the Centre for Dance Research at Coventry University, where her research is rooted in practice (choreography, film and digital technology). Her practice and research focusses on dance as a cultural practice and how it contributes to society. Her latest research investigates the working conditions of freelance dance artists.

Jaii Andrew

Marketing and Communications Lead

Jaii is an Award-winning choreographer, dancer, singer, theatre-maker, and has over 20 years professional experience. Having trained at LIPA and graduating with a First Class Honours in 2011. JAii has performed in Hair (European tours), starred as ‘Electra” in the 25th anniversary cast of Starlight Express, played ‘Angel’ in RENT (Creators Theatre Company), and will soon star in a new production of Kinky Boots (Wolverhampton Grand Theatre/Bilston Operatic Company). Their dance roles include supporting Janelle Monae (MIF19), Calvin Harris & Sam Smith (featured dancer, Brit Awards), and GLITTERBOX (principal performer). Jaii choreographed and co-produced (with Fatt Projects) the award-winning dance short film Anywhere Is A Dancefloor (commissioned by DanceXchange/Birmingham International Dance Festival & Motion Dance Collective). Jaii is super excited to work with BDN and cannot wait to help continue the incredible work that BDN is spearheading.

Advisory Group

Atxarte Lopez de Munain

Atxarte graduated in Fine Arts at the University of the Basque Country and following her dance training she moved to London where she completed an MA in Choreography by the LCDS.

She has choreographed her own work as well as collaborated with other dance artists mainly in the Basque Country. She collaborated with Arropaineko Arragua as a member of the group developing the Project ESPAZIOA ETA GAUZAK / AZKUE IKASTOLA (THE SPACE AND THE THINGS) where she taught movement. She has also taught dance to Performing Arts Students at B.A.I (Bizkaiko Antzerki Ikastegia) during several years.

Since 2009 she has also worked as a producer and project coordinator in several organisations that include ACT FESTIVAL (2009-2014) , BE FESTIVAL as a Senior Producer and ADDE (Association of Dance Professionals of the Basque Country) where she coordinates the Online dance Works Catalogue and the Internationalization strand of the association.

She is also co-founder and member of the collective MAuMA, a platform that facilitates a space to realise artistic projects to its members and others.

For the last two years she has been the coordinator of Shift Key, project supported by Creative Europe, a network of European performing arts festivals and joined the BDN Advisory group in 2021

Rebecca Randall

Rebecca is a freelance dance artist. For over fifteen years, she has worked as a performer, teacher, movement director, rehearsal director, choreographer, project manager and facilitator.⠀

Rebecca was a founder member of Birmingham Dance Network and from 2013 – 2020 she worked in Artist Engagement, Project Management and as Associate Director of this grassroots, artist-led organisation providing opportunities for local professional dance artists and community groups in her home town. ⠀

📸 Photographer Credit © Pari Naderi

Chris Radford

Christopher Radford is a Midlands based professional dance performer, teacher and choreographer who works in the high energy styles of African, Afro-fusion and Contemporary.⠀

Originally from Birmingham, Chris started dancing as a member of ACE dance and music’s youth company. He moved on to formal training at Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds receiving a First-Class BPA(hons) Degree and completed an apprenticeship with Scottish Dance Theatre, in conjunction with London Contemporary Dance School, receiving a Distinction Postgraduate Diploma.⠀

After graduating, Chris became a freelance artist; touring nationally and internationally with companies including: Scottish Dance Theatre, Autin DT, ACE dance and music, Heather Walrond Company and Corey Baker Dance. He has internationally performed works by choreographers; Damien Jalet, Anton Lachky, Rosie Kay and Fleur Darkin, and has also been involved in research and video development with Extended Play Dance, led by Jamaal Burkmar.⠀

Recently, alongside performing, Chris has been teaching and choreographing on many schools and youth programmes throughout the Midlands and also working with Birmingham Hippodrome as a freelance Learning Coordinator. ⠀

He has formed his own company with partner Sara Macqueen, Linden Dance Company, and has been researching and creating work as part of the Arts Connect THRIVE bursary, HG31 digital Commission and Beyond Borders project. Linden DC has performed at festivals including Birmingham Weekender, BIDF and Fest4all and has developed a youth company, Linden Youth.⠀

📸 Photographer Credit © Emily Moya

Christopher Rodriguez

Christopher Rodriguez is the Deputy Chief Executive/Finance Director of One Dance UK. A Fellow of the Association of Certified and Chartered Accountants, Chris has previously worked for Talawa Theatre Company as Associate Director/Executive Producer, Rifco, Pegasus Opera and also at PwC, specialising in the energy sector. His proudest achievement to date is merging the financial areas of the four companies that became One Dance UK.  Chris would love to take a Tavaziva dance class but worries he wouldn’t be able to keep up!⠀

📸 Photo Source © One Dance UK

Vidya Patel

Vidya Patel is a Birmingham based dance artist, performer, and choreographer. Her training background is in the Kathak art form which she continues to develop with the guidance of Guru Sujata Banerjee and other practitioners. Since graduating from CAT South Asian Strand, at DanceXchange in 2014, Vidya represented the South Asian Category in the Grand Finals of the inaugural BBC Young Dancer 2015 at Sadler’s Wells where she is currently a Young Associate choreographer til 2022. Vidya has worked with a range of artists including, performing nationally & internationally in works created by Sir Richard Alston, Gary Clarke, Thick & Tight, Sujata Banerjee, Gauri Diwakar,  Urja Desai Thakore, Ashwini Kalsekar, Akademi and working collaboratively to create work ‘About the Elephant’ with composer Shammi Pithia & dance artist Connor Scott, commissioned by Sampad Arts and Serendipity Festival, mentored by Kerry Nicholls. Her performances have gained her acknowledgements including being nominated thrice for the Critics Circle National Dance Awards for her performances amongst others.⠀

Through her continued curiosity of working collaboratively across disciplines and experiencing a range of practices, recently Vidya was working with artist Hetain Patel through DanceHub development grant. Through 2018-2020 Vidya was supported as associate artist at Deda Derby to take the next steps in her career as well being a member of Aakash Odedra’s AO2 in 2019-20. ⠀

Vidya continues to connect, share, with the aim of gathering artists from various artistic practises as well as continuing to shape her knowledge and understanding within the Kathak art form. Most recently, Vidya has been commissioned as a guest choreographer to create work for dancers of Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary 2021 & Emergence- postgraduate dance company. ⠀

📸 Photographer Credit © Indy Sagoo