In the picture, left to right: Dance performer Victoria Shulungu, Councillor Elizabeth Kangethe, and Artistic Director Botis Seva.

Local pupils attend award-winning show free of charge in Barking

420 young people from nine secondary schools across Barking and Dagenham have attended a free performance of BLKDOG at the Broadway Theatre, in Barking, before the cast flies off to Belgium and Singapore on tour.

This hip-hop dance performance, co-produced by Far From The Norm, Sadler’s Wells, and the Swedish company Norrlandsoperan, is a poetic exploration of our coping mechanisms and the parallels between childhood and adulthood.

The Barking and Dagenham Cultural Education Partnership, Inspiring Futures, have been working with Far From the Norm for two years, creating workshops, dance teaching resources, and the opportunity to bring this show, which won the Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production in 2019, free of charge to local young people.

At the end of the performance, pupils had the chance to have a discussion with the Artistic Director, Botis Seva, who was born in Dagenham and attended Sydney Russell School. He said:

“I grew up in Dagenham Heathway. Being back in Barking brought back a lot of memories in terms of where I started and where my journey has gone. I’ve appreciated the process of the last 10 years and being at the Broadway has brought back a lot of emotions. It’s been tearful but I feel joy, lots of joy!

“Far From The Norm started in a Youth Club in Dagenham, between a group of friends. I used to invite different artists to come down and train in a closed community session. I was interested in exchanging with different artists, styles, and vocabularies. Before I knew it, we were creating short works together and presenting extracts at local street dance platforms.”

Councillor Elizabeth Kangethe, Cabinet Member for Educational Attainment and School Improvement at Barking and Dagenham Council, said:

“What a fantastic show so many of our young people had the opportunity to see! Barking and Dagenham is a melting pot of talent, and this production is an excellent example of that. 

“I’m very grateful that our pupils have had the opportunity to learn about Botis’ story, growing up in the borough and now travelling the world with his creative work. It’s an inspiration to all our young people.”