Windrush: Movement of the People will mark the 70th anniversary of the arrival of SS Empire Windrush to the UK. This will no doubt make for several exceptional pieces of dance from Leeds-based Phoenix Dance Theatre.
Windrush famously began the post-war immigration boom – not exactly a topic you’d see on Strictly. But perhaps, beautifully, that’s the point.
Choreographer and Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance, Sharon Watson, said: “I want to capture both the excitement and the upset of this significant event. It is an uplifting dance production but it shines a light on an important era of the history of black people in the UK.”
The production begins in Jamaica – impressive big scenes are juxtaposed with personal stories – allowing audiences to enjoy the spectacle of large dance numbers but also the intricacies behind solo or small group dances. The immigrants were invited by the UK government, but were not always welcomed. The production will capture the daily exclusion and racism the newcomers faced. The Windrush generation began to create their own opportunities, setting up churches, introducing their own music and dance and establishing a ‘black British culture’.
Sharon continues: “When I was undertaking the research for this project, I was delighted to discover that Calypso musicians Lord Kitchener, Lord Beginner, Lord Woodbine and singer Mona Baptiste were among the ship’s passengers; these major musicians were part of the story! What greater gift for a choreographer than to be practically handed a part of the soundtrack?”
Windrush: Movement of the People fuses music and dance to create an inspiring production. The talented multi-cultural cast celebrate a culture that is now part of the country’s fabric.
Windrush will be presented alongside Maybe Yes Maybe, Maybe No Maybe by Aletta Collins and Shadows by Christopher Bruce.
Catch the show at York Theatre Royal on 1st and 2nd November.
Photography credited to Brian Slater