Setting their sights on village halls and other small rural venues across the UK often unreached by touring theatre and especially dance, this Autumn Uchenna Dance will tour to County Durham, Cumbria, Shropshire, Wolverhampton, Herefordshire, Gloucester, Derbyshire, Dorset, Somerset, Devon and Norfolk. It’s all supported by the National Rural Touring Forum’s (NRTF) three-year dance focused scheme, which served up its first ‘menu’ of work to regional touring schemes in 2016.
Uchenna Dance’s The Head Wrap Diaries is an interactive show set in a hair salon about people, and their ongoing relationship with hair. Mixing dance, theatre and storytelling with a good dose of humour, the performance venue is transformed into a hair salon, with wig stands and chairs set around a performing space. Audience members are welcomed by stylists Linda and Riyah who will take you on a hair journey that will have you laughing out loud, thinking about your own (and everyone else’s!) hair while you learn a thing or two about afro-hair, straight from the hairdresser’s chair. The show features a fabulously produced score by Ghanaian musician Kweku Aacht who provides a sizzling soundtrack of sounds from Afro house, folk and electronic dance music to jazz and Ghana gospel.
The Head Wrap Diaries uses choreographer Vicki Igbokwe’s signatory blend of club styles House, Waacking and Vogue fused with African and Contemporary dance and will criss-cross the country from Cumbria to the South East from 6 Oct.
Speaking about the tour, Vicki Igbokwe, Creative Director, Choreographer and Founder of Uchenna Dance, said: “We’re really excited to be part of the Rural Touring Dance Initiative’s second menu. We felt compelled to apply and I’m glad we did! The process so far has been great, lots of learning and meeting loads of inspirational people. It feels like the rural community has invited us into their culture with open arms, and I love that. I was expecting The Head Wrap Diaries to get maybe 3 or 4 rural touring dates, so when I heard we had 13, I was super pumped!
“We first presented The Head Wrap Diaries in 2016 at The Place, London and The Lowry in Salford Quays to sold out audiences and standing ovations, it was an incredible experience and I’m really looking forward to sharing the show on the rural touring circuit.”
The Rural Touring Dance Initiative is a three-year scheme for making and touring dance performances to and for rural areas. Made possible by a grant from Arts Council England’s Lottery-funded Strategic Touring Programme, the initiative is led by National Rural Touring Forum (NRTF), which joined with dance institution The Place, arts charity Take Art and independent producing studio China Plate to deliver the scheme. Uchenna Dance’s The Head Wrap Diaries is one of six companies to tour as part of the initiative, with companies chosen from hundreds of applications in response to a call out issued at last year’s launch.
The Head Wrap Diaries by Uchenna Dance
Fri 6th COUNTY DURHAM, The Witham
Sat 7th CUMBRIA, Arts Out West
Thurs 12th SHROPSHIRE, SpArC Theatre
Fri 13th WOLVERHAMPTON, Newhampton Arts Centre
Sat 14th HEREFORDSHIRE, Brilley Village Hall
Tues 17th GLOUCESTER, Gloucester Guildhall
Fri 3rd HEREFORDSHIRE, The Market Theatre
Fri 10th DERBYSHIRE, The Peel Centre
Sat 11th DERBYSHIRE, Crich Glebe Field Centre
Thurs 16th DORSET, Halstock Village Hall
Fri 17th SOMERSET, Roadwater Village Hall
Sat 18th DEVON, Bradworthy Memorial Hall
Sat 25th NORFOLK, Sedgeford Village Hall
ABOUT UCHENNA DANCE
Uchenna Dance was formed in London, UK in 2009 under the vision and leadership of choreographer Vicki Igbokwe. The company’s overarching aim is to empower, entertain and educate through dance in a diverse programme which includes the creation of dance theatre production experiences, coaching, dance based empowerment workshops and teaching in further and higher education. The Uchenna dance style fuses Waacking, Vogue and House with traditional African and Contemporary, creating a signatory aesthetic that simply is, Uchenna.
The NRTF has identified a paucity of dance on the rural touring circuit and the development of a dance project is evident in its business plan. As a result of a fruitful relationship that has developed with The Place and a successful dance showcase at the New Directions Conference 2014, curated in partnership with China Plate, there is momentum to develop dance and rural touring – 89% of conference attenders scored the dance showcase highly or very highly. Through its members the NRTF can access a huge rural touring circuit with over 2,000 promoters. Individual rural touring schemes will play an integral role in the successful roll out of the project.
The Place has been a driving force for contemporary dance in the UK for 45 years. The Place is unique and is comprised of; a training organisation, a producing and receiving theatre, a home for a national touring company and a hub for hundreds of independent artists. Our artist development department provides professional development, training, residencies, commissioning and producing support for dance artists at each stage of their career. Having developed a relationship with the NRTF and after attending the New Directions Conference there is an understanding, excitement and new commitment to supporting dance artists and the dance sector to engage with and take advantage of rural touring opportunities.
China Plate’s portfolio of activity encompasses developing, making and programming new work. They have worked closely with the NRTF for a number of years and curated the New Directions Showcase Festivals in 2012, 2014 & 2016 and programmed the Edinburgh Village Halls Project 2011 – 2013. They are interested in the interrogation of ideas and form and believe that rural communities should have direct access to the highest quality contemporary work. The cross over between dance and theatre is of particular interest and over the last few years China Plate has developed close links with Dance East, programming dance with them into the Pulse theatre festival and worked with Warwick Arts Centre to programme, commission and develop work with a number of choreographers including Charlotte Vincent, Tom Dale and Aakash Odedra.
Over the last decade Take Art has hosted the Somerset county dance agency, supporting the infrastructure for the development and promotion of professional dance in Somerset. It has also run a rural touring scheme since 1987 and the services have worked and gained experience together. Take Art was the lead county dance agency in Up Close, the first south west rural touring dance project in partnership with Dance South West in 2007. The current Dance Director toured rural schemes extensively as a dancer with Pretty Good Girl Dance Theatre in 2009 and 2010. Its hands on experience of and commitment to dance and rural touring at a local level provides the partnership with a grounded perspective.
The Rural Touring Dance Initiative is a partnership project led by The National Rural Touring Forum with The Place, China Plate and Take Art. The project is funded by Arts Council England through its Strategic Touring Fund.