The Dancing Club: A New Play

4 Jan 2018

‘The Dancing Club.’ Image: Colin Hill

The Dancing Club is a new play for community-owned spaces, school and village halls, libraries, arts centres and theatres.

Produced by Pippa Frith and written and directed by Caroline Jester, The Dancing Club is based around the remarkable and inspirational true story of Kidderminster legends Frank and Wynn Freeman and their selfless drive to get a town dancing.

The Dancing Club receives its world premiere tour in 2018, opening on Wednesday 28 February in Kidderminster – the home town of Frank and Wynn’s original Dancing Club – and concludes in Cumbria on Sunday 25 March.

After World War II, Frank moved back to his hometown Kidderminster and with Wynn’s support they realised a life-long ambition and opened a dance school in 1948. Through the gentle traditions of ballroom dancing to the explosion of rock and roll, northern soul and disco, Frank and Wynn continued to inspire Kidderminster to move for over six decades. In their Dancing Club people learned the waltz one night and watched live music by Marc Bolan, Captain Beefheart and Led Zeppelin the next. Robert Plant was a good friend of the community champions.

At first Frank taught ballroom dancing and built a national reputation. A young Len Goodman gave demonstrations and judged the dance students at Frank’s school. Dance and music trends changed, but Frank always moved with the times and introduced different dance styles. Decade after decade, new groups of young people became associated with the club.

Whether famous musicians from sunny California or young Kidderminster mums bringing their children in for dance lessons, Frank and Wynn treated them all the same. Everyone in the town knew and respected the couple and when Frank died, in his beloved ballroom in 1991, the town came out in procession for his funeral.

Caroline Jester, author and director of The Dancing Club and a former dance pupil of Frank and Wynn’s, interviewed over 100 Kidderminster residents to develop the show and said:

“Frank Freeman’s dancing club didn’t just teach me disco dancing. It gave me self-confidence to do what I wanted to do. But it wasn’t just me that he made feel special as I discovered interviewing people aged 25 to 90 for The Dancing Club.”

Heartfelt and fascinating memories of Frank and Wynn unfolded and confirmed their Dancing Club was a safe haven for many members of the town’s community. Young or old, creativity was unlocked and friends made.

Original music for The Dancing Club is by composer Jon Bates and the performance will include a special recording from the Kidderminster Male Choir.

Choreography is by Steve Elias who got three Yorkshire towns moving in the 2017 BBC2 series Our Dancing Town.

A cast of four – Mark Jardine as Frank, Ali Belbin as Wynn and Laurence Saunders and Emma Clayton play a range of characters – portray accounts of opportunity and trust as the dance teachers’ life-long commitment to the Worcestershire town is brought to the stage.

Presented in the round, similar to a traditional ballroom dance club setting, themes of celebration and nostalgia weave through Jester’s The Dancing Club. Culminating in an invitation for the audience to join the cast on stage to learn a dance, characters Frank and Wynn will once again highlight the importance of community spirit and get more towns moving in The Dancing Club.

The Dancing Club is funded by The Elmley Foundation, Arts Council England, Wyre Forest District Council, Worcestershire County Council, The Sir Barry Jackson Trust and support from Kidderminster College.