Uchenna Dance, led by Vicki Igbokwe, has been growing from strength to strength since 2009. Uchenna Dance is passionate about creating production experiences that:
-Enable audiences to see themselves ‘on stage’ and have their stories told.
-Build the confidence of audiences enabling them to believe in their potential.
-Nurture conversations amongst audiences from diverse backgrounds, building community cohesion.
-Welcome non – dance audiences/first – timers to the theatre.
Uchenna Dance aim to empower, educate and entertain. They want to take audiences on a journey through their variety of works and inspire participants through their teaching and education work to grow to be the best they can be. Uchenna Dance appeal to everyone through their eclectic mix of dance styles that weave House, Waacking and Vogue, with African and Contemporary dance. Vicki intends to create work for people on a human level and can engage everyone. Rather than audience members responding with comments like ‘I don’t have hair like that’ she wants to give them a perspective and something they can relate to in their own way. For example, a lady in her late 50s, who didn’t have the same hair as the performers on stage for Uchenna Dance’s piece The Head Wrap Diaries, related her own outlook on questioning why she felt the need to colour her grey hair every month.
Vicki comments that the current dance environment needs more options and hopes to produce creative spaces for many voices. She explains how she felt there was a period of time where the dance produced was all the same. However, Vicki saw how dance can be viewed in many more ways. Diversity is much more than ticking boxes and making money, its about giving audiences more choice and more of an eclectic choice. Vicki comments diversity is about creating choice.
Uchenna Dance’s latest work is Hansel & Gretel. The show is a modern adaptation of the classic fairy tale co-commissioned by The Place, DanceEast, Rural Touring Dance Initiative and Strike a Light. Vicki’s version tells the story of Hansel & Gretel lost in London overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and smells of the city. Through the dance, Hansel & Gretel outwit the adults to find their way back to their family. The show celebrates their resourcefulness, tenacity and courage. Vicki chose the story of Hansel & Gretel from a Facebook poll that asked people what their favourite fairy tale as a child was but yet still connect to as an adult (an example how Vicki ensures she is outreaching to her audiences). The fairy tale Hansel & Gretel came up as a top 5 choice. Vicki was attracted to this fairy tale for she saw the light in the story rather than the darkness. She saw the courageous and adventurous spirit of the two characters with their sense of imagination, team work and bravery to get themselves out of tricky situations.
Hansel & Gretel is a family show that appeals to adults and children alike. From adults getting lost and transfixed in the high energy music and dance sections to children getting hooked on the characters, imaginative set, story and the general groove of the show. Vicki achieved this family show through appealing to the different senses: from the colourful and bright costumes and set by Lucy Sierra, bright and breezy lighting by James Mackenzie and a close creative collaboration with writer Gbolahan Obesisan and Composer Kweku Aacht. The set captures a child’s imagination perfectly from a box turning into a house, a car, a table and more. The music and dance make any audience member want to get up and groove. In fact, in style of Uchenna Dance, there is audience participation where members of the audience are brought to the stage to copy the brave and strong dance actions.
The piece is structured on dance sections that are followed by storytelling. This allows for the audience to get lost in the movement and hooked back into the story. The narration is told through dance actions, voice over and props. An audience member commented that she enjoyed the fact that she helped her child to understand the story, when the child was lost in translation, in which added a parent and child interaction element of the family show. The show concludes in themes of courage, relationships and bravery to which are topics that all ages can relate to.
Vicki concluded the interview with an appeal to all dance educator readers to ensure they are giving their students choice, variety and openness. Also, to ensure everyone’s perspective is seen and heard and both student and teacher are inquisitive and open to explore all options in creativity and choreography. Finally, to celebrate choice and differences. She reflects on her choreography lecturer at Middlesex University Tamara McLorg, Jane Attenborough Dance Award winner 2016, who helped Vicki find her voice. Tamara helped Vicki through constant questioning of why and how within her choreographic work and her openness of choice and variety of influences helped to empower Vicki. In fact, in her second year of university this empowerment gave Vicki the knowledge in knowing that she was going to be a choreographer.
-Up and coming dates for Hansel & Gretel
FOLKESTONE QUARTERHOUSE (Folkestone) – Fri 8 – Sat 9 Feb 2019
CAMBRIDGE JUNCTION (Cambridge) – Sun 10 Feb 2019
THE EGG (Bath) – Wed 20 – Sat 23 Feb 2019
MARINA THEATRE (Lowestoft) – Tues 26 Feb
STRIKE A LIGHT (Gloucester) – Fri 22 Mar 2019
THE ALBANY (London) – Sun 28 Apr 2019
– The show will also tour as part of the Rural Touring Dance Initiative:
NEWHAMPTON ARTS CENTRE (Wolverhampton) – Fri 1 Feb 2019
HULLAVINGTON VILLAGE HALL (Wiltshire) – Sat 2 Feb 2019
DEVORAN VILLAGE HALL (Cornwall) – Sun 3 Feb 2019
CORFE CASTLE VILLAGE HALL (Dorset) – Mon 18 Feb 2019
BARTON, ASSEMBLY ROOMS (Barton-upon-Humber) – Thurs 28 Feb 2019
GRANTLEY VILLAGE HALL (North Yorkshire) – Fri 1 Mar 2019
PAILTON VILLAGE HALL (Warwickshire) – Sat 9 Mar 2019
BROADBENT THEATRE (Lincolnshire) – Sun 10 Mar 2019
NEUADD DYFI HALL (Aberdyfi) – Fri 15 Mar 2019
ST JOSEPH’S PARISH HALL (Hoghton) – Sat 16 March
WHITBY HALL (Ellesmere Port) – Sun 17 Mar 2019
AMMANFORD MINERS’ THEATRE (Ammanford ) – Sat 23 Mar 2019