Artwork from the workshop

A Celebration of Language was a dance and storytelling project at Allerton Church of England Primary School in Leeds, which took place during the Spring term in 2021. Poet Michelle Scally Clarke joined the creative team which was led by Kimberley Hardy and included workshops from Graphic Design students from Leeds Beckett University.

The project looked at languages of many kinds including sign language and the language of rhythm – bringing together different art forms –  Kathak dance storytelling, poetry and animation.  The pupils come from a variety of cultural heritages and speak many languages and we worked with them to develop a shared language in poetry and movement. While the UK was in lockdown we were very pleased to work with the children from Years 1, 4 and 5 who were still based in school.

The culmination of the work was intended to be shared in a multi-media performance in central Leeds, but that was put on hold due to the pandemic. However the children did get to create a wonderful animation video, keep scrolling for more.

This project was a collaboration with Space 2 Leeds, who have strong connections to the school and funded by a generous grant from the Mohn Westlake Trust via Leeds Community Foundation. It was a pleasure to work with the pupils and teachers in the toughest of days.

Year 5 Pupils Allerton Church of England Primary School

“We liked Michelle, our teacher.  She taught us how to say hello – “Namaste”.  And we learnt poetry.”

“For the film, we wrote a script and recorded it.  We had to feel a colour, and say hello.”

“We liked it…until we had to go out for PE.  If it wasn’t on PE day, we’d have done it all week.”

“We learnt different ways in which you can say things.  And what impact that has.  We also learnt about different languages – morse code, sign language.  For the dance, we learnt two different rhythms.  We said colours by using how our arms were pointing.  And we learnt numbers using our hands (traditional Kathak).  We learnt a lot!”

“Every Friday we’d go into the dance studio and have lots of fun!  Our feet did ache afterwards.  We didn’t get to perform it but we did make animations.  We would do free dance moves and record it.  When we were learning the dance moves it was fun.  Nobody cared about performing it.  As soon as the iPad come out everyone was scared!”

Check out the artwork from the workshop.

A Celebration of Language student's art work A Celebration of Language student's art work

Explore the process

A lost art?
A bridge to India
Immersed in music
When Worlds Collide
The Idea (learning to dance)
Natural curiosity and questions (learning to dance)
Composer thoughts on Learning to Dance
In the presence of geniuses
The story (love and spice)
A dancer reflects on The Strategists (1)
Overview of The Strategists
Breakdown of The Strategists
Roundness of 12: a breakdown of the piece
Breakdown of the piece (love and spice)
Script (12)
Painter research
A dancer reflects on Love and Spice
Full Contact – highlights from the script
Dancer notes performance (flatlands)
Peacock Lake – genesis of the concept
Firing up the Mehfil Machine
The Collaborators
Creative Case – challenges along the way
The Guru-Shishya relationship
What is Kathak?
Life blood
Collaboration: Balbir & Gary
Colouring your emotions
Covid-19 Update on Monday, April 6th, 2020
Creative Case in action – July to September 2019
Finding my way in The Creative Spirit of John Curry
Talent Development – Abirami Eshwar
Talent Development – Kimberley Hardy
Collaborators: Lorna Brown and Gary Beacom
The Work: Act 1
The Work: Act 2
Planning the show
The 8 Dances
Who was Hans Krebs?
The Citric 
 Acid cycle
Balbir’s thoughts behind the work
Balbir on developing the work
Amrita Sher-Gil & Frida Kahlo
My favourite painting is. . .
Balbir reflects on The Two Fridas
Cast one
Devising in lockdown
Las dos Fridas
‘Alas Para Volar (Wings to Fly)’
Amrita – a story that lives in Art