working in communities

Photo: Malcolm Johnson

BSDC firmly believes that education is for all – whatever your age or ability.

Kathak itself is taught in the traditional Indian way with the Guru-Disciple relationship at its core, so Balbir Singh knows from personal experience how learning never ends. As Balbir’s own guru Padmashri Pratap Pawar says: “Kathak is like an ocean: there is always so much yet to learn.” Taking this as his cue, Balbir has built an impressive portfolio of work that engages diverse communities in creative learning.

One recent example has seen the company tour a number of care homes and other facilities for older people with Love and Spice, an intergenerational tale of rekindling emotions through the multisensory experience of food. The use of movement and storytelling with older people is increasingly being recognised for its potential in addressing the health and well-being agenda. Love and Spice was a perfect vehicle for bringing these benefits to older people around Leeds.

Building a community learning programme around a performance has been a common theme in BSDC’s approach. In 2015 a national tour of the swimming pool-based work Synchronised, community engagement formed part of a strong audience development plan, that reflected the diversity, innovation and cross-boundary appeal of the show. A programme of classes including the novel AquaKathak’, as well as Introduction to Kathak and music workshops attracted sports centre users and others from the wider community.

Some of those attending later joined the show itself as part of the ‘community cast’ – another aspect of BSDC’s approach that ensures local people have the opportunity to participate in a high-quality arts event.

Photo: Robert Bloomfield