The Wise Ones

The Wise Ones celebrates the powerful gifts of our older people and explores the forces that have shaped them.


find out more
Photo by Malcolm Johnson

This new work for 2021, conceived and directed by Balbir Singh, looks at the idea of wisdom. What is it? How do we gain it? How do we use it? How do we pass it on?

‘The Wise Ones’ has the framework of three older people passing on their life and creative skills to their younger counterparts. The show premiered at Kala Sangam in Bradford on Friday December 10th featuring Bisakha Sarker and Guru Pratap Pawar – both a part of the world’s history of dance spanning many decades. The other ‘wise one’ was Villmore James, one of the founders of Phoenix Dance and a true dance hero. They were joined on stage by a supporting cast of established dancers Abirami Eswar, Kali Chandrasegaram and Vince Virr and live music composed by Jesse Bannister.

It was a true celebration of age, of who we are and how we make sense of the world through dance. The show’s sections pass through the worlds of Shakespeare’s ’As You Like It’ through Indian stories of the Gods, European folk tales and the poetry of Rumi and TS Eliot. The piece culminates in a moving retelling of the nativity story.

The Wise Ones – Trailer 

Here are some of Balbir’s thoughts on his new piece:

“What is the wisdom gained through a lifetime journey as artists? – this was my starting point.

There were the Three Wise Men following the star to Jesus. Which set me to wondering: how did they become wise and gain the title of being Wise Men?

Working with this company of dancers and musicians,  especially with the septuagenarians, has been a privilege for me. With this calibre of artists there is more than enough inspiration to make a full length work about each of them. Having made Learning to Dance as a profoundly moving experience with two of the three previously, this is an exciting creative challenge for me to bring the three of them together into one work.

So these were some of my initial questions:

What is wisdom to them?

How is it defined?

How has it been gained, applied and passed on?

What wisdom will emerge from the process of making this piece?

I am looking forward to going deeper into my own creativity with such a universal theme as artists and human beings as creative makers of work, performers on stage connecting with audiences, teachers and role models.

As artists we are never satisfied and always pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones, to continue to grow, to learn, be inspired by our relationship with the art form, collaboration and the world around us as nature, planet and cultural environment.

Having had 18 months of pandemic reflection time, my creative energy was ready to find a new way of connecting with audiences, challenging myself and celebrating age.

My favourite poet, T.S. Eliot, in The Journey of the Magi says:

And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon

Finding the place, it was (you may say) satisfactory.

Let’s see where the journey takes us from here.

Wish me luck.”

If you missed the show, the BBC has filmed an excerpt as part of the Dance Passion series on BBC Four, now available on BBC i-player. 


More about The Wise Ones

The Wise Ones are played by two septuagenarians, dance giants Bisakha Sarker and Guru Pratap Pawar, and by veteran breakdancer from Leeds Villmore James, the founder of Phoenix Dance, alongside younger

Photo by Malcolm Johnson

BSDC: The work