During the first week of July 2014 Yorkshire Dance welcomed ten dancers from OYO, the Ombetja Yehinga Organisation (http://www.ombetja.org/) from Namibia to Leeds to create a new piece of dance theatre with a group of young dancers from Yorkshire. OYO’s dance troupe is rapidly gaining an international reputation for creating inspiring dance work which deals directly with issues around HIV/Aids prevention in some of the most isolated and rural communities in Namibia.
The OYO-Leeds dancers created new work under the direction of OYO director Philippe Talavera, artist Zoie Golding, Rachel Fullegar and supported by artist Stuart Waters.
“Everything was excellent; there was no part we didn’t like, including the evening and shows. We learned that even if we are different coming from different places we can work together and make a difference.”
It was a hugely successful week which saw the performance of a fun piece, Sink or Swim, at a Friday Firsts evening at Yorkshire Dance and performed the next day at the Grand Départ, Tour de France spectator hub on Scot Hall Road.
The fun warm-up at Friday Firsts enabled the dance group to connect with many professional and community dancers alongside whom they were performing, such as LocoMotion Dance Company from Huddersfield and Dance United Yorkshire.
Particular highlights were the very productive way the group of 15 dancers and artists collaborated and bonded which led to the creation of a substantial new piece and many new friendships. The dancers were deeply inspired about working together across different cultures and this has already led to one of the Yorkshire participants joining the OYO internship programme in Namibia in August!
For Yorkshire Dance it was important that the learning of this week was beneficial to local artists:
“I learnt so much from the way Philippe and Zoe approached combining their very different styles of choreography. To gain the opportunity to help with choreographic ideas, warm ups and class with such a talented and enthusiastic group of people was a chance to hone and develop my skills as part of a completely unique experience.”
Rachel Fullegar, assistant artist
The Namibian dancers were able to interact with the dance/arts community in Leeds across a programme of evening and social events which was exciting, fun and educational. They watched an aerial rehearsal by Phoenix Dance Theatre for the Official Opening of the Grand Départ in the Leeds Arena which they then had a chance to watch later in the week, alongside performances by Opera North and Hope and Social amongst others. They had a fantastic night with Leeds Young Authors and were blown away by their performances:
“It was full of energy and it was educational and not like anything I’d ever seen before. It told jokes then took you back to reality”
OYO dancer Levi
They in turn inspired the young authors and their visitors from Appleton College in Bradford (some of whom have never left Bradford before and who loved meeting the Namibian dancers) with their own dance performance. They had a chance to learn new skills from artist Helen Linsell by taking class with young dancers from Dance United Bradford at Dance Studio Leeds.
The OYO troupe got a lot out of watching the Foundation Degree showcase at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance and joined in the celebration of the 7-year anniversary at Seven Arts Centre where they met some of the friends they had made throughout the week.
All in all this was a hugely successful cultural exchange project, the first of its kind held at Yorkshire Dance. We hope to continue to work with the inspirational OYO organisation which creates and performs dance in such very different circumstances at home in Namibia and who’s work literally changes and saves lives.