News: ADAD's Trailblazers - on show this weekend

Wednesday 28 May 2014 by Carole Edrich

ADAD Trailblazer Showcase - Exposure. The Place, 31 May 2014. Photo: Messrs.

Exposure – the ADAD Trailblazers Showcase is at The Place this Saturday (31 May) as part of the Springloaded season. Carole Edrich talks to some of the team at the Association of Dance of the African Diaspora to find out more…

The first of its kind, Saturday’s Trailblazers Showcase is a collaboration between current Fellows of ADAD’s Trailblazing program: Idrissa Camara, Cindy Claes, Cleo Jahlake and Denise Rowe. It’s a mixed bill programme featuring innovative creations of dance, movement, music and performance including film, installation, abstract choreography, dancehall, reggae and dynamic Guinean dance theatre with live music, film and more. The evening will offer a tour through the far reaches of African diaspora dance as it is expressed today.

The idea is to highlight the professional artistic achievements of each Trailblazer Fellow, and for them it’s an end-of-year declaration to which influential arts organisations, the founders, dancers and interested members of the public will attend. Director Mercy Nabirye develops this, saying “In a way it is also a formal realisation that each person’s choice [Dancehall, African dance, Contemporary and improvisational dance, Carnival and reggae, Guinean dance and Afro House] is not the only art form, and an encouragement for them to find a way to present their work outside of conventional silos. That’s important these days because everything is global. Individual dance styles need no explanation for the culture in which they arise, but everything travels now. It may stay the same or it may adapt and we have to realise that the [creative and traditional] space in which each individual works is shared.”

As you’d expect for any organisation formed to encourage and promote dance, ADAD has evolved. It was originally run by a steering committee of professional dancers who periodically explored relevant issues open meetings and produced a quarterly newsletter. Now it is run by Mercy Nabirye who reports to a Board of Trustees. Its formal objectives include to serve as an information hub on African diasporic dance, work to broaden awareness of the dance forms and support likely future leaders and nurturers.

Exposure is likely to become a key point in ADAD’s calendar. Judith Palmer, ADAD’s Chair explains “We believe that dances of the African Diaspora have made a significant cultural contribution to the UK. By investing in prominent practitioners and their work, we are able to highlight that contribution providing a network of support which enables access, creativity and development. The Trailblazers initiative embodies ADAD’s raison d’être.” Despite her position with ADAD she wouldn’t call herself a Trailblazer at all. “Back in the day, my experience with African peoples’ dance began when I left Adzido Pan-African Dance Ensemble. It was all about the company and the work we were doing,” she says. We never looked at the dance sector at all. When I left and had to think what do now I felt isolated, didn’t feel there was much out there for me as I’m not a choreographer and it was difficult to start my own company and say what my ethos was, so I went into teaching which was my best skill.”

As ADAD’s strategic lynchpins, the Trailblazers are chosen with care from people who demonstrate a passion for their art. The initiative has been running since 2003 and as applications have increased the decision makers have become much clearer about who they should support. Mercy explains: “ADAD looks for people who practice their dance forms whether they have funding or not, who demonstrate a need to nurture and introduce others to their passion, and have potential for strong leadership. That’s vital.”

Starter Fellows are encouraged to develop their artistic practice while Champions are supported in the further development of business and organisational skills. Saturday’s event is curated by Denise Rowe and hosted by Vicki Uchenna Igbokwe – both Trailblazer Champions. It will be followed by a discussion exploring the position of dance from the African diaspora within the UK today.

More info & booking:
Tickets £15 (£12 concessions)

See Carole Edrich’s photos of ADAD Trailblazers past & present in the gallery below

Carole Edrich is a dance photographer and photojournalist who writes regularly for Dance Today. Check out her work on

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