At this moment in time, we might be wondering what binds together our communities, our cities and our nations. We inhabit the same streets but right now the debate is about putting distance between people rather than exploring how society can coalesce. The conversation about how different we are from each other and the need to protect ‘our’ values is noisier than it’s been for seventy years. Suspicion reigns. The media is using fear as its currency. We all want to look after our families. We must keep them safe and protect all those who are vulnerable.
But it doesn’t take long to notice that historically, walls built to protect and divide people – literal and metaphorical – eventually get pulled down or tunnelled under. Separation cures nothing.
I first read about Men & Girls Dance in the summer of 2013. It was an idea that danced off the page. The title alone animates most people. Fevered Sleep were proposing something intelligently provocative that challenged the accepted rules of bringing people together. Clearly this was theatre that The Place had to urgently support. All kinds of people, of all ages, from all over Camden and London are welcomed to our building. They all share a passion to dance or watch others dancing. But Men & Girls Dance unites two very different groups of people, who rarely get to dance with each other. By bringing people together like this, the show starts conversations. Firstly, between Fevered Sleep and all the parents, teachers, social workers, audiences, men and girls around the country who have been involved in the project over the past three years. Also, through discussions about the themes of the performance that the company is having with people who live and work in Camden. Lastly, with the cast of girls who’ll create this London version of the show. Most of these girls have never danced here at The Place before. In joining us for these few weeks the performers and their families become part of a community that loves to move together. The company have made a safe space for them to celebrate the innocent joy of dancing and the excitement of working hard at something you are passionate about. All of them are extraordinary young people who are the future of our world.
We hope this experience will somehow help them shape that future for the better. We all need to listen to each other more. We need to eat together, laugh and cry together, sing together and, yes, go to theatres together. This is how we understand our differences and similarities and how we bind our communities. This is what we should fight for and vote for. The chance to really live side by side.
Men & Girls Dance is a wonderfully moving theatre show which reclaims for the world a way of being freely and carefully together. Our city needs to have the conversation that this work provokes. Fear is left at the theatre’s doors. People are left to share a stage together. It’s the most beautifully political, gently radical dance we’ve ever put on our stage.