Written by Artistic Directors AJ & Ben
Ascension Dance was created in 2017 as we felt there was a specific gap of activity in Coventry’s contemporary dance scene, resulting in the creation of our dance film 'Sent To Coventry'. We had seen key members of a previously flourishing Coventry contemporary dance scene move away and work in new and different areas of the sector. So when Ascension turned two and a half years old, we felt it was our time to make the step in forming a new way of delivering dance provisions to young people and creating new dance performances for audience.
Having both been part of dance, theatre and sport opportunities as young people, we knew how important it was to have a diverse array of youth provisions in the city. We wanted to make sure that the next generations had a similar offering of opportunities to engage in, and were excited about the possibility of bringing something new to the cultural landscape. It was our turn to help shape a new option for arts engagement and we felt perfectly placed to connect with a region of ambitious young dancers interested in contemporary dance as well as wider movement forms such as parkour & breakdance. We also wanted to build more specific opportunities for professional dancers from the region to perform and see Coventry as an artistic home.
When reflecting on the creative provisions for young people in Coventry, it is impossible not to mention Highly Sprung Performance Co. Highly Sprung are an award winning arts organisation based in Coventry. They create physical theatre performance for the indoor and outdoor touring scene and work with young people across the UK and beyond. We feel they deserve their own blog shout-out as a celebration of the incredible work they do, and acknowledge how they have shaped our careers.
As teenagers and young adults we were members of Highly Sprung’s youth theatre group 'Sprungsters' and subsequently went on to work as artists for the company. During our teenage years, Sprungters, met every Thursday, and brought young people from across Coventry together. Sprungsters is a weekly youth group set up by Highly Sprung for and about young people. It’s dedicated to inspiring young people through physical theatre, giving each participant the opportunity to expressive themselves through performances and other youth-led opportunities. It’s a Joke by Highly Sprung (2009)
Under the guidance of Highly Sprung Company Directors Mark and Sarah, Sprungsters taught us the power of resilience and determination. It taught us that the arts has the influence to change lives, it taught us that nobody will hand you something for free and you have to work for it. It taught us about the power of the collective, it taught us how to be bold in our ideas. It gave us grace and responsibility. We count ourselves lucky to be part of a group that held young peoples values at its core. We continue to be in awe of their professional performances and youth work. Their ability to continue to rip up the book of expectations when it comes to “Youth Theatre” and surpassing audience expectations is inspirational.
Post-University, our relationship with Highly Sprung developed into working with them as Associate Artists, Workshop Leaders and Performers. We have been fortunate enough to tour the UK and Europe in a number of Highly Sprung indoor and outdoor shows, as well as being part of their outreach team, delivering workshops across the UK to children and young people of all ages. We are grateful for the support we received as young emerging artists at the start of our careers and for the experience of performing physical theatre that
expanded our ability outside the realm of contemporary dance.
Seeing the quality and breadth of physical theatre experiences that Highly Sprung provides the city, emboldened us to cultivate opportunities for contemporary dance and attempt to build a wider movement scene in Coventry, inspired by our love of dance, parkour and breakdance. We felt it was time to add another creative string to Coventry’s bow, and create Ascension Dance as part of the cohort of arts companies that provide creative experiences for young people in Coventry.
We have a long way to go as an organisation who have been inspired to build our own reputation for creating opportunities through dance, just as Highly Sprung has done through physical theatre. We are passionate about offering contemporary dance and other activities as alternatives creative outlets for Coventry’s young people. Alongside companies such as Highly Sprung we continue to allow our young people to access a vast variety of ways to express themselves in our creative and diverse city.
We are forever grateful to have Highly Sprung as an organisation in Coventry but we are even more grateful to have met and worked for Mark and Sarah. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.
Taken at the Coventry and Warwickshire Culture and Tourism Awards 2017
Left to Right
Luke Sheppard, Emily Hewlett, Mark Worth, Ben Morley, Sarah Worth, Ashley Jordan, Zoe Drinkwater, Lucy Holtom, Charlotte Dodd, Emily Robertson.
If you know a young person itching to get involved in physical theatre, give Highly Sprung’s Sprungsters a try:
Go and check out their website to see their productions and incredible work with children and young people.