First of all, what inspired you as a young person to pursue dance as a career before Ascension and why?
My dance journey began in year 7. As humans, we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. My weakness, at that moment in time, was my spelling and grammar. I’m dyslexic (dyslexic / dyslexia are two of the hardest words to spell when you suffer with it) and I found reading and writing hard.
One day whilst I was at secondary school, my tutor asked me to take part in an all-boys dance workshop that could lead to a performance. At the time, I was a very shy and nervous year 7, I know that might be hard to believe looking at me now. My tutor, who was also the dance teacher in school, wanted to try and find a route for me which would enable me to express my passion and creativity.
I decided to give the session a go which then led to a week long project where we got to dance with professional dancers and learn a performance which was showcased at the end of the week. After that workshop, all I can say is that I was hooked! From there I went on to perform up and down the country in dance projects as part of a local dance group called “Alpha”. This was also where I met AJ. I studied dance at GCSE, A-level, and completed a 3 year dance degree at Coventry University. Now I’m here creating and working for Ascension Dance. I feel so lucky to have been able to form “Ascension” with my best friend and even more excited that our dance journey had led us to inspiring young people to experience dance.
What's the story behind Ascension Dance? What conversations, inspirations and processes did you go through?
Ascension Dance formed very quickly. It began, as many people have heard, from a film we made in 2017 called ‘Sent to Coventry’ (which has over 7k views on YouTube, just saying!) For this project, AJ and I were working with our friend Jamie Sergeant, who had his own film company, Touchtype Films (Unfortunately, Touchtype is no longer running but Jamie is still smashing it). We, AJ and I, realised that on publishing the film, we didn’t want to be just known as simply Ben and AJ. Instead, we needed a name, a mark, a symbol, a … Company. Just like that, boom, we decided to make Ascension Dance Company! The name came about slightly later on and it was one of the first ideas we thought of. We let it settle for some time, we realised that it felt right to be called Ascension Dance. We wanted our company to fly high and be representative of the physical and dynamic movement language we enjoyed so much.
Even though it all happened very fast, it felt right. We knew that it was the right time in both of our careers to take the step into creating and producing our own ideas. With support from friends and family the company began to grow, both with branding and our aesthetic as well as with everything else that we wanted to achieve for Ascension, such as creating and touring performances and setting up our own youth company, Ascension Youth. I am still so happy about the day when we, Jamie, AJ and I, sat down to start planning ‘Sent To Coventry” and as a result decided to form a dance company. These are the moments you look back on and realise how pivotal they were in forming who you are now.
How do you intend to continue to inspire male/male-identifying young people through the use of movement and why is it so important?
This is a good question. In simple form it’s easy, we just keep doing what we do best and what we love. The feeling of making a change and giving young males an opportunity to have fun and get creative is the best feeling ever. The energy we get from the young males when delivering workshops helps remind us of why we do what we do and as a result, it helps us to keep being ambitious in order to inspire more young males. We hope that these opportunities provide some of our young people with a creative voice and inspires them to carry on during hard times. This is just how my journey started when I was offered the opportunity in year 7. Even though our workshops might not make them all dancers, we hope we give them the confidence and determination to follow their dreams in whatever they want to bring to life!
We will continue to deliver our sessions, to inspire those who attend and give opportunities to everyone who wants to give the Ascension style a go.
In the form of a tweet, what would you say to all young people out there to encourage them to stay creative?
Get ready for a cheese sandwich…
I’ve always loved the phrase, “don’t dream your dreams, live them”. I always believe that if you want something you should go for it and although it will be hard at times, once you get there, then WOW it is worth it!