Words Kirk Truman

Photography Etienne Gilfillan

“The contemporary dance world has a very niche, elitist audience, that being contemporary dancers and their friends and families. It would be our pleasure to educate people about what exactly contemporary dance is.”

Dance is somewhat a riddle to me, most likely because I don’t know how to. However, I must admit my own admiration and fascination with the practice of performing arts and the sheer commitment and passion for dance that this group of young artists share. Valerie Ebuwa and a team of urban contemporary dance artists unveil their passion and the origins of their Eclectics dance/performance group, alongside their relationship with the Fitzrovia area.

Valerie says Eclectics was something that she and friends had always foreseen. The group is comprised of a cluster of close friends who met during dance training over in Bloomsbury. Sharing similar interests in dance, music and fashion they frequently received offers as individuals from different events and agencies offering work, thus deciding that they needed to take their passion to the next level. “Having a variety of multidisciplinary skills, we formed a collective that performs, choreographs and teaches in order to reach our fullest potential and keep our craft fresh. Having many different backgrounds within the group we often teach each other to so it’s a constant, ever growing collective,” Valerie explains.

The three main members of this group (Valerie Ebuwa, Ryan Munroe and Anna-Kay Gayle) handle bookings, events, rehearsals and choreography. Other members include Claire Shaw and Franklin Dawson who regularly dance at events. Valerie tells me, “We have other members who have yet to perform but we are hoping in 2015 to expand and include more of the wonderful performers we know.”

Taken individually, all members of Eclectics have their own personal ambitions. As a collective, they want to provide contemporary dance to newer audiences, an audience perhaps lesser understanding of contemporary dance, as a way to inspire and inform others. “The contemporary dance world has a very niche, elitist audience, that being contemporary dancers and their friends and families. It would be our pleasure to educate people about what exactly contemporary dance is: also changing the faces of contemporary dance. Not too long ago dance degrees could only be obtained but those whose families had enough to provide them with a vocational training. As a result, contemporary dance companies often have been made up of people from similar backgrounds, ethnic origins and these people often provide similar work because they have all been trained in the same way,” Valerie explains. Eclectics want to have mixed ensembles of talented individuals from all backgrounds in order to change the perception of contemporary dancers for good.

The group spent the last three years training in London Contemporary Dance School, the UK’s number one school for contemporary dance, located just over the border on Duke’s Road, with much of their time spent in and around Fitzrovia. “Having spent three years here in the area, we as a collective realised that Fitzrovia residents are still unaware of how the area plays such a huge role in the future of contemporary dance,” says Valerie. Upon graduating, the group decided to make their work resident within the area by choreographing site-specific works in order to not only educate people about contemporary dance but to also pay homage to an area that has been prevalent during the birth of their careers and that of many other dance artists in the UK.

I prompted Valerie as to how customary the work of Eclectics is in the dance world, and she explained by unveiling how multidisciplinary the collective is, that the group are individual in the dance industry. “We not only choreograph and train in contemporary dance, but we also regularly perform hip hop, dancehall, samba, commercial, African and jazz choreographies. We integrate all of our different styles together, rather than just contemporary dance. We often travel to different countries to enhance our understanding of different dance styles and genres and also use other movement art forms such as yoga, capoeira, kung fu and other martial arts to inform our work,” Valerie explains to me. Eclectics also design all of their own sets, which include costume and lighting – “so all the work comes from us.”

For Eclectics, the future is looking bright. This year the group are heading off to Brazil where they will train and perform. “After our trip to Brazil we will come back and perform more frequently in the Fitzrovia area. We will be looking to expand our connections with local residents and this year’s graduates of London Contemporary Dance School in order to keep the promotion of contemporary dance within the area alive and fresh. We hope to achieve bringing contemporary dance to the foreground of Fitzrovia, not keeping it in its current somewhat backyard existence,” says Valerie. The group are also in talks for many more events, shows and residencies, as well as music video performances.  It goes without saying, the group is looking to embark on a rather busy 2015! However, their focal ambition this year is to further expand and generate awareness about dance as a career. Though really, this is already truly being put into practice.