Picture: Drew Tommons


Birmingham Royal Ballet

Birmingham Hippodrome


Under first Sir Peter Wright and then Sir David Bintley, Birmingham Royal Ballet has achieved many great things since it arrived in the city in 1990, and, no doubt, under director Carlos Acosta it will go on to achieve many more, but among its greatest achievements will always be the creation of Freefall.

As theatre critics we see the whole range of theatre when the curtain rises . . . theatre of the absurd, kitchen sink drama, comedy, farce, modern dance, traditional ballet, opera, on and on . . . and then there is Freefall, a company that has created a genre unique to itself - the theatre of joy.

I defy any company anywhere in the world to show more passion, enthusiasm, committment, endeavour, enjoyment and sheer happiness and joy than Freefall.

And it is infectious, you always leave a performance with a smile and healthy dose of feelgood.

The company is celebrating its 21st anniversary this week, and it all started with a modest partnership between BRB and Fox Hollies Special School which created an inclusive community programme with the simple mantra that dance is for everyone.


Freefall artistic director and co-founder, Lee Fisher. Picture: Greg Milner

The driving force was Lee Fisher, a BRB soloist and now BRB’s Head of Creative Learning – and Freefall’s artistic director – he helped start a simple programme to involve youngsters with severe learning difficulties in dance. What was little more than an idea has grown into a fully fledged dance company.

The start was a project based on Sir David Bintley’s Still Life at The Penguin Café, so the gala evening opened with a nod to Freefall’s origins with Still Life at the Freefall Café, with commissioned music from Richard Syner and video backdrops from Keith Youngston.

It also brought in the now extended family of Freefall and its community groups from Hazel Oak School Sixth Form in Shirley, Reddi Support in Redditch. All Saints Inclusion Group. Kings Heath, Uffculme School Sixth Form, Moseley, and the mother lode of Freefall, Fox Hollies School.


Chairs in rehearsal

Like Bintley’s original piece the dance sets scenes but instead of animal costumes helping to tell the story,  the Freefall version relies on dance alone, with scenes of holidays and adventure which takes us through Ocean, Woodland, Wetland, Meadow and Rivers with a final view of the world we all live in seen from space.

The dances were all different, involving more than 60 dancers and brought a standing ovation.

The second piece was Chairs, which was a revelation. I remember seeing  the original back in 2013 when it was a shortish imaginative piece, but 10 years on it has grown into a Freefall standard, with its nine dancers setting a host of scenes with drama and comedy, including a game of musical chairs.

The music, arranged by musical director Syner again, gives us jazz, tango, a Parisian boulevard, a touch of balilaika, a German march, and even a Third Man zither with a touch of The Mikado thrown in for good measure, all encouraging a matching variety of dance styles.

Like Freefall itself, Chairs has grown, developed and expanded, become more sophisticated and confident, yet it has kept all the charm. passion and humour that made it such a hit back in 2013.

With Freefall all the ideas, the yardsticks, the age old tools of reviewing just float away in a sea of pure joy and inspiration. The idea was dance is for everyone. It has proved that in spades, so perhaps now it should be added that if you believe, then anything is possible.

Roger Clarke


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