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Random Acts of Art

The Distanced Dance

By The UPG Team's Emergent Ensemble

Celebrating Cornubia’s history as a dance hall – lost in both time and place, 6 ballroom dancers search through Par for their partners in an epic spectacle of glamour, glitz and romance


Blog post

The UPG’s Emergent Ensemble are compiled of a group of distanced dancers. They rose to the challenge to create a socially distanced ballroom dance piece, with a sentimental nod to all of the dancers around the world who are unable to dance together during this time. The UPG’s team found a way to pull that feeling for the dancer and audience and create a piece to inspire many others to do the same. Helen Mallett, Communications Placement Intern from Plymouth Conservatoire, chatted to Alistair and Miranda from Prodigal UPG.

Where did your inspiration for the piece come from?

“In Par there is a community building called Cornubia. In the past – as far as we can ascertain between the wars and maybe through WWII – it was a dance hall. When looking for inspiration that could fire a distanced performance for a group of young, physical practitioners, this lit a spark.”

What does the story mean to your team?

“For our Emergent Ensemble it’s a chance to explore a formal movement language – and actually one of them, actor Sam, has been a member of a ballroom society for some years. The rest of the performers are all dance-trained so have a working knowledge of classic styles we could call on to some extent, but to be honest – ballroom dancing without contact and out on the street was a new experience for everyone.”

What we’re your favourite moments of the Random Acts of Art performance?

“We performed literally on people’s doorsteps and one of the most touching encounters was with an elderly lady, now needing oxygen to breath, who stood and watched the dancers and talked of working with Kneehigh many years ago. Another elderly man told us he’d been so taken with Fred Astaire in his youth that he’d taken tap classes and was part of a 3-man performance group in Penzance during the 50’s – so our 3 gents in top hats and tails were a proper reminiscence for him. But every encounter was special, from people waving through windows, to the children delighted by real life ‘princesses’ to doorstep chats to the dance along the beach and the cheers of the skateboarders and BMX’s on the pump track. We expected at least one heckle, but never got more than requests to turn the music up!”

What was it like working with the Random Acts of Art team during this time?

“The RAA team have been fantastic and one thing the performance has brought home to us is how everyone here has a connection to Kneehigh. For good reasons. This project displays both great creative vision and real warmth and it’s been a privilege to be a part of. The wonderful documentary images and film from Steve and Neal we will treasure.”