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Create:Tour with Phoenix Dance Theatre

Last week saw the end of our second #CreateTour, a new Rural Arts ON Tour project which will be taking place in The Wolds, East Cleveland, and the Selby District over the next three years.
The young people were signed up, the transport was organised and here at Rural Arts we were all really excited about Create Tour with internationally acclaimed Phoenix Dance Theatre, but as it got nearer feelings of nervousness and worry started to creep in. Create Tour had a lot of ‘firsts’ attached to it, which meant no one was quite sure what to expect. For starters, it’s the first project of it’s kind; allowing young people aged 11 – 18 from rural settings the chance to work with a professional company for a week and then tour with them, opening for the professionals each night. It was also the first time Rural Arts had worked at Tuned In! Redcar, where the intensive rehearsal week took place, the first time Phoenix Dance Theatre have toured to rural venues with smaller stages, and the first time two of the tour venues had held a Rural Arts event!
As everyone piled off the transport and into Tuned In!, an incredibly modern, hi-tech building for kids on Redcar seafront, we all said hello, having met at a taster session a few weeks earlier. Sadie, Hazel, Calin and Shaun were four young people working with Chris Spence, a professional film maker and they eagerly started their task; making a film which would be screened on the tour in just four days. The rest of the group began rehearsals with Josh and Vanessa from Phoenix Dance Theatre. None of the young dancers had ever experienced contemporary dance before and I’m sure Josh and Vanessa won’t mind me saying that half way through the first day the idea of creating a tour-worthy performance by the end of day four was a scary one! However, each day was full of surprises; we had underestimated how dedicated and creative they were.
Choreographing phrases based on people who’ve inspired them, forming duets and quartets with people they’d only just met, it was a joy to watch these 13 individuals become a dance company. The screams of delight after the last rehearsal on day three confirmed that Phoenix Dance Theatre and 13tet, as the young dancers were called by then, had a performance they were happy with. Four days later everyone went home, and we crossed our fingers the choreography would not be forgotten for the tour four days later.
Tour Day One: “What? THE Phoenix Dance Theatre, are coming to Loftus?!”
With reactions like that we always knew that Phoenix Dance Theatre’s tour with Rural Arts was unique. Touring with the company were young people who weren’t sure what contemporary dance was prior to the project, and we weren’t sure if audiences would be interested either. But we did know that the opportunity to tour internationally acclaimed Phoenix Dance Theatre’s show REfined was too good to miss, and from talking to the council and local people, that there was a need for more entertainment in the area.
Shortly after 7.30pm we closed the doors and kicked off the tour, Phoenix Dance Theatre completely transformed the town hall, 13tet performed brilliantly and feedback from the audience, which included everyone from young children, and some ‘proper blokes’ (their words!) to couples enjoying a great night out, had everyone involved buzzing. One down, two to go!
Tour Day Two: “We’ve got nowhere to put the young performers!”
Day two meant travelling to Pickering, where the professional dancers, their rehearsal director and their tech crew had already completed their ‘get in’ at Pickering Memorial Hall for a sold out night hosted by Pickering Arts. There was just one problem: we’d sold too many tickets for 13Tet to have seats in the audience after the show! So after their performance it was straight back on the bus for a well deserved earlier night. Pickering Arts have been working with Rural Arts ON Tour for some time now and it was brilliant to see such a great turn out, these guys are a true success story in the world of rural touring!
Tour Day Three: “I don’t think you can understand how much this has meant to me”
So it was back ‘home’ to Tuned In! who had kindly arranged dinner for us all before 13tet and Phoenix Dance Theatre’s last performance. I can’t really explain the high we were all on after the last show, or how proud we were of 13Tet and the young film makers so we’ll leave you with some of the feedback we received from the young people, the audience and Phoenix Dance Theatre throughout the tour:
“Back in Leeds after a great week away in small towns with generous hearts and hopes to inspire…”
“All the more worth it when a 15 year old asks to shake your hand and says you have inspired him”
“I’m tickled pink this is on my doorstep!”
“Truly inspirational”
“I thought it would go over my head but I really enjoyed it”
“Thanks to everyone who came to see us on our Rural Arts tour – we had NO IDEA what to expect but it’s been fantastic”
“As a parent of two children who participated in the event I can only thank everyone who has been involved”
Some of the young people involved already loved dance and film, some had never been involved in dance or film before, some loved school and some had not been in education for some time but all developed confidence, skills, and showed commitment, and we are really proud of them! Thank you to all the participants, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council for the use of Tuned In! Redcar,  Arts Council England for funding Create:Tour, to all the staff at Tuned In! Redcar, Loftus Town Council, Pickering Arts, and Phoenix Dance Theatre, we can’t wait for next year!
To find out more about Create:Tour go to will be with Barbershopera at Manor Farm Youth Centre, Tadcaster in July and August.