In Colour (2018-present)
Colour – Identity - History
We all need to talk and think more about race.
It is a big topic.
It touches the very core of who we are, where we have come from, and how we connect with events that have been; into the situation that we now find ourselves in.
In 2018, we brought together an ethnically diverse cast of 5 performers to create a show. We wanted to use the differences between us, and the personal histories of each individual cast member, to consider the different markers we use to identify ourselves (such as race, gender, belief systems), and to touch upon both historic and current racial issues in America and Britain.
With three white members of a 5-person cast, we also extended the theme to consider how white people interact with (or are oblivious to) racism.*
One of the aims of our company is to look at the history of Swing Dance, which emerged out of the “Harlem Renaissance” in the 1920s, an energetic and joyful emergence of African-American Arts in Harlem.
We consider swing dance styles as widely as possible – from its African dance roots to its offshoots in hiphop. We also try to connect the swing era movements to the present – keeping the essence of the era while transposing traditional swing movements into our 21st century world.
There is a challenging dichotomy within this project between the fun of swing dance and circus and the darker issues we want to consider:
Swing dancing, though born out of racial oppression and suffering, is itself a joyful outpouring and release!
Circus is a mix of hardcore physical feats together with the art of reacting and interacting with an audience.
The combination of swing dance and circus is exciting and infectious – we wanted to use this to engage our audiences and then to introduce moments of intrigue that could spark discussion or thought along our theme.
We created the first iteration of this show in October 2018 with the directing help of Mark James. As a cast-led project we gave space to each of our visceral reactions to the task of exploring our identities.
Through an open platform for material generation we believe we have made a genuinely important show. As our political landscape grows more polarised we seek truth through individual cast members experiences, beliefs and hopes.
We aimed to not shy away from the fact that there is still much to be done before we as individuals, races and states can consider ourselves free.
Mark James is a Bristol based variety performer and director who has been collaborating with Swing Circus since 2012. Some words from him:
“As a guest director working alongside the cast, my main focus with In Colour was to help create impactful visual moments whilst maintaining a thoughtful approach to the subject matter.
The use of spoken word, modern music and the raw physical ability of the cast made the task of dealing with the themes of In Colour particularly interesting to me.
My hope is that an audience member will leave uplifted yet thoughtful of how their own attitudes and actions impact others.”
*2020 addendum: We are now developing this project, and aim to switch the dominance of cast ethnicity from white to black/mixed.
"My hope is that an audience member will leave uplifted yet thoughtful of how their own attitudes and actions impact others"
- Mark James, assistant director "In Colour" 2018