Diverse Dancers is the title given to a large and still progressing compilation of photographs, primarily concerned with the multiplicity of varying dance traditions; a small and miscellaneous selection of which, is currently in exhibition at the ORT Cafe in Birmingham, UK (from 19th Feb – 5th Mar’14).
Housed in The Old Print Works, a grade II listed building; Ort is much more than just a cafe. More importantly, it has become the community hub for creative art within just 2 years of being established, having gained the worthy reputation of supporting emerging artists, in the community of England’s second largest city! With its friendly and approachable directors, Josephine Reichert and Ridhi Kalaria, who both actively assist the artists they support, Ort is the ideal place for an emerging artist, to host a first time solo exhibition. And on Friday 21st Feb’14, that is exactly what Najma Hush did, having curated a night of art, poetry and music by hosting talented poets and musicians to share their work, which coincided with the dance theme of her exhibition. She called this event, ‘An Exhibition for Exhibitionists’ and boy did it attract a handsome group.
Upon the night as the crowd gathered and mingled they were greeted by live music from the Jazz Pianist, Andrew Clayton, who played all original material from his Album, Bunch of Keys. Quick to jump at an opportunity to jam, poetry performer, Carys Matic Jones joined in with her Cajón Drum, adding a beat to Clayton’s melody and giving all the guests, opportune moments to collectively convene a vibrant atmosphere.
The show then commenced with the local poet, Adele – aka- Ddotti Bluebird, who also organises Birmingham’s much loved Word- Up. She grabbed the crowd’s attention with her passionate urban style poetry. However, rather surprisingly for the host, none of this Ddotti Bluebird’s songs conformed to the theme of dance.
Following on swiftly, was Adam Laws, a complete virgin to performance poetry, who nevertheless, won the crowd over with two poems that he had written especially for the theme of this event.
But the real crowd pleaser was a musical performance by Walsall’s poet, Al Barz who had composed his own music to choreograph a special dance for a totally interactive, audience precipitation and the best thing was, everyone could do his dance sitting down, except for Barz of course (who also organises his own monthly poetry events called Purple Penumbra at the Barlowe Theatre in Oldbury).
Next up was what appeared to be Cinderella herself, sporting a broom and sweeping the stage, but it was in fact, Andrea Shorrick, with her own unique interpretation of dance, a delightful poem titled Prince Charming.
Also come to take part and show her support was Jude Ashworth, a long and withstanding member of Writer Without Borders as well as being the organiser of Erdington Writers held twice a month at Erdington Library, she swayed and swooned the audience with her dance poetry.
After that, the crowd was gregariously greeted by the enormous personality of Ian Henery, the Mayor of Walsall’s Poet Laureate for three consecutive years and author of Batman (Thynk Publications). Amongst a few other dance poems, Henery, performed his poem written especially for Diverse Dancers called….Diverse Dancers and also read Rudyard Kipling’s, The Plea of the Simla Dancers. Not before however, he likened the talent of the first halves performers, to our Nation’s favourite poet, Kipling and was ignominiously heckled for it by an otherwise anonymous heckler, who rowdily disagreed.
Another member of Birmingham’s highly esteemed group, Writers Without Borders and author of Blonde Grass (Thynk Publications), Olufemi Abidogun also graced the stage with his own magical poetry on the subject of dance.
Just before the interval, the closing act for the first half was the third and final member of Writers Without Borders. It was none other than, Tessa Lowe herself, who also hosts her own poetry events at Ort called Poets with Passion. Lowe charmed the crowd with her charismatic, Maybe Baby dance poem, as well as sharing an enchanting poem, celebrating the ‘beauty’ of Birmingham’s, not-so-prevaliged, Balsall Heath (the location of Ort Cafe and hence the exhibition).
To kick start the second half, Carys Matic Jones opened the proceedings with her musical act. Normally performing with her band, Jones was joined with improvisations from Andrew Clayton on Keyboard, as she multi-tasked her rhythmic recitations to the beat of her new Cajón Drum, which proved to be a very delightful and an engaging experience indeed.
A hard act to follow, which certainly she did do and without any exceptions, it was Nina Lewis. An ex-dancer herself, Lewis claimed that she had been directly inspired by the Photographs exhibited. Her poems not only dealt with the beauty of the art form, but also explored the darker more painful side of dance, that we as voyeurs often forget when watching this graceful art form. Needless to say, all three of her poems were very strong.
It was also a great pleasure to see, popular storyteller, Kate Walton – Aka – Story Tramp (nominated for outstanding newcomer at the BASE Awards, ((British Award for Storytelling Excellence)) 2013. She captivated and simply mesmerised the audience, with her rhythmic tale of a Sufi whirling dervish’s.
Birmingham Poet Laureate 1999/2000, Simon Pitt also made a special guest appearance with his slightly eccentric performance. One act of which, he threw things at the audience in a fit of rage. It was a rather convincing temper tantrum and nothing like I’ve ever seen in my life, so I’m glad to have finally had such a frightful experience, whilst in such a friendly environment. It wasn’t all gloom and doom of course as Pitt soon lightened the tone offering the crowd a brighter side to his sense of humor.
It was a pleasure to become acquainted with Lorna Meehan’ s work, especially as she had just come off her first poetry tour with England and Scotland’s leading poetry organisation, Apples and Snakes . Her act was a real delight. Rumour also has it, that Meehan is presently preparing to be the world’s first hula hooping performance poet…
A local poet, Max Jalil who rarely ever shares his work, shyly decided to pluck up his courage and read his witty poems on the subject of his horrendous dance antics, which is something that he is rather notorious for on the clubbers scene. After having seen both of his talents, one would probably suggest that Jalil gives up dance and takes up poetry instead – as his poem really was rather good.
Najma Hush also shared two short and sweet poems before passing on the mic to none other than yet another poet laureate. It was Roy Mcfarlen (Birmingham, 2010/2011), who had come to show his support for Hush’s events once again. The enigmatic Mcfarlen who never fails to delight a crowd of poetry lovers drew the perfect close to an almost perfect night, as the host called the show a rap and let the crowd loose to get closer to view her work and stay around to chat and indulge in a few more drinks.
Here are some more photographs to get you better acquainted with all the performers who came along… and look out for the uploads from Pat the Bull Films who kindly filmed that night’s events to broadcast to the world … after all…these open exhibition soiree’s aren’t titled, ‘Exhibitions for Exhibitionists’ for nothing, you know.