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Meet the Shape Makers - a dance project with Michael Clark Company and Headway East London

18 Mar 2021
4 min watch

A brand-new dance troupe took its bow on the Barbican stage, as members of the dance group at brain injury charity Headway East London were invited to take part in a series of workshops led by Kate Coyne, Associate Director at Michael Clark Company.

In Autumn 2020, forming part of Barbican Creative Learning’s rich programme of events responding to the Barbican Art Gallery exhibition, Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer, these vibrant workshops saw participants exploring ways to use their bodies to create shapes, respond to music, and express themselves through movement. 

Eleven participants took part in small groups across three separate workshops at both the Barbican and Headway East London’s centre in Haggerston. Kate talked to them about working at Michael Clark Company and led the group as they used dance and movement to explore their creativity.  

A man sitting on a white bench watching a television screen, behind him is a large photo of a dancer in a black and white patterned leotard
‘Kate was able to tap into the group’s extraordinary creativity and create a safe space for us to delve into our imaginations‘

‘She asked everybody to do some moves,’ says Headway East London member and workshop dancer Jackie Pingue. ‘Then she got each and every single one of us to think of a move, and then we’d all join it together…having it all flow… it was fantastic.’ Fellow Headway dancer Sandra Lott concurred, praising the workshops' inclusivity and accessibility: ‘It was absolutely lovely. I can walk - well I have my walking stick - but some people have wheelchairs, but they can join in as well. It's brilliant.’

The Headway East London dancers certainly brought their flair and vitality to the workshops and the project became a truly special experience – creating a community and a dialogue between all involved. Some of the group were also able to visit the Gallery exhibition just before lockdown which included films of the Company - spotting Kate in some of the videos too!  

Two figures raise one leg, copying the pose of a figure in a black and white painting in front of them

Safety precautions were put into place, allowing the group to come together to dance, laugh, and express themselves at a time when things felt very dark – with the Theatre stage lit up in vibrant yellows, oranges and blues to bring additional warmth and communal joy.

Headway dancer Ken Hazeldine said: ‘I’ve always enjoyed dance – usually more as a spectator than as a participant due to my ungainly nature! It was great to dance on stage, in front of the huge auditorium at the Barbican. It was a little bit like dancing [in] a great cathedral!’

‘Kate was able to tap into the group’s extraordinary creativity and create a safe space for us to delve into our imaginations,’ says Stephanie Kelley, Therapy Assistant at Headway East London. ‘There were real moments of magic up there on that stage!’

‘I LOVED working with the Headway members,’ says Kate Coyne, Associate Director at Michael Clark Company.  ‘Their joy in dancing was infectious, and the enthusiasm and generosity of their energy and creativity was a complete delight. I have taught many people over my career, but these sessions with Headway East London make me smile whenever I think back to them.’

‘Well, it's not every day we get to dance together on the Barbican Theatre stage! Many of the themes Michael Clark explores really resonated with us so this collaboration felt very exciting. ‘
Stephanie Kelley, Therapy Assistant at Headway East London
A group of people sit on chairs on the Barbican stage
‘The Barbican was empty, so it was very weird being there…If there was another workshop, I would definitely want to do it again - I loved it!‘
Linda Martin, Headway East London dancer
A wide shot of the Barbican stage with empty auditorium and a group of people sitting on the stage

About Headway East London
Headway East London is a charity supporting people affected by brain injury. Working across 13 London boroughs, they offer specialist support and services for over 200 survivors, family, friends and carers. Headway East London have a three-year partnership with the Barbican as their Community Collaborator and have been involved in many projects and events as part of the Barbican Creative Learning programme. 

Our Barbican Creative Learning pioneers new models for cultural learning across the art forms. Our mission is Creative Skills for Life and, in a typical year, we deliver more than 40 programmes and events alongside 150 partners to over 29,000 participants.

Headway East London Dancers:
Ken Hazeldine, Velma Hurst, Sandra Lott, Linda Martin, Tirzah Mileham, Theresa Malcolm, Tiiu Mortley, Jackie Pingue, Trevor Small, Dominic Tran, Carol Zeniou

Headway East London Staff:
Fiona Allan, Physiotherapist 
Bryn Davies, Co-ordinator 
Steph Kelley, Therapy Assistant
Laura Owens, Communications and Development Manager
Rosie Scott, Communications and Fundraising Assistant
Cristina Vidal, Public Engagement Officer

Michael Clark Company Staff:
Kate Coyne, Associate Director

With thanks to Kate Coyne and Michael Clark Company, the Barbican Theatre team for their support on the project and to Barbican Art Gallery for their ongoing support with our community work.

Thank you to photographer and filmmaker Williamz Omope and charity Accumulate, The Art School for the Homeless.

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