When choreographer Joseph Toonga co-founded Just Us Dance Theatre with Ricardo Da Silva and Rudeen February in 2007, a major part of the company’s ethos was to inspire, support and nurture others. In 2013, the company set up the first of two mentoring programmes, Let’s Shine, to empower young hip hop performers and provide them with tools and opportunities to develop themselves as artists and individuals.
10 young men aged from 16 to 23, from a range of backgrounds, have been working with Toonga and De Silva to create a response to Toonga’s 2019 work Born To Manifest, inspired by the first person accounts of young black men from across London. From 13 to 15 March, they will present the work at VAULT Festival 2020, London.
The performers draw upon their own experiences to create an intensely personal, fiercely physical work with a compelling energy. They set out to question the audience’s cultural presumptions and end up delivering a powerful pertinent message. The accompanying score is by Michael ‘Mikey J’ Asante.
The Let’s Shine mentorship program runs weekly. It consists of dance workshops with guest teachers, experiencing a range of dance techniques, choreographic exercises, and self-management skills, plus opportunities to take part in professional performances, both in and out of London. It is supported by Arts Council England, Just Us Dance Theatre, The Oak Foundation and Redbridge Drama Centre.
Just Us Dance Theatre won VAULT Festival’s 2018 Origins Award for outstanding new work for Still We Dream.