Freefall Dance Company is an innovative, collaborative initiative between Birmingham Royal Ballet and Fox Hollies Performing Arts College. It comprises Birmingham Royal Ballet staff, freelance artists, senior teachers and teaching assistants and a group of ten highly gifted dancers with severe learning disabilities. It was established in September 2002 and remains a ground-breaking initiative.
Freefall meets weekly for two hours at Birmingham Royal Ballet studios. The sessions are highly structured and are equally divided between formal ballet technique training and choreographic work. Freefall is a fine example of collaborative and distributive leadership. This ensures genuine ownership by the company of all its choreography, and allows the dancers to contribute their own ideas therefore reflecting their unique style and creativity.
'[Freefall] is indeed a Birmingham treasure, greatly to be cherished and supported. It was wonderful to see, in conclusion, the invasion of the stage space by parents and siblings eager to hug and kiss and congratulate the performers - evidence, surely, of how Freefall is enriching family lives.'Mary Clarke, Dancing Times, 2008
For the last ten years Freefall has been extending its reach through its innovative and collaborative dance development initiatives. Alonside a rigorous disability awareness intervention (designed and led by Fox Hollies School), members of the Freefall company frequently lead workshops with primary and secondary groups in special and mainstream educational settings. To date they have developed relationships with 19 schools, led teacher and dance artist INSETS and worked directly with over 300 young people.
More recently the Freefall company has developed a reputation for its work with universities. Partnerships have been extended with the University of Birmingham, School of Education and Coventry University, Department for Occupational Therapy. These have resulted in Freefall company members performing and leading workshops with trainee PE teachers and Occupational Therapists respectively and in both cases form part of thei annual on-going programmes.
'I just wanted to say thank you for organising that trip today. It was so moving and powerful and very emotional. I gained such an insight and admiration for people with different needs from my own, and it really made my career as an Occupational Therapist more real'Third year Occupational Therapy student, Coventry University
'I have spoken to xxxx about yesterday's performance and I know that both she and the students not only enjoyed the experience, but allso have learned a huge amount about both dance and learning disability that will stay with them for a very long time. Please could you thank Freefall on our behalf and say how much we enjoyed ourselves.'Occupational Therapy course leader, Coventry University
'Absolutely awesome day' 'thank you so much for an amazing experience'PGDipEd Physical Education students, Birmingham University
Open College Network
Freefall has designed and implemented its very own accreditation scheme through the Open College Network (OCN). Excellence in Ballet is a nationally recognised programme with three modules at both Entry and Level One. The scheme measures and celebrates the dancers learning in Ballet Technique, Dance Appreciation and Choreography and Performance Skills. On the way to developing a suite of qualifications that Freefallers can gain throughout their careers, the company is currently developing units on Dance Leadership and being a Healthy Dancer.
National Arts Award
Freefallers are also invited to take part in Arts Council England’s Arts Award – the national qualification which supports young people’s development as artists and arts leaders.