We are West Midlands:

Working Towards an Equitable Dance Future

‘We are West Midlands: Working towards an equitable dance future’
A series of discussions on diversity in dance, the art form today, the heritage, and the workforce from local to global.

The current affairs relating to COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement has exposed and exacerbated inherent gaps in institutional systems in the context of a triple crisis – that of health, economy and race relations. The subject of diversity is now critical and the gradual progress that was starting to happen within the arts is in danger of being dismantled. As a result, several initiatives are forming across the sector and conversations are taking place with aims to address related issues and to find solutions to create positive change.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Director, Carlos Acosta, wants to work with colleagues from the dance sector in Birmingham to convene discussions about diversity in dance.  As a globally recognised ballet star, who was the first black principal dancer at the Royal Ballet, he believes strongly in the importance of diversity and inclusivity. Due to his personal story and experience he is often asked about his opinion on the subject. At such an important moment in the history of the world, with the focus on the campaign for improved equality and diversity, he wants to join with others in the dance sector in Birmingham, drawn from across different backgrounds and dance forms, to honestly and openly discuss what diversity means for dance, both in terms of our heritage and work made today and the workforce.

Carlos Acosta says: “My hope, in offering BRB’s infrastructure and resources to help convene a discussion for Birmingham’s dance sector which will also be open to the public, is to share experiences, listen to people’s hopes and expectations for social change, discuss what the barriers are in advancing diversity, openly debate how this impacts our multifaceted artform from heritage to new works, and focus on identifying solutions and opportunities for social change in dance. Personally, I would like to take this opportunity to better-know Birmingham and connect with colleagues across a rich and diverse dance sector in the city, in the context of the current, urgent, diversity debate.”

We are West Midlands: Working Towards an Equitable Dance Future is presented by Kauma Arts and Birmingham Royal Ballet in association with BIDF – Birmingham International Dance Festival

BIDF Panel Discussion

This event took place
Monday 7 June 2021

A panel discussion with Q&A event as part of the BIDF – Birmingham International Dance Festival. This is a hybrid (live and recorded) event facilitated with an aim to:

  • Build on initiatives to open doors to welcoming positive change as key leaders in dance in the West Midlands.
  • Take stock of the diversity and acknowledge a common discourse that runs across cultures in the West Midlands.
  • Respond to selected provocations led by a panel of speakers from the West Midlands
  • Interact with participants discussing challenges/barriers and possible solutions to move diversity and inclusion in the dance sector in the West Midlands forward
  • Explore if the dance sector in the West Midlands wants to work together to create a collective commitment to build a three, five and ten-year strategy for the city’s dance ecology towards an equitable future
  • Wanjiku currently combines psychotherapeutic practice with developing and delivering arts-led, tech-mediated projects for wellbeing through CascadeSciArts C.I.C. She continues to work across art forms as a facilitator, coach, producer and curator.  She has been working in dance since 1998 including a period as Dance Officer for Arts Council England West Midlands during the cultural olympiad.

    A NESTA Innovation Fellow on the Clore Leadership Programme (2009/10) and published author, she works with individuals, groups, and organisational systems. Previous clients include Merck (Geneva), Ashridge Executive Education (HULT, UK); Arts Council England; and the BBC World Service.

    Wanjiku is currently developing a digital installation for mood regulation and wellbeing.  She is a member and fellow on Phase 1.5, at STEAMhouse, BCU, Birmingham; a Fellow at BOM (Birmingham Open Media), Birmingham, and a Trustee for Artswork.

  • Born in Havana in 1973, Carlos trained at the National Ballet School of Havana in Cuba. After winning a succession of awards, including the Prix de Lausanne in 1990, he went on to dance professionally with the world’s most prestigious companies, with London’s Royal Ballet becoming his home. Carlos retired from classical ballet in 2016, after 28 years, having performed almost every classical role from Spartacus to Romeo.

    Carlos’s extraordinary contribution to dance continues to this day and he was recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List in 2014 when he was awarded a CBE. In 2018 Carlos received the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award from the Royal Academy of Dance in recognition of his standing as one of the most influential figures in Dance today and in 2019 the Critics’ Circle bestowed Carlos with their Annual Award for Outstanding Services to the Arts.

    Carlos Acosta became Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet in January 2020.

    Full bio here: https://www.brb.org.uk/profile/carlos-acosta

  • Bob is an arts activist and a cultural producer, who is totally committed to the nurturing, creation and promotion of dynamic diverse arts practice in the UK. He has been in arts management and a pioneer in the development of ‘black arts’ in the UK for over 40 years, travelling extensively throughout Africa and the Caribbean and continuously building cultural bridges and creating opportunities for artistes to collaborate both ‘at home and broad’. He has been involved in dance development in the UK for several decades, establishing Kokuma Dance Company in 1977, in Handsworth, Birmingham and was actively involved in the explosion of the dance forms in the UK during the 1970s and 1990s. He was appointed the first Director of the Black Dance Development Trust (BDDT), the first organisation representing the interests of the African & Caribbean dance sector in the UK.

  • Iona’s life has been steeped in the love of contemporary dance, and especially dance inspired and informed by the African diaspora.

    Having spent 11 years in ACE Youth under the tutelage of award-winning choreographer Gail Parmel MBE, Iona went on to study first at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, and then at the University of Wolverhampton, where she earned a First-Class Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance and Professional Practice.

    In her current role as Education Manager, Iona works alongside the company’s directors supporting the strategic development of dance in the African Diaspora, contemporary dance, dance in education, children and young people as well as artist relationships. Iona is also a board member for Dance Consortium and People Dancing.

  • Abid Hussain is Director, Diversity with responsibility for delivering the Arts Council’s work on equality, diversity and inclusion. He currently leads on the delivery of the organisation’s Inclusivity & Relevance Investment Principle and Equality Objectives.

    He is an alumnus of the U.S International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP) and the Salzburg Global Seminar and is currently completing an MBA at Aston University. Abid has extensive experience of working with cultural agencies, government and academia internationally and has contributed to several international conferences and academic texts and journals in his field of expertise.

  • Jamaal O’Driscoll, has been a part of the dance community since 2010, practicing a variety of dance styles, and developing a strong technique within the hip-hop style of breaking. In 2019, Jamaal created O’Driscoll Collective to give back to the community, facilitating conversation through movement, continuing to teach and deliver performances in a variety of settings. With passion and experience in outreach, Jamaal is currently the Participation Producer for Birmingham International Dance Festival, alongside his role as a freelance artist, delivering workshops, classes, choreographing and performing in self-produced performances.

    Image: Jamaal O’Driscoll Image by Kalvin Macko

  • Kathak artist, teacher, choreographer and mentor.

    Sonia Sabri is a multi-award-winning dance artist and choreographer. She is one of the world’s leading Kathak dancer, amongst the brightest and most inspirational of British born dancer-choreographers working in the twenty-first century. Creating work that spans from the presentation of classical roots of Kathak to explorations of contemporary approaches, her productions reflect an appreciation of Western and Eastern cultures. She has created a fresh, unique style of Kathak by reinventing it from within, by pushing boundaries and generating work that is original in concept and exciting and relevant to today’s audiences.

    Sonia’s innovation has invited several commissions, some include BBC, Channel 4, Tanzhaus, ARTE, Birmingham Hippodrome, South Bank Centre, and part of London Olympics 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

  • As creative director of mutli-lingual theatre company, Altered Skin, Artist-In-Residence, DanceXchange and Artistic Associate, CAT Yuva Gati, Shane’s artistic career spans many roles across different artistic genres including work with Complicite, BBC, British Council, Shobana Jeyasingh Dance and Royal Opera House to name a few. Following his successful show Confessions Of A Cockney Temple Dancer he is currently creating two new productions premiering next year and is involved in a new play by writer and mathematician, Marcus Du Sautoy.


    Image: Shane Shamhu self-portrait

Head over to Facebook and join our online group to continue the ongoing conversation.

Past Events

We are West Midlands – Kauma Brief Encounter (KBE)

Tuesday 18 May 2021 • 7:00PM
Zoom Event

An informal online discussion and networking event offers an opportunity for artists and dance professionals of all backgrounds to connect again after such a long time apart. Plus, the chance to get to know some new colleagues working in the sector, learn about their work and start to talk together about diversity in the West Midlands dance ecology.

We aim to bring people together, better understand the artists and organisations with the local dance ecology and celebrate what we have achieved thus far in our diverse West Midlands dance community, share challenges and talk about things we want to be different to create a more equitable and inclusive future.

The event will be a friendly, informal safe space to share your artistry and practice.