“Energy of Ponds Forge pool was a natural draw”
Balbir Singh is the artistic director of the Balbir Singh Dance Company, who creates dynamic dance through a synthesis of Kathak, a classical Indian dance, live music and contemporary dance.Despite being based in Leeds, Balbir keeps returning to Sheffield including to direct the figure skating spectacular ‘The Creative Spirit of John Curry’ at ice Sheffield last month.
My relationship with Sheffield spans many years. I was trained at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds, but there’s just something about Sheffield that keeps bringing me back.
Growing up as a British boy in a northern city, with a Sikh background but almost entirely western cultural influences and models, I only started to learn about the Kathak dance tradition as an adult, when asked if I could develop ‘some Indian dance’ for a British dance company.
I’m really interested in the concept of combining different styles of dance, and also sport, so when I was offered the opportunity to direct an ice-skating show The Creative Spirit of John Curry based around Olympic and world champion figure skater John Curry at ice Sheffield, I jumped at the chance. Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean endorsed the show, and we managed to secure an all-star line-up, including Mark Hanretty and Vanessa Bauer from Dancing on Ice.
The cultural draw and opportunities Sheffield has opened up to create work and grow artistically has been a massive part of my development.
The significant turning point from being a choreographer that just created work to touring in theatres was a project I directed called Synchronised, the first cross over in the world of sport, mixing synchronised swimming and dance. Without that starting point I would not have gone on to create other sport themed work that I did such as: BMX - Champion of the Flatlands, Rugby - Full Contact, Ice Skating - Peacock Lake and Rollerblading - The boy with the Rollerblades.
My favourite things about Sheffield are its cultural vibrancy, openness and willingness to embrace and as well as appreciative audiences for the work and to work with local artists. It feels like coming full circle to Sheffield with The Creative Spirit of John Curry, back to where the sport adventure began.
Sheffield Children’s Festival
I worked annually for a number of years with Sheffield Children's Festival, presenting work in the
Crucible studio and main house theatres. What was inspiring was the force and energy of the festival
headed by Pauline Eveleigh, and the value placed on artists and the importance of the arts to transform the lives of children, and also provide teachers with confidence in being able to take on ideas from Classical Indian dance and music as part of their delivery.
Having a love of water, in 2012 we were scoping out swimming pools we could use to present the
swimming pool spectacular show Synchronised to celebrate the Cultural Olympiad. The energy of Ponds Forge swimming pool was a natural draw for the premiere of that piece. It’s a pool I have swam in many times since.
The University of Sheffield
Being commissioned by Amy Carter at the University of Sheffield to create a work to celebrate Nobel Prize winner Sir Hans Krebs as part of a Science Krebs Festival was a wonderful opportunity to work with the professional dance community of Sheffield and bring them all together in the grandeur of Firth Hall.