The final part of SCoJeC’s collaboration with Nir de Volff’s dance company TOTAL BRUTAL as part of Refugee Festival Scotland, was a series of dance workshops for people of different ages and abilities.
In the past few years, De Volff, director of Come As You Are #Berlin, has developed a unique method that focuses on how dance can create new social channels and build new communication skills between all kinds of people irrespective of age or body type. During the week he led a dance session with a group of refugee families at the Scottish Refugee Council offices, and a workshop in Hillhead Primary School for 30 Primary 7 pupils. His workshops teach students the importance of diversity in the class, in the neighbourhood, and in society. He also stresses the value of physical movement and dance as a way of bringing people together, in contrast to the increasing isolation in society caused by people only communicating online. The feedback from the school was very positive, with the children throwing themselves enthusiastically into the workshop activities.
On the last day of Refugee Festival Scotland, De Volff ran a morning contemporary dance session at Glasgow University Chapel as part of a day-long dance workshop that also included Klezmer and Israeli dance: the Klezmer dance session was led by SCoJeC’s own Fiona Frank, with live music from members of the Glasgow group Bunch of Klezmer, and the Israeli dance session was led by Glasgow-based dance teacher Shosh Greenberg.
Nir’s session started with a long warm-up, with lots of us finding muscles we didn’t know we had! We worked in pairs, helping each other to loosen up before shadowing each other in wild moves around the space. Glasgow University Chapel may never have seen anything like it!
Although we were very disappointed that visa issues meant that we had to cancel the final evening event, and that the Syrian dancers from Total Brutal could not teach the Dabke (Syrian dance) workshop during the day, Nir taught some Dabke dance steps at the end of his session and a great time was had by all. As he said, “when you are given lemons you have to make lemonade” – and very tasty it was too!
The idea of this day of dance was to bring together people from different backgrounds to have a go at some very different types of dancing, some of which would be new to them. As Gary Christie from Refugee Festival Scotland reminded us last week, the varied programme of events that make up Refugee Festival Scotland “strengthens connections between people from different backgrounds, and creates opportunities for people from different backgrounds to meet and get to know each other better”.
One participant who had travelled from Stirling to attend the workshop told us: "I knew the Klezmer tradition so that was comfortable and enjoyable territory. Contemporary, Syrian, and Israeli dancing were very different, refreshing, thought provoking as well as just plain good fun."
And other participants were equally enthusiastic: "I had a really great time! I know it was a shame the Syrians couldn't make it, but as it was, it was a really energizing and refreshing day with great company! I do hope it can be a regular fixture."
"Thank you for a lovely day. I especially enjoyed the Klezmer and Israeli workshops – they are really are my thing! The added bonus – two of the Israeli dances were amongst my favourites. Hope to dance with you again."
"The workshop was amazing – bring it again please!"
Many thanks for their support to: University of Glasgow Chaplaincy and University of Glasgow Sport, Greyfriars Kirk, the Scottish Dance Theatre, Netherlee and Clarkston Charitable Trust, Glasgow Jewish Representative Council, Scotland Limmud, Sukkat Shalom (Edinburgh Liberal Jewish Community), and Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation.