Tag Archives: Jukebox

Get the Chance Creative Associate Jonny Cotsen on #Fresh2Deaf

Get the Chance Creative Associate Jonny Cotsen on #Fresh2Deaf
Dance is a universal language. That’s why I think it is so special. Some people choose to sing in the shower every morning but me…I dance in the kitchen to start my day, and now I have some new moves thanks to Jukebox Collective and Chris Fonseca.
I walked into Jukebox Collective Studios based underneath the railway track in town on a cold, wet and grey Cardiff day, not knowing what to expect but excited about what was ahead. I was hoping that it would be a dance class that I could follow; where I could follow the moves of the teacher and which would make allowances for my complete lack of coordination…oh, and hearing! The class was physical, emotional and ended up being more inspiring than I could have ever imagined. I have tried to do a few dance classes in the past, but this is one is definitely the most memorable.
Chris Fonseca who led the dance class is completely deaf. Chris is a London-based dancer and choreographer has defied all by continuing to teach and dance despite his deafness. He shot to fame by being part of Smirnoff Ice’s “ Keep It Moving” campaign. Whenever I saw the advert or the promo poster it made my spine tingle because of Smirnoff’s hashtag #KeepItMoving and #deafdancers. The advert reiterated the fact that dance is a universal language and like he says in the advert… “We can’t hear the lyrics but we FEEL the beat!”

After seeing the advert so much last Summer I was a) desperate to meet him and b) I wanted to make this happen in Cardiff!

I was fortunate enough that Jukebox Collective wanted to bring this experience to Cardiff. Jukebox Collective are a creative company focused on the delivery of the highest quality performing arts education, performance and consultancy. It was founded by Liara Barussi, and is recognised as a leading company for dance in the UK. Jukebox studios has a particular emphasis on the training and professional development of young people.
With the exciting news that Jukebox Collective had become a new Regularly Funded Organisation funded by Arts Council Wales, we exchanged ideas of running an inclusive group within their existing academies. I was delighted to be asked to work with them to consult and advise on how to make this happen. I have always been a big fan of their work especially their involvement with ‘Breakin’ the Bay’ conventions, an annual event at the WMC (worth checking out if you haven’t seen to see it!!).

Inspired by what they had seen of Chris from the Smirnoff adverts, they were really keen to set up the first ever deaf dance group in Wales. I met up with Sylvia Kulesza, who co-ordinated the project and a plan was hatched to bring Chris to Cardiff for an open session at the studios. The hope was that this session would inspire deaf people and Jukebox could then run regular dance sessions for deaf people. I could barely contain my excitement of the idea and loved that Sylvia shared my passion and enthusiasm for making this happen. Sylvia also came up with the idea of calling it #Fresh2Deaf!
As part of the plan, I agreed to do a Deaf Awareness workshop the week prior to the dance class for the Jukebox Academies who range in age from 11 to 19 years.

I wanted the Deaf Awareness workshop to be engaging, fun and informative. I felt it was really important for them to learn how to communicate with deaf people, to understand the right terminology and have a better understanding of deafness. The students were great. We did lots of deaf-aware games, learnt basic finger-spelling and signs, and of course each one of them got their own ‘sign-name’. I felt so blessed to do this with such lovely and passionate group of young people.

The following week was the first ever #Fresh2Deaf open session!!
As well as the students from Jukebox Academy, half of the class were deaf and we all had the feeling that we were not going let our impairment put us off because we were all there for the joy of dance. Chris was really calm and made us feel really confident. Watching someone like Chris chase his dreams is really inspiring to watch and I can see how he can influence younger deaf people.
Chris used sign-language and an interpreter relayed the message for those that did not know sign-language. The attraction that Chris has to hip-hop is magnetic! He can’t hear the music so he relies on the vibrations from the heavy deep bass to count the music while he teaches so that he can stay on beat.

“I love hip-hop music because the bass is so strong on it, and I just love that,” he said. “The structure of the rhythm is something that I really connect to easily. All it takes is one beat, and I’m there!”
After a quick and very physical warm-up, Chris taught us how tocount the beat through vibrations, so that we could stay in time with the beat. The music was blasting so loud that the bass was heavy enough for every one of us especially those that were deaf to FEEL. I was initially worried about the older deaf members in the group but they had just as much energy as the younger ones. Seeing the older member made me think that age is no deterrent to dance, the same as our disability. Jane, who is 63 years old and goes to Bridgend Deaf Club told me afterwards that it was one of the best times she had.
It was also lovely to see some of the Jukebox Collective Academy students mixing with the younger deaf people. Taylor, one of the more experienced academy students was doing basic signing and fingerspelling too. That really excited me!
After the workshop we had a Q&A with Chris (and we needed a breather!). It was really interesting to hear him speak so openly about his life, his influences, his passion and he spoke with so much enthusiasm. Since his advert has been aired, he said that people have come up to him and said they have been inspired. Chris said there have been lots of really positive responses which are really lovely and heart-warming so he says his aim is to give something back to the deaf community and get more recognition of sign language. He wanted to show the importance of deaf culture and get hearing people interested in learning dance through deaf persons experience.

I have always thought and felt that dance was something that as a deaf person is not an easy thing to do because there is that major barrier, hearing the music! A lot of hearing people think that if you are deaf then there is no way that you can dance. Chris defies that perception and you have to admire him for that. Ever since I got into the Arts, with my vision in life to make the Arts more accessible and more inclusive, I like Chris, am working daily to break down those barriers!
My final thoughts…I recently got a tweet from Cardiff’s Boiler House, a venue that does graffiti and pop-up events, who reminded me that I had a conversation with them about 5 years ago I had spoken with them about my vision to do hip-hop dance classes in Cardiff for deaf people. I totally forgot I had that conversation and it just reminded me that you have to believe in yourself to make it happen and never give up believing! I hope Jukebox Collective #Fresh2Deaf project will lead the way to make this a reality to happen in Wales.

How do you know if you don’t try?
Contact abby@jukeboxcollective.com for more information about #Fresh2Deaf workshops

Interview Jukebox Collective

With the exciting news that Jukebox Collective have recently become a new Regularly Funded Organisation funded by Arts Council Wales. As well as supporting their young dancers to perform in Groove on Down the Road at the Wales Millennium Centre. Young Critics Wales project coordinator Guy O’Donnell caught up with Liara Barussi, Company Director and Zoe Munn, Development Manager to discuss the companies past present and future plans.
 Hi both, thanks for taking the time to chat,  firstly can you tell me about the background of Jukebox Collective?
Jukebox Collective is a creative company based in Cardiff, focused on the delivery of the highest quality street dance education, performance and consultancy. The creation of Jukebox in 2004 was a reflection of the increase in demand, as well as the need to provide an outlet for some of the most talented young dancers in the UK.  Over 10 years since its creation, we still keep the core emphasis on nurturing fresh young talent up to professional level, as well as producing high-class work for stage and screen.
The Jukebox mission statement is – “Founded on the principle of excellence in street dance being a right for all, our mission is to inspire, create and educate through street dance and hip hop culture”.
Thanks I wonder if you can tell us how you apply this in practice?
We apply this through the development of a multi-strand approach: Participate, Theatre, Creative Services and The Academy. The approach developed is based on a deep knowledge of the dance forms taught with a growing understanding of the different avenues for dance. By bridging the gap between community and professional work, we provide the platform to support talent from grassroots through to professional. We continue to work with respected industry artists to inspire dancers and support our vision of excellence and education being accessed by all.
The company has its own premises and has held events like the Social Saturday’s can you tell us more about the intention behind these events?
Jukebox is all about sharing and exchanging dance, and these events are needed to create a sense of community within what we do. It’s important to keep an open door and have free public events so that anyone can access what we do.  We want to get people together, to enjoy and exchange, to have fun and to explore something different. We want people to leave with memorable experiences and a taste of what dance can bring to them. These events allow us to reach out to new people, introduce dance styles that may be unfamiliar, and to showcase that street dance forms are a vibrant and vital part of the cultural narrative and to local communities. The get together’s are also a chance to encourage collaboration between dancers as well as with other art forms.
Liara you and Jukebox Collective have been very involved in the annual Breakin’ the Bay Weekend at the Wales Millennium Centre. It appears the WMC have been very supportive of Hip Hop culture. I wonder could you tell us more about your relationship with the WMC and involvement in this event?
Yes, I have been involved in curating the festival since its creation, over 10 years ago. We support Breakin’ the Bay to enable the Welsh dance community to become internationally recognised, as well as educating, inspiring and connecting them with other dancers across the world. This year we focused on sourcing some of the freshest national & international talent in Europe including dancers from France, Switzerland, Germany, Holland & Sweden. Jukebox’s reach on the International Hip Hop scene has attracted dancers from around the world to spectate and participate in the annual event. It’s the perfect opportunity to celebrate Hip Hop culture and all its diversity and bring it to the center of Wales. This year we also introduced a new “Experimental’ category, not only specific to this event but to the local dance community. This was very exciting and showcased a dynamic approach to street dance fusion.
Arts Council England have invested funding in Breakin Convention which takes place at Sadler’s Wells and companies such as Zoo Nation to support their touring. We note that Jukebox company members have just been involved in Zoo Nations ‘Groove on Down the Road’ (which also forms part of Cardiff Dance Festival) at the WMC 13-22 Nov. Could you tell us more about your involvement in this performance?
It’s great to see not only Arts Council England but also the theatre venues across the UK welcoming street dance and making it available to mainstream audiences.  The involvement gives further opportunities to local youth to develop professionally and consider a career in street dance theatre. The Groove on Down the Road production features Jukebox Collective dancers – Jo-el Bertram, Shakira Ifill playing ‘Little Wiz’, and Renee Brito playing ‘Wicked Witch of the West’. We are delighted to participate and work in collaboration with Zoo Nation.
Arts Council Wales have recently named Jukebox as a Regularly Funded Organisation, congratulations! Can you tell us what led the company to apply?
Thank you! We applied as we felt with the support of ACW we could collaboratively grow the organisation to its full potential. Becoming a Regularly Funded Organisation provides us with more opportunity to produce creative work and to realise initiatives that support and celebrate talented creatives. We will also be able to plan further ahead and work more strategically. We are looking forward to developing this partnership and creating some fresh new work.
Your work supports a wide demographic of participants, I wonder if you think your organisation works with young creatives who wouldn’t otherwise be engaged in mainstream arts in Wales?
Yes, absolutely, we attract a diverse group of participants with our programs, and continue to have a point of view that talks to all people, regardless of location, gender, race and income. We are able to relate to a diverse group of people and cultures through their shared common interests. This commitment to equality and diversity is at the heart of all the work we do.
Welsh Assembly Government culture minister Ken Skates has been supportive of your company, Liara could you tell us more about your relationship?
The progressive discussion that the Minister is encouraging is very exciting, and the support really highlights the progression of our arts community in Wales. We are seeing the Senedd opening up to hear younger voices in the arts, and I’m very excited to be a newly appointed member of the Welsh Government’s Arts and Creativity Forum.
  What are the long term plans for Jukebox?
We will focus on creating and expanding our dance Academy as well as continuing to produce compelling high quality dance productions. We want to keep creating opportunities and working closely with the local community, as well as touring professional work, and creating bespoke work for special events and campaigns. We are keen to support the development of young creatives in all aspects of performing arts. We want to work with local businesses and form partnerships to support all the strands of our work, aiming to build a healthy, sustainable company.
My aim with the creative work is to build a collective of dancers who develop a language that can be pushed to the very edges of expressive, aesthetic and visual possibility. I want to make collaborative work that pushes the language of dance to new, deeper levels – exploring the edges of possibility through movement and expression.
And finally how do I find out more if I want to get involved?
To get involved in any strand of the company, from professional development and performance or just for fun, if you have collaboration in mind or would just like to hear more about our work, you can contact zoe@jukeboxcollective.com.
Keep a look out for our new website, which will be launching in January 2016.