Call for Collaboration – Anthony Mills – China Now Call for collaboration – anthony mills | China Now

Call for Collaboration - Anthony Mills

Areas of interest: Inclusion
Location: Edinburgh
Date: From 30 November 2020 to 18 December 2020
At Your Leisure

About Antony Mills

My name is Tony Mills and I am a dancer/choreographer based in Edinburgh currently relocating to Birmingham. I originally trained as a veterinary surgeon at Edinburgh University and took classes in hip hop and breakin’ on the side. Gradually I turned my back on vaccinating cats and established my own company, Room 2 Manoeuvre in 2007, becoming company in residence at The Brunton Theatre in 2016 and touring my work across the UK, Europe, South America and Asia.

I make performances that blend hip hop, contemporary dance and physical theatre, often containing a narrative, a good dose of dark humour and a robust physical vocabulary grounded in hip hop. I create work for both indoor and outdoor spaces and have an interest in how we can use dance to re-imagine public spaces and city landscapes as a new or unique way to engage and inspire local audiences; to encourage people to see where they live as not just a place to exist but a place of creativity. I have a keen interest in supporting the development of other artists and established a residency programme at the Brunton providing artists with theatre space, mentoring and professional feedback. Through the company, I deliver free dance classes to schools in East Lothian and lead workshops in both professional and community settings in Scotland and further afield. I also run an annual theatre night called Breakin’ Rules presenting hip hop, contemporary dance and circus performance.

Collaboration Ideas with China

I believe China boasts huge opportunity to develop creative cultural partnerships leading to performance, artistic and educational exchange. My background is in dance and the growth of the China Dance Stations, led by LDTX, is evidence of the growing network, infrastructure, diversity of the work and audience tastes developing in the country.

East and west working artistic practices may often be quite polar, but this presents great scope to learn from counterparts and also share knowledge. Over the last few years I have been slowly building professional relationships in China. This began with a CTC grant back in 2011 and more recently with commissions from Macau, collaborations in Hong Kong and teaching & presentations in mainland China. I had been planning to submit a CTC grant application prior to Covid-19.

With the likelihood of face to face collaborations being impossible for the foreseeable future, I’m really keen to find ways to continue to maintain existing relationships and grow new ones. I feel that as a UK artist with a particular approach and skill set, I have something to offer in terms of contributing to the development of the cultural sector in China (albeit a drop in their vast cultural ocean). I am also keen to develop opportunities into something long term and reciprocal, so people benefit both in China and the UK. As the presence of China on the world stage continues to grow, as will their cultural activity and I feel it’s important that artists in western countries are engaging with it and sharing ideas.

My idea focuses on the following questions:

  • How we can use dance to re-imagine public spaces and city landscapes as a new or unique way to engage and inspire local communities?
  • How can we to encourage people to see where they live as not just a place to exist but a place of creativity?
  • How can we bring performance closer to local people?
  • How can we create work that is informed by local people and allows groups often under-represented in arts & culture to shape the outcomes of cultural events?

These questions led me to create an international festival of dance and sport called At Your Leisure in 2018. At Your Leisure was created in collaboration with local young people and communities from East Lothian in Edinburgh, Scotland. All the activity took place in sports locations e.g. a dance show about football taking place on a football pitch or a show about climbing taking place in a climbing centre. For each event audiences were able to take a dance class, watch the show and then have a go at the sport which the show focused on.

Taking performances into sports spaces created a fun, engaging and inspiring way for people to watch, play and participate in arts & culture. We worked closely with local youth groups to include them in the design and curation of the festival. Over 50% of the activity was free and taking place at numerous locations across the region. In this way, At Your Leisure successfully became an accessible and inclusive project linking local people to local spaces through dance and sport.

I am interested to begin a conversation with a Chinese counterpart/organisation to investigate the possibility of delivering an event based on these questions above and focusing on the principles of inclusion, collaboration with the local community and young people and the re-imagination of city spaces through dance and live performance. It could be based on sport & dance, hip hop or something else entirely, but the principles are the same. This CTC project would only be a research & development phase to discuss ideas, potential partners, locations, communities, local artists and cultural factors in design and delivery. It would act as the first stage in getting to know each other, testing the ideas, getting to know the local region and communities we might collaborate with and forming an action plan to take the idea forward in the future.

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