Launch of Just Us Hip Hop Apprentice Co

Published: 30 March 2021
Reporter: Vera Liber

Just Us Hip Hop Apprentice Co

As Just Us Dance Theatre launches its new apprenticeship company with a mixed bill of Hip Hop works by Joseph Toonga, Kenrick Sandy, Shawn Aimey and Shanelle ‘Tali’ Fergus, live-streamed from the main stage of DanceEast in Ipswich via Eventbrite on 16 April at 7PM, then available on-demand from 18 April 2021. The show will be followed by a live Q&A with Toonga and the dancers.

The performance is the culmination of a three-month pilot scheme developed by Toonga, artistic director of Just Us Dance Theatre, with input from leading members of the sector such as Boy Blue, Kloe Dean and Botis Seva. The long-term aim is to create a pool of black and ethnic minority talents who can fully represent the UK Hip Hop dance scene and diversify the dance sector.

The five dancers, aged between 17 and 24, are Penelope Klamert from Vienna, Dilyon Graham from south London, Leroy Kanyowa from Dagenham, Cache Thake from east London and Aisha Webber from Nottingham. They receive a weekly salary, daily classes in a variety of disciplines and sessions on lesson planning, managing a self-employed career and teaching opportunities in the dance sector.

Toonga said, “when I worked with Bundesjugendballett, the National Youth Ballet, in Hamburg in 2015, I saw something that I thought could really benefit the UK Hip Hop sector. They were running a second company, a two-year opportunity that supported young contemporary / classical dancers transitioning into the large-scale companies such as NDT and Stuttgart Ballett.

"There was nothing like that for Hip Hop performers in the UK. I saw a chance for a new route for dancers to access and create an environment where they can feel a sense of stability, and where they can take risks and experience being a freelancer whilst working with world-class teachers and practitioners.”

The first full year of the Just Us Hip Hop Apprentice Co. will run from November 2021 with a national tour planned for spring 2022.