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DMU dance artists commissioned by Birmingham Royal Ballet


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An original screen piece by contemporary Dance graduates from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is part of an installation commissioned by Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB).

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Image credit: Paul Telfer

Leona McDonough-Smith and Kallirroi Vratti are two of five recent graduates selected to create artwork for Wherefore ART Thou?, an exhibition celebrating the premiere of Edward Clug’s Radio and Juliet, a 21st-century reimagining of the story of Romeo and Juliet danced to Radiohead music.

Choreographed and performed by the DMU duo, Detachment is a minimalist piece exploring what their relation to love would look like if they were mechanical-like beings. It’s being screened in the Library of Birmingham until Sunday 17 October, as part of BRB’s installation.

21-year-old Leona from Worksop said: “It feels both surreal and exciting to be a part of this exhibition.

“One of our biggest challenges was to make our piece accessible to everyone. Throughout the process we had to keep in mind the context of where it’s being shown and make sure we created something that anyone can enjoy and engage with.”

“Another challenge was that I went back home for the summer,” said 21-year-old Kallirroi from Greece.

“We had to do a lot of our planning and rehearsing virtually, but luckily Leona and I work really well and quickly together. When I got back to the UK, we had just two days to rehearse in person and one day to get it filmed.

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Image credit: Paul Telfer

As well being awarded £1,000 to spend making their commission, the selected artists received professional development, including mentorship by award-winning art duo Davy and Kristin McGuire, and exclusive access to a series of masterclasses, Q&As, interviews and rehearsals.

Leona said: “It’s been a big learning curve but such a valuable experience. Although we both went into it with experience of creating dance for screen thanks to our degree at DMU, this project gave us a chance to challenge ourselves as artists and develop our skills even more.”

Kallirroi added: “We definitely learned a lot of new skills in a short period of time. It was also great to meet all of the people working on the project, especially Carlos Acosta who is a dancer and the director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. It’s given me stimuli for my work.”

Graduating this summer was a proud achievement for Leona and Kallirroi, who discovered who they are as dance artists and developed their individual creative practices at DMU.

During their degree they successfully auditioned for Aakash Odedra’s pre-professional dance company, Aakash Odedra 2, where they had the invaluable opportunity to learn elements of Kathak and contemporary dance, which has influenced their own practice.

Posted on Thursday 14th October 2021

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