More than 250 performers aged between 18 and 30 were being put through their paces at rehearsals at the National Exhibition Centre for the opening show of the Birmingham 2022 Festival, Wondrous Stories.
The dancers from participation project Critical Mass, working with outdoor performance company Motionhouse, went through different routines and parts of the show, working on their separate parts with guidance from director Kevin Finnan.
The event brought together people from all parts of the West Midlands and surrounding areas, with a diverse group involved, including people with a range of disabilities, and the atmosphere was one of fun, with dancing and other sessions to get everyone moving.
The show, which starts on Thursday, March 17, will be a free, open-air event in Centenary Square in Birmingham City Centre and is the opening event of the Birmingham 2022 Festival, the six-month celebration of creativity in the region running from March to September.
Featuring a combination of acrobatics and contemporary dance, Wondrous Stories is the brainchild of Motionhouse’s co-founding director, Kevin Finnan, who was choreographer and movement director of the opening ceremony of the London Paralympic Games in 2012.
Mr Finnan, who is a world leader in the staging of large scale, outdoor dance-circus productions, said the West Midlands had some of the great storytellers in the world and that was the inspiration for the show.
He said: “I thought it would be good to make a show about stories and the nature of them, but also look at the modern world we live in and how every person is themselves a story.
“This would be a beautiful world if everyone actually listened and we shared our stories, so the show is about sharing stories and how every person will be referencing great stories, but also referencing personal stories.”
Mr Finnan also said the rehearsals had been a great success so far and praised the people involved for the work they were putting in.
He said: “Working with Critical Mass has been great as it’s a whole new concept for bringing together people who have never done anything on this scale before and they have been absolutely smashing it.
“We’ve created a really beautiful and big scene so far and I’m super excited to working with them on this journey, which is scary and thrilling as we will be going in front of people to perform this.”
The rehearsals were a chance for people to get to know each other better and get used to performing in an ensemble group.
Aspiring actor Jason Lee from Moxley was one of many taking part in the rehearsals and he said taking part in the event had given him his joy back.
The 27-year-old said: “I was training to be an actor in London when Covid hit and I’ve been trying to find my joy, and this has really helped with that.
“It’s been great to be part of a community, learning to dance and getting that confidence as well as meeting other people and I’ve been surprised how well I can dance.
“It’s an honour to be part of this as so few people know about the Commonwealth and it’s great that we can do something like this and feel included.”
Such a large event required expert choreographers to be involved and Wondrous Stories was no exception with award-winning dancers such as Sonia Sabri from Wolverhampton involved.
Sonia, who runs her own dance company Sonia Sabri Company, said it had been a hard day, but excellent to see all the parts forming together.
She said: “It has been a lot of work today as it’s the first time we’ve got everyone together and got them to move in time with the music, but it’s been a lovely chance to meet everyone.
“I think there’s a lot of hidden talent here that’s not been discovered and this is a great chance for us to actually empower people and help them enjoy being in a safe space, full of joy, and dance together.
“I certainly think they can inspire people as these are our next role models and we are able to see them overcome challenges and obstacles and perform and make people think they could do it themselves.”
Wondrous Stories opens on Thursday, March 17 and runs through to Sunday, March 20.