As Birmingham International Dance Festival rolls into town again, we thought we’d catch up with one of its young dancers and contributors, Devon Nelson
Trained at the city’s Birmingham Ormiston Academy (BOA) Devon has always loved performing, but says he was late bloomer in dance terms. While taking GCSE drama and musical theatre Devon says he thought he ought to take some dance lessons so he wasn’t confused by the dance element.
Starting with tap and jazz, Devon loved it immediately. He says: “I liked the freedom and the chance to explore my body. I was never into sports, but dance gave me the opportunity to be strong, plus I was allowed to be myself.”
Amateur theatre outside school as well as extra-curricular dance exposed Devon to different people with the same passion. “It really opened my eyes.” Training at BOA isn’t one dimensional. Once you’ve chosen a specialism you look at all aspects of that genre, so for instance digital tech as well as performing. Devon enjoyed this aspect and began to realise that dance was so much more. Although Devon won a place at Bird College in London he realised after six months that it wasn’t really for him – it was quite narrow in terms of goals.
SUSSING THE OPTIONS
The pandemic hit and he decided to come back home to the Midlands and suss out his options. Before leaving Bird, Devon bagged himself a place at the prestigious Rambert, but still felt it wasn’t quite right. He’s spent time reflecting on what he wants to do, what makes him happy and began to feel he didn’t need an institution.
After deciding on a freelance route, Devon began networking around Birmingham e-mailing lots of people and was offered a creative internship with John Orton. Then he successfully applied to BIDF to be part of the Brum Pro Class Steering Group helping drive schedules and from there was picked to be part of Beyond Borders which is also part of BIDF.
A major project, Beyond Borders will be the World Premiere of a region-wide youth participation and digital project which Devon’s thrilled to be part of, creating lots of digital pieces with youth groups and dance companies. He’s also been offered a Midlands Made Short Commission to create a solo project. Devon says that although he’s keeping his options as broad as possible he isn’t sure whether he’ll continue performing and is leaning towards participation and outreach.
He is testament to the fact that London isn’t the centre of the arts universe and he’s had some amazing experiences already. The strength of arts in our region is palpable and BIDF produced by Birmingham-based dance house, DanceXchange reflect that.
Clearly the summer edition has needed to be adapted to fit the current restrictions, but there’ll still be the same brilliantly joyful tone. Digital platform, BIDF TV will provide the virtual venue for the festival put together in collaboration with ZOO, the company behind the online presentations at last year’s Edinburgh Festival. It will be hosting screendance performances, new film commissions and more. There’s so much to celebrate. We’ll be following it closely and looking out for Devon’s work in particular.