Photo by Koonépics
Alleyne Dance, founded by sisters Kristina and Sadé Alleyne, last visited the Jerwood DanceHouse to perform A Night’s Game in 2019, leaving our audiences amazed and impressed by their strong and powerful performance.
Their choreographic aesthetic reflects their diverse background as both athletes and trained dancers – blending Afro-Caribbean, Hip Hop, Kathak and Circus skills. They perform together as a company, as well as independently as artists.
Together, they also deliver classes and workshops around the world – including teaching our Centre for Advanced Training students online during their Digital Summer Intensive this year.
We look forward to working with them again in the near future, but for now, we wanted to ask them more about their experiences in the dance industry.
Hello both, it’s great to catch up with you. Can you begin by telling us who inspired you when you were young and why?
Well we would have to say each other. The reason why was that we didn’t see many people that looked like us, or people at that time we could relate to. We pushed each other physically and mentally. We were each other’s coaches, cheerleaders and critics.
That’s really heart-warming, are you still each other’s inspiration now?
We are still each other’s inspiration, but we’re also inspired by outside sources. We would have to say Akram Khan and Farooq Chaudhry, they are huge inspirations for us in the dance sector… but then people like Akala, Viola Davis, Angela Davis, Michael Santiago Render (a.k.a Killer Mike) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to name a few who inspire our everyday life.
When we first started taking contemporary dance seriously, Andlie Sotyia from South Africa was our hero – he helped us to focus our passion for movement. He helped us build confidence and open our awareness to be playful with our rhythms and dynamics. Andile was our mentor and contemporary teacher at Northern School of Contemporary Dance.
Okay, so lots of different sources of inspiration. Can you tell us more about someone you admire and why?
We admire Viola Davis, she says “My entire life has been a protest”.
Passion, determination and being persistent led her to where she is now. Her story is relatable and inspiring for us.
Photo by Barlas Sahinoglu
Absolutely, it’s difficult not to be inspired by her! As the world celebrates Black History Month, I wondered, is there someone you wish the world knew more about?
Isaac Wright Jr.
Wright was charged in 1991 for a massive King Pin Drug offence. He protested his innocence and took the matter into his own hands. He studied and trained to become his own lawyer in prison and worked and represented a lot of wrongfully accused inmates in court also. Today he is a lawyer at Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley in New Jersey, US, where he continues to help people overturn their wrongful convictions. He has a book about his life and a drama tv series called For Life.
That’s incredible, there’s so much to learn from his experiences – if our readers want to find out more, I’ll include a link to a useful article here.
Now, shall we talk more about your company and your experiences? When did you both first know that you wanted a career in dance, and did you always know that you wanted to work together?
We found dance at a later stage in life. We were first athletes and were training twice a week with Enfield and Haringey running track. Our Dad took us to a Summer outdoor festival in North London and there was a hip-hop company performing who were giving out flyers to join their hip-hop group. Our Dad asked us “do you want to go?” and we said, “why not”.
This was our first introduction to dance, but it was more like a hobby. It was only when Sadé won an award for Over-Achiever in Mathematics that this all changed. When Sadé won the award, she had the opportunity to go to any summer school that she wanted to go to. Sadé chose dance, which led to her first ballet class and contemporary class at Northern School of Contemporary Dance in 2002. From this experience and seeing the passion that Sadé had for this new way of moving, we both decided to go for it and pursue this as our career.
We knew that we always wanted to work together in the future, but we wanted to have different experiences before we did. We made a conscious decision to separate after training at Northern School of Contemporary Dance and we both had different careers in many forms of contemporary art. When we reunited in 2014, we both had knowledge and experience to share with each other and we created our own company.
That’s amazing, you’ve both got such diverse skills – it’s clear you both care a lot about your work. Okay, can you tell us more about your experiences within the dance industry, any challenges you’ve come up against and how you overcame them?
The challenges were finding a way to work together. As we’re family, we are terribly honest with each other, as Co-Artistic Directors we both have strong opinions of how we want to create and progress forward. It’s been a humbling experience to work together and find a way to communicate and be creative. It is strange to dance with someone you know inside and out and yet; they still surprise and inspire you.
Photo by Lidia Crisafulli
I bet! How about any stand-out moments?
We have two favourite moments in our career so far.
One was when we were touring our first work, A Night’s Game, and it was the first time we had a two-show run. Our performance sold out so quickly that they added a third show. This show sold out too, so they added a fourth show and it was a matinee. We were extremely excited that the show was selling, but extremely terrified as there was a high demand to watch and experience our work. These were the best shows of our life, we felt that our piece transcended to a different level and we couldn’t have done it without each other.
Wow, I’ve seen you perform A Night’s Game and it is incredible – but that must have been so demanding on you both! What is your second moment?
The second was when we were both performing for the London Olympic Opening Ceremony 2012 with Akram Khan. As young aspiring athletes we always dreamed of the Olympics and hopefully running for Great Britain if it came to the UK. We always questioned ourselves whether we made the right decision to leave athletics, would we have made it to the Olympics? To perform in the beautiful stadium with all those people around us and watching through their screens, it was electrifying. We both felt like we were in the right place and that we had made the right decision; “we made it to the London Olympics!”.
That’s amazing – it’s crazy how life works out, you were definitely meant to be at the Olympics!
The next question is for anyone who might not have experienced dance before – is there anything that you wish people knew more about the industry?
We wish and hope that people will see and respect this art form more and see the work, determination and sacrifices that go into it. Dance and art are for all types of people, and we hope to share our work not just with the dance sector but make it universal.
Absolutely, there’s so much to gain from experiencing art. What do you think is the next positive step for the industry, and how do you believe we can get there?
The next positive step is to continue to take risks. Know what works for you and how you can challenge it. Allowing yourself to be open and transparent with people, and not be afraid to share stories and provide opportunities or information if someone needs it.
Photo by Lidia Crisafulli
That’s great advice. Before we go, what’s next for Alleyne Dance?
At the moment, we’re working on a few things. A Night’s Game and The Other Side Of Me – we are still taking bookings for 2021/2022. This year we’ll be going to Switzerland and Austria touring for A Night’s Game. – you can watch the trailer here.
Our new project is called (Re)United which is a heartwarming, interactive film about the emotional scares caused due to forced separation. It will be a short dance film that shows the reuniting of adult siblings after being separated as children. – you can watch the trailer here.
We are in the creation process for BONDED, which is a performance made specially for outdoors which has been shortlisted for Without Walls.
We’re also working on Far From Home which is a new dance production that explores the topic of migration and the emotional and mental stresses it causes. The work reflects the consequences that searching for “a better life” has for those forced to seek it due to social or political devastations. It will delve into the impact migration has on families, the ethnic tapestry of local communities, and it will challenge the meaning of tolerance and practice of integration.
Oh my goodness, so you’re quite busy then! You’re working on really important topics, I look forward to seeing them. Is there anything else you would like to share or discuss?
We’ve recently created a home workout called Alleyne Sisters Workout. It’s a series that will build and maintain strength, endurance, muscular frame, flexibility, mobility, speed, motivation and passion. Musicality, expression and creativity are key points we have used to keep motivated, whilst leaving room for improvements. They are short intense workouts made of 10 exercises that we have practiced for over 10 years. Readers can sign up here!
We’d also like to thank our beautiful and growing Alleyne Dance Company for their devotion, determination and hunger. It is beautiful how we are growing together.