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Arti-Dodgers Twist Q&A

One of Dickens’ most cherished story’s ‘Oliver Twist’ has been cleverly re-imagined in an explosion of Funk for the family. Follow the charismatic ‘Arti’ who despite his misfortune, tries hard to better his impoverished beginnings. The story is told through a thrilling fusion of Spoken word and Urban Dance.

Skool of Street are an Urban collective based in Blackpool. They work closely with established Artists and partners from the UK Hip Hop community to develop their own scene right here in Blackpool.

Why did you choose the story of Oliver Twist to base your production on?

We felt that there was a lot of scope to create our own story from Dicken’s original narrative, there are so many interesting characters in Oliver Twist, and we felt that we would like to try telling a story from another character’s perspective. We were particularly interested in exploring the possibilities of ‘The Artful Dodger’. ‘Arti’ is inspired by this character, and looks at what life is like for him as he makes his way through life influenced by some dark characters. It’s been a fun adaptation to work on, as anything is possible when you take a supporting role and make them the main protagonist.

How do you choose dancers for your productions?

We feel that each dancer’s individuality can bring something to the production so our cast have a diverse range of skills and styles, this is what is our main consideration when casting a show like this.

What sort of music will feature in the production?

We have always branded ourselves as a Hip Hop Dance and Theatre company, because that is our fundamental style. This often misleads people’s perceptions of what kind of music they will hear at one of our shows. This story is set in 1979, so around the time when Hip Hop was first pioneered in the Bronx. The styles that were originally sampled to create Hip Hop music and Break Beats by early DJ’s such as Grand Master Flash and Kool Herc, were Disco, funk and jazz, reggae and rhythm and blues. Although the music in ‘Arti’ transcends the era that the story is set and includes some modern Hip Hop, the main music style is Funk. We think the show will cater to a diverse audience, as we have a bit of something for everyone, including classical music.

How does your creative process work – do you start with the choreography or the spoken word?

Our first choice is always based on a moral message that we feel can be portrayed by taking inspiration from a story, once we have decided what we want to say, it starts with the music. We get inspired by a certain track and want to create something to it, the lyrics don’t have to be relevant because we often dance to instrumental tracks. We generally both interpret something from the track and then collaborate our ideas. Once we have choreography we start to build a feeling around the piece. After we have created a couple of sets, we then start selecting the music more carefully, to fit in with the story that is beginning to construct itself. The spoken word is the final element and is written later in the process to link the movement. This can make creating the work flexible and exciting, anything can change at any time. It is always important to us to have one strong clear point in the narrative that is relevant to today’s audience.

What can you tell us about the characters you are creating?

There is a lot of characters in ‘Arti’, most of whom are unsavoury. We created them this way because we had to make Arti’s climb to the top difficult for him, to show his resilience. The characters are all intertwined in their own criminality and are desperate to beat each other and get revenge on one another. The contrast between these characters and Arti, who ultimately just wants to be good at something, creates a nice fusion of the good the bad and the ugly. We do of course have some nice characters, The Fortune sisters care for Arti and try to protect him. We felt that these characters were important too, because just as in real life, there is always someone that cares for the welfare of a child.

What are the major influences on your work?

We are very influenced by the work of Boy Blue, Buckness personified, Zoonation, Breakin’ Convention, Birdgang, there are too many influences to list them all. We make sure that we see as much Dance in Theatre as possible. Everything we see will have some influence on the way we work, even if we don’t always realise it. That is probably why the style of our work adapts so much. We saw Hamilton in the West End during its previews and we were blown away by the clever writing. That has probably had a big influence on this piece.

Are there any Artists/Dancers you want to work with, but haven’t had the chance?

Kenrick Sandy, founder of ‘Boy Blue Ents’ is top of the list. We have been incredibly blessed to have trained with the best of the best in the UK over the past few years and in 2017 we attended an intensive training course in London and ticked off many of our favourite movers. Training with them has developed us so much, and we have been able to pass this training on to Dancers in Blackpool.

Who are some of your favourite dancers on today’s Hip Hop scene?

We are lucky to have one of our favourite Dancers, Natasha Gooden working on this project with us. Natasha is a machine; her stamina is just incredible and how she dedicates herself to the role just makes her so addictive to watch. We are also huge fans of Claire Hough of ‘Buckness personified’, and Carrie-Anne Ingrouille who is currently the resident Choreographer for Hamilton UK, we love their approaches to Dance and their creativity inspires us.

What are your favourite tracks that always lift you from your seat and make you move?

This is such a hard question, it’s impossible to choose one. We like to experiment with everything, it just depends on how you feel at the time. We always find ourselves moving to Funk music, it just gets the hips going! There is a track in Arti-Dodgers Twist called ‘Devils Gun’ by C.J & Co. We have had a lot of fun with this and it’s impossible not to dance along too. What has been most exciting about this production for us is getting the rights for two tracks produced by Samantha’s older Brother Mark Bell. ‘Totally’ and ‘If you need me’ have been reimagined for Arti, but excitingly were recorded in 1997 in Blackpool for Takka Kahn, Chacka’s sister. We obviously love Chaka’s music too, ‘Ain’t Nobody’ and ‘I feel for you’ ‘I’m every woman’, the list goes on.

Skool of Street have engaged thousands of youngsters in their work and are currently working with over 500 young people on their schemes across the North West.

The organisation aims to provide a platform to anyone who is inspired by performing and creative outlets, and break down barriers of social exclusion. They are a pathway organisation who support young artists in the first steps of their careers through providing Theatre experience and links in the industry.

The collective are very passionate about getting Urban Arts into High Calibre venues in the North, exposing a more diverse spectrum of audiences to this thriving new Theatre genre.

Arti-Dodgers Twist performs on the 27 May (7:30pm) and you can get tickets by either clicking here or calling our Box Office on 01253 290190.