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Dance artist Mele Broomes: ‘There needs to be a push to represent black voices and writers’

Mele Broomes in Void Mele Broomes in Void

Mele Broomes runs Glasgow-based dance, music and theatre company Various Dance Artists and is one of the founders of Project X, an initiative that champions dance within the African and Caribbean diasporas in Scotland through workshops and performances. She tells Giverny Masso about the show she has taken to this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Void, which is a reimagining of JG Ballard’s novel Concrete Island…

How did you get into dance?

I did social dancing with my community and family – including calypso, dancehall and reggae. I trained as a gymnast when I was younger, with a small group. We didn’t have a proper space or high-tech equipment as we couldn’t afford to train in the conventional way. I was into theatre in general, and did a few theatre and dance classes, before studying physical theatre and dance at Northbrook College in West Sussex.

Where did you continue your dance training?

I went to the Scottish School of Contemporary Dance. I had a good experience, but in reflection there were some things that made me feel uncomfortable. Across dance schools there is no understanding of the history of dance in relation to the African diaspora. Black history in general was not documented very well because things got destroyed. There needs to be a big push to have black voices and writers represented and for them to keep making history.

What is Project X about?

I started it with Ashanti Harris, who is a visual artist and dancer, and Rhea Lewis, who is the only producer I know of in Scotland who is a woman of colour. We platform classes in traditional and contemporary dance forms from the African diaspora for adults and children. The backgrounds of some children mean they can’t afford to go to places or to pay for classes, so we make sure they don’t have to pay if they aren’t able to. We would like to get more regular classes and look at ways to help artists with their professional development.

What is your Edinburgh show about?

Void, which was made in collaboration with MHz and produced by Feral, is based on the novel Concrete Island by JG Ballard. I’ve always been interested in the idea of survival and disaster. This character maroons herself on a traffic island. She chooses to maroon herself and go crazy and be nonsensical, which she needs to do to understand herself in this system. This Void is a space, it’s an unknown, a limbo. In a lot of Ballard’s work, the main character is a white middle aged man or a white man with a lot of money. I wanted to re-imagine it, own it and have a perspective that’s not a white man. I’m also working on a show called Grin, which is about masquerade and carnival, and another work called Sonic Seance, which is a group work with four performers.

CV: Mele Broomes

Training: National diploma in physical theatre at Northbrook College, West Sussex (2006-08); contemporary dance at Scottish School of Contemporary Dance (2008-11)
First professional role: Movement development research for Various Dance Artists (2011)
Agent: None

Void runs at Summerhall, Old Lab until August 26 

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