‘Living Shadows’ Art Piece Shines a Light on Homelessness in West Yorkshire

Rees Dance, working in collaboration with homeless non-profit Focus4Hope, has launched ‘Living Shadows’: an outdoor performance project that aims to raise awareness for the struggles of homelessness in West Yorkshire, funded by Arts Council England.

This work was performed across various high traffic pedestrian areas in Leeds City Centre and Calderdale in late December, ending with a final performance at Dortmund Square as a part of Focus4Hope’s fortnightly “Help the Homeless” event.

Living Shadows is a collaborative project spearheaded by choreographer and Creative Director of Rees Dance: Gavin Rees, an accomplished professional dancer and rehearsal director. He has worked extensively throughout the UK and Europe with many ballet, contemporary, and physical theatre companies. Gavin Rees worked alongside filmmaker and digital artist Wayne Sables to create a corresponding film for the project. It was shown at the end of December at the Overgate Hospice Boutique Shop window in Brighouse.

Rees Dance are working with Focus4Hope, a non-profit community-based group in Brighouse that predominantly work with the most vulnerable groups across West Yorkshire, including the homeless. They provide outreach services and supplies, and host regular charity events.

Working together, Gavin Rees and Focus4Hope aim to create a project that, in the words of Rees: “Enables the public, particularly young people, to take part in upcoming workshops, performances, and artist talks. We want to bring together a wide range of participants and make the project a collaborative social and educational experience.” 

Gavin says of the project “In the process of research and development we wanted to explore the themes of displacement and disenfranchisement. Anyone, from any walk of life, can find themselves homeless.” Focus4Hope offered resources through the development process, including artwork created by the homeless and opportunities to conduct interviews with them. Rees Dance incorporated these personal stories into the choreography and urged his dance artists to create characters to inform their performance.

Louise Reed, Founder of Focus4Hope, added, “It’s great to be able to see the stories of the people we work with come to life in such a creative way. We hope that when people see the project it will inspire them to recognize how important it is to support the individuals in our community who need it most.”

Rees Dance has regularly sought to provide entry routes for individuals in the community that don’t ordinarily engage with dance in their everyday lives. “Our goal is for as many people as possible to stumble upon the work as it’s being performed in these public spaces” Mr. Rees added. “This is valuable for exposing the community to the arts in an unexpected way. ‘Living Shadows’ is all about representing and reflecting the experiences of people living homeless beside us every day, in a similarly public, although not often acknowledged way.”

The finished piece was displayed throughout various locations in Leeds on January the 17th 2020.

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