Dancer Liam Francis talks identity and rebels

Liam Francis and Friends

In January Rambert dancer Liam Francis presents Liam Francis and Friends, an evening of dance choreographed by himself and artists he has commissioned with London Studio Centre, where he trained. All the artists featured in the programme are giving their time for free, so Liam is crowdfunding to raise money to pay them a fee.

One half of the program features two pieces created on 20 current London Studio Centre students, choreographed by alumni Daisy Smith and Ryan Ledger of M.O.P. Liam then brings together pieces he has created in the past year, which all seem to come back to the same thing: ‘I made 2 works in New York earlier this year and I’m working on a piece for Rambert’s In The Making that I’m going to fuse together because they’re based around the same idea. I thought, “maybe I haven’t got this out my system yet – maybe I just need to throw them all together, work really solidly on them and get this obsession, whatever it is, out into something bigger”’.

His obsession is identity – something he and many artists feel a particular resonance with: ‘when I was a hip hop dancer they were like “oh you’re the contemporary guy” and I came to Rambert and they were like “oh Liam’s the hip hop guy” and actually I never felt like I was either or. I want to explore how those associations make you feel, whether it’s frustration or even confidence, because when you’re placed in different situations people sometimes regard you as maybe more than you were somewhere else’.

For Liam, dancers often feel expected to supress their individuality, when it is actually their most important asset: ‘We all work every day to maintain and develop our technique, but actually it’s our identities as people that inform what sort of artists and performers we are.’

Liam Francis and Hannah Rudd in rehearsal for Rambert’s Goat

He feels that working with Daisy Smith and Ryan Ledger will help the students realise this through their own rebellious natures: ‘I quite liked commissioning people who had butted heads with the system, rather than people the school might approve of! I thought it’d be great for the students to experience people who weren’t wholly compliant, and I thought that kind of exposure would be good for them so they can get a different perspective on dance.’

The idea of conflicting identities is also the reason Liam has picked such a diverse group of dancers: ‘I wouldn’t usually put these dancers together because they have such different backgrounds and training. I’ve asked them to take part because they’re my favourite performers that I love watching individually’. Liam looks forward to mixing his style with theirs: ‘this is an opportunity to share my work, but also for my work to be infected by their uniqueness – I’m benefiting from how wonderful they are.’

Liam Francis and Friends is at Arts Depot on 13 January. To find out more about the artists involved and to donate to Liam’s campaign, visit his Crowdfunder page. Sign up to the Liam Francis & Friend’s Facebook event to receive updates on ticket release.

Liam will present R2 at In The Making from 19-20 January. Details here.

Header photo © Pierre Tappon

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