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Northern Rascals - Reviving Her Interview

Multi-disciplinary performance company Northern Rascals are bringing their powerful new dance-theatre show, REVIVING HER, to Halifax’s Square Chapel Arts Centre this July. The company impressively combines theatre and dance to explore themes of safety, identity and empowerment in Northern women. Told in the brave, fearless and honest voices of young women from Yorkshire, REVIVING HER is a call to arms; a battle cry for a world where women can raise their authentic selves to a place of love, acceptance, and strength.

Photo by Elly Wel Photography
The audience are introduced to six women, who find themselves in an unknown location. Lost and confused, they try to understand their surroundings, but something has changed. What was familiar now feels strange. They embark on a reflective and intimate journey, visiting their past, present and future selves. Through the medium of dance-theatre, Northern Rascals aims to explore what it means to be a woman in today’s society.

Ahead of the show running at Square Chapel Arts Centre in July we caught up with the team behind the show.

Where did your arts career begin?
Our arts careers began at different ends of the country…
Anna’s in the creative Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge. With a childhood spent as it should be - with space to run, play, dream and to give her wild imagination the nourishment it needed. At the age of 13, she joined the youth courses at Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds and went on to enter the Centre of Advanced Training Scheme at the School. At 18, Anna began her degree at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, graduating with a 1st class degree in Contemporary Dance. Upon graduation, Anna left Yorkshire for Kent to join JV2 of Jasmin Vardimon Company. Whilst beginning her professional performance career, Anna was fascinated by the other side - directing, producing and creating her own original works.
Sam was born in the London borough of Croydon. His upbringing was one that was full of love, good food, and imaginative child’s play in ‘Ford’s Forest’ (his back garden). As a neurodiverse person, Sam struggled in the traditional schooling system but excelled at dance, cooking and the performing arts. His entry into dance was in a bid to compete with his little sister when she begun tap lessons. Lo and behold, Sam’s sibling rivalry paid off as he found a true love and freedom in movement and choreography.

At the age of 15, Sam joined the BRIT School in Croydon where he intensively studied all dance styles under the guidance of some of the country's best practitioners. Completing his A Levels at the school, Sam continued his dance studies and began his degree at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, graduating with a 1st class degree in Contemporary Dance.

Upon graduation, Sam left Yorkshire for London to join Edge, the post-graduate company of London Contemporary Dance School. Sam has since enjoyed a successful performing career with companies such as Rhiannon Faith, Avant Garde Dance, Barnaby Booth and English National Opera.
Anna and Sam set up Northern Rascals in 2017, after being awarded a micro commission by Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal. The duo made a short work called 2 Peas. They shortly were successful in receiving their first Arts Council England grant for Dearest Daisy in 2018.

Since Northern Rascals establishment in 2017, Anna and Sam have developed a strong track record of support from its creative and professional community, industry partners and funding bodies. This includes support from Arts Council England, Leeds City Council, The Place – Choreodrome Artists 2020, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Didsbury Arts Festival (main commission 2019), The Royal Exchange Theatre (Hodgkiss Award, Shortlisted) and copious commissions from the National CAT Scheme (The Lowry 2022, Dance4 2021, NSCD 2020-22). Northern Rascals key works include The Aftermath, commissioned by The Piece Hall and Northern Broadsides, SHEDReviving Her and Sunny Side. All of which have been supported by Arts Council England, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Northern Broadsides, Kala Sangam and a community of young people across the North of England.
Were there any people or performances that inspired you to follow this career path?
Growing up, we were always inspired by the spotlight, by the theatricality, the drama, the ‘magic’ of sitting in the dark and being transported to a different world, place or time. Our heroes were found in the small screen, cinema, theatre, community am-dram, in school assemblies - we always wanted to be a part of it - to immerse ourselves in the arts. Our dreams followed pop stars and their backing dancers and led us into dance pathways. From there, we were exposed to contemporary dance - an art form that was led by movement but had a social conscience often at the forefront. We remember being 18, first years at dance school, and going to seePARK by Jasmin Vardimon - it was a performance that we will never forget - narratively driven but incredibly physical and powerful, poetic - and FUN! Industry heroes now are choreographers such as Crystal Pite/ Kidd Pivot, Rhiannon Faith, Gary Clarke and those in other mediums such as poet Joelle Taylor, Acting Coach Geoffrey Colman. 

Photo by Elly Wel Photography

What can you tell me about Reviving Her?
Reviving Her is an outpouring of the female experience. It’s a battle cry, a call to arms to anyone who has grown up as a woman living under the male gaze. 
The show was first researched back in 2021, when the company emerged part-broken from the pandemic and entered the studio tentatively with a small team of female dancers and female friends of Co-Artistic Director, Anna. Fresh from a global period of intense reflection, the studio became an outpouring of what we had discovered/rediscovered about ourselves. Many of us returned to our childhood homes and were faced with versions of ourselves that had become ‘shelved’ or lost as we grew and adapted to thrive in a world that is not built for us. At the end of our first week of research, the news was plagued with headlines of the disappearance of Sarah Everard, Anti-Abortion Policies and the vilification of Meghan Markle - the cry of women’s rights was loud and we felt that we had fallen head-first into the complicated muddle of what it is to be a woman. 
The show itself follows a series of characters in a cave-like space - each one a different iteration of womanhood and the female experience. Together, they traipse through the complications of being a woman, of living under the male gaze, of our freedom, our release, our trapped, our relationships with our body, our mothers and ourselves. It is an ode to modern womanhood.

What inspired the creation of the piece?
Reviving Her is the next show in a trilogy of performance works that interrogate the stories of young people living in contemporary Britain. What came before it was SUNNY | SIDE, an original dance theatre work that considers suicide in young Northern men, particularly in the area of Calderdale in which the company is based. As with all of our work at Northern Rascals, this work was created with the input of our community of young people in the North who directly shape the content of our work by feeding back to us what stories they wish to see on stage. Reviving Her came from a demand from this community to see women’s stories on stage - to carve out a space for young female artists to work and to tell their stories that are timely, vital and in need of amplification. 
How do you approach combining the movement with the storytelling?
Combining movement with narrative and text has become somewhat of a signature of our work. We think it’s part style, part preference and part being stubborn and wanting to combine both art forms! Why not! 
For us, dance speaks where words cannot, and words give context to abstract movement. 

As with all of our work with Northern Rascals, we work in a blended art form, combining dance, theatre and spoken word to immerse the audience fully into the narrative world of the work. We believe that movement creates insight in areas where words fail us and words provide clarity in moments where movement hides us. The inclusion of both creates a storytelling vessel that is rounded, accessible and inclusive for our audiences. 

To get a deeper insight into our methodology, movement usually comes first. It is from that that Anna (who writes all the scripts for our work), will let her imagination spiral and form narrative and script out of the physical movement language. The combining of the two falls at the feet of Sam (Co-Artistic Director) who pieces together the movement with the intonation of the text, the audio is often pre-recorded and is worked with the dancers like a piece of a music - finding the rhythm of the text and the silence in between.
How does this fit into the ethos of Northern Rascals’
Northern Rascals work is created with social conscience, with a desire to bring vital, timely work to our audiences that provokes conversation and heightens awareness. There is no shadow of doubt that Reviving Her fits that ethos. Our desire with the show is not to create an answer or an ending - even though as humans we so wish for a story with a full stop. We know that a story has no end, what is experienced in our theatre will be taken home, retold on train journeys home, over coffee the next morning, in the middle of night as it seeps into dreams. Reviving Her continues our desire to create stories that seep into the skin of the audience and linger with them - beyond the stage doors.
What’s been the biggest challenge in developing the show?
The biggest challenge of creating REVIVING HER is, not uniquely, creating independent theatre as a project-by-project funded company in the current financial and political landscape. Funding for the Arts has been decimated, audiences and participants are slow to return post-pandemic and the landscape is uncertain. We have been so fortunate to receive funding from Arts Council England and as a Key Commission for Calderdale Council's Year of Culture 2024 (CultureDale); but as a small company of two, we have been working tirelessly to bring together a full creation and production with a team of 22 people in under 6 months. Without salaried staff, young companies such as ourselves are under immense pressure to create high-quality work to continue building our profile, sustain our position and supporters but without the administrative manpower behind us to do it. This has resulted in the ‘I can and must do everything’ approach. As young artists, we feel a responsibility to unwind the toxic patterning that our artistic predecessors have left behind for us - meaning that we are constantly writing and rewriting the rules (with the help of our wonderful team) to create a working environment that is led with kindness and humanity. It’s tiring work - but at the same time, a wonderful, fruitful, connected way to live and work!

Photo by Elly Wel Photography

What keeps you inspired?
As our work is so rooted in human experience, it’s clear to us that a huge source of inspiration is the world that unfolds around us. The poeticism of the every day, of real stories and real experiences lived by real people. Those moments that are gloriously ‘haunted’ - light hitting a person in a certain way, the architecture of an embrace, a piece of music hitting the right note in the right moment at the right time. Whenever we’re feeling uninspired, we know it’s a sign to slow down, to read, to write, to listen to music, to watch TV and films and let our mind wander. 

Why should anyone book to see Reviving Her?
• It is a hard-hitting yet poetic display of modern womanhood
• We have the most fantastic cast of female dancers and artists whose artistry will blow your mind!
• We have an original score composed by emerging Northern Composer, Wilfred Kimber that will bring you to tears!
• Our team is nearly entirely under 30, come support a young company - the ‘ones to watch’
• We have mentored 5 emerging female artists in roles that are held by male freelancers in the project - support a company that are committed to giving back
• Come listen to a script mentored by TS Eliot prize winner, Joelle Taylor
• There isn’t a more important time to support independent local theatre - particularly in the North!

Reviving Her runs at Square Chapel Arts Centre from 25th - 28th July. Tickets are available from You can find out more at

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