Born and Bred Dance Theatre: A Short History

Born and Bred Dance Theatre’s Tale

A Story by Olivia Burgess (Artistic Director)

Green version

Born and Bred Dance Theatre came out of my desire as a dancer and choreographer to represent my love and appreciation of the place I live in. Whenever I was working or on a course, dancers would comment on my Northern accent, and ask me where I was from. Usually my response of Saddleworth was met with confusion but when I mentioned it was near Oldham most people knew it. They knew it because of the moors murders, race riots and the home of the BNP. Not great press I must admit. So I set about developing a company that could be something truly positive for this area. The inspiration for our professional touring work comes from local observations so the moors, the history and heritage of the area, and new developments that are changing our environment constantly.

Born and Bred’s first full length dance piece ‘More than Moor’s was our first attempt as a company to bottle our Saddleworth pride and take it to a wider audience. We began with the moors. Their quietness and desolation, complete lack of landmarks, navigational features, a huge natural playground that can enrapture or capture a person. The hills surround reservoirs that look like they could house dragons, the jagged edges of limestone creating images and faces along the skyline, huge curves and mounds of grass, the greens in summer and purple, brown, orange, yellow in autumn, the white and black in winter and the greeney-yellows in spring. Our area, Our moors, Our home.

I then read a history book donated to me by Peter Fox; Saddleworth Murder and Mystery by Vera Winterbottom (what a great name!) The dedication in the book read ‘For Richard and those who love Saddleworth but do not know its stories, and for all who enjoy an old tale re-told.’ It seemed very fitting and I began to learn more about my local area including a lesser know mystery – The Bill ‘O’ Jack murders…

The dance began to then take on a real life of its own. We had drawn inspiration from the physical surrounding landscape, from local tales (both fact and fiction) of murders and mysteries and we had also explored the poetry of Ammon Wrigley, a local poet who wrote dialectal anecdotes of good old-fashioned northern life. Born “with a love for all that is honest, clean and above board and a deeply rooted hatred for all things of sham, pretence and make believe.” A proper Northerner, I wonder if he would think Dancestry a sham?

Similarly our education and community work always carries an open and exploratory theme. We try, where possible to be inspired by our diverse locality bringing a respect for each other and our environment to every workshop or project. Our workshops vary in content and are devised through consultation with the schools or groups we are to work with. Born and Bred don’t dictate, we collaborate. Whether the workshops are stand alone based on our repertoire, develop dance technique and choreography or support your national curriculum topics they are delivered alongside the participants to nurture self-confidence, mutual respect and develop dance based skills.