Last week we met up with Pietra Mello-Pittman of Sisters Grimm, whose award-winning production INALA - a Zulu Ballet premieres in China — after being staged at the Royal Albert Hall in London — at the New Yunnan Grand Theatre on Thursday, December 5th, where it will be on for three shows before traveling to other Chinese cities. Sisters Grimm are a UK-based production company who have been producing award-winning culturally-themed shows that have toured both nationally and internationally for nearly ten years.
INALA's producers are ex-Royal Ballet ballerina Pietra Mello-Pittman and composer Ella Spira. In 2009 they had a vision, to create a theatre company that broke all the rules and Sisters Grimm was born. Pietra and Ella nurtured INALA from an original concept to celebrate 20 years of democracy in South Africa through to its premiere in 2014, bringing together an extraordinary creative team. Sisters Grimm remain true to their ethos on future projects; namely to create authentic, culturally themed work that develops and increases a diverse audience for arts by bringing together different disciplines and cultures, in a way that is inclusive, vibrant and entertaining.
Apart from bringing a world-class show to Kunming, they want to provide access and opportunities for young people from underprivileged backgrounds to benefit from the INALA experience.
The INALA community outreach initiative offers the opportunity for young people from a range of communities across Kunming to experience INALA, at no cost. The INALA Schools Programme aims to engage with and inspire young people, offering insight into the creative process, introducing new career paths and raising aspirations. Sisters Grimm are passionate about developing future audiences and making their work accessible to all.
Sisters Grimm are working with Dangsters Dance Studio and local charitable organizations grouped under the Yunnan Lianxin Community Care Service Center (云南连心社区照顾服务中心), that will see 50 Dangsters members attend a workshop and over 100 young disadvantaged people and their families attend a performance of the show, participate in a pre-show experience and learn about the career opportunities within the theatre industry. This will include a pre-show Q&A with company members and the chance to watch a company warm-up.
The workshop — hosted by Dangsters — will consist of a warm-up class introducing ballet and Zulu dance techniques as well as repertoire — when the students will learn a short piece of rep from the show. They will then be encouraged to take part in a creative task. Based on the way choreographer Mark Baldwin OBE created movement for the production they will create their own sequence. Finally, the students will be encouraged to share their performance of the work.
This will be an amazing enrichment opportunity for the children who are taking part. The organizations who host Sisters Grimm Careers Workshops will get expert advice — they'll be given an introduction to all the different roles involved in staging a West End production. From performance-related advice, to an insight into behind the scenes roles.
They are furthermore hosting workshops for several Chinese dance schools in Kunming and offer an internship to a university student who will gain experience in an international production environment.
Leading these presentations and workshops are Sisters Grimm founders and INALA Producers Pietra Mello-Pittman and Ella Spira.
As a former Royal Ballet First Artist, Pietra has first-hand experience working both on stage and backstage and can offer sound advice on both. She offers some context on why they initiated the community outreach programme.
Sisters Grimm piloted its social impact programme as a response to the terrorist attacks and Grenfell Tower tragedies in the summer of 2017 in London, to unite people and to encourage community cohesion. We have a vision of a society that celebrates diversity, in which individuals are inspired, access their emotions, and are empowered to take their own decisions. Sisters Grimm aims to enhance empathy, self-expression and inspiration among young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, by offering them access to high quality, entertaining theatre and a framework to develop their own creative activities at school.
Ella left school at 17, and has since become a Grammy-nominated composer and inspirational businesswoman.
I grew up in a diverse but edgy inner city part of Gloucester (UK), considered to be very rough and what we've achieved shows that with vision, hard work, focus and resilience, it doesn't matter where you come from.
INALA, a Zulu Ballet
INALA — meaning 'abundance of goodwill' in Zulu — delivers an exhilarating fusion of South African and Western cultures live on stage, presenting three-time Grammy® Award-winning choral legends, the Soweto Gospel Choir, with choreography by multi-award-winning Mark Baldwin OBE and current and former members of The Royal Ballet and Rambert. A celebration of South Africa today, INALA delivers all it promises; an uplifting cultural experience, powered by an explosion of live music, song and dance.
Blending the intricate rhythms and infectious harmonies of Soweto Gospel Choir's native musical roots with live percussion, piano and strings, Mark Baldwin's choreography unites Zulu traditions with classical ballet and contemporary dance.
Soweto Gospel Choir was formed in September 2002 to celebrate the unique and inspirational power of South African Gospel music. Drawing on the very best talent from the many churches in and around Soweto, the choir was created to share the joy of faith and tradition through music. Rehearsing in a small garage next to the house of the Choir's founding Musical Director, the late David Mulovhedzi, the choir has come from the humblest of beginnings, a small building on a dirt road in the backstreets of the township of Soweto through to the internationally renowned music phenomenon that has occupied the No.1 spot on Billboards World Music Chart and won many coveted international awards. These include three prestigious Grammy® Awards, a 2009 'Best Song' Oscar nomination and a 2010 Emmy Award.
Sisters Grimm are happy to give away three pairs of tickets to the INALA show. For a chance to win two tickets, send us the correct answer to the following trivia question, along with your name and phone number and which dates you would like to go, via the GoKunming contact form before Friday noon. We will randomly select the winners and contact them via the contact form (so keep an eye on your email!).
What does Soweto stand for, and in which city is it located?