Urban Kaos dancers change lives through positivity and empowerment
WHEN exhausted friends Amy Walton and Kelly Ensbury thought they saw a field of unicorns they knew it was time to quit their touring cabaret and launch their own educational dance business, Urban Kaos.
Ten years later the pair have changed thousands of lives through the power of music and movement and after having children they’ve a renewed passion for the job they love.
The professionally trained dancers have won awards, reached the final of Grazia magazine’s businesswomen of the year and attended the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace.
But their ethos over the past decade has remained the same – dance is a way of communication, a way of celebration, a way of showing your true identity.
With a small grant from The Prince’s Trust the 20-year-olds brought street dance to Teesside and since then they’ve worked with hundreds of primary and secondary schools and danced with toddlers, pensioners and young offenders as well as working on major community-based projects.
“We are changing people’s lives in the community – not everyone wants to be a professional dancer but they want to be happy and healthy. We just know that dancing, or even just clapping your hands, makes you fee good. So if we can give people an hour when they can forget about their lives, than that’s a fantastic thing to be able to do.”
Amy Walton, Urban Kaos
“Amazingly, the dance becomes the least important part,” Kelly said. “It works because we are in Teesside and it’s us – we try and get the best out of people’s personalities.”
From Bollywood to breakdancing, they can teach any style as well as being able to act and sing so are just as eager to perform.
When they became mums (Kelly to Maggie and Delilah and Amy to Noah and Elsie) they spotted a gap in the market for a pre-school disco that would appeal to parents too and Groovy Babies was born.
Imagine a nightclub with flashing lights with the best pop hits played really loud and all the revellers are under 3 ft 5” and you get the gist. Groovy Babies now holds monthly themed events at Arc in Stockton and Middlesbrough Town Hall’s Crypt where youngsters learn to warm up and cool down whilst bopping away with colourful characters Millie Mischief, Shufflin’ Sam, Jumping Jessie and Airy Fairy Faye.
They also hold summer schools for youngsters at Arc arts centre each year which leave Kelly and Amy inspired. “We get kids who don’t want to of to dance school but we get them all working together and it’s amazing,” Amy explained. “They are committed to coming every day and have the guts to get up on stage and perform.”
One of their highlights from 2012 was creating a dance experience for pensioners in Hartlepool called the Rink Revival, after town’s legendary dance hall. They researched the era and worked with their teenage members on retro routines which resulted in dance partners, young and old, enjoying a twirl.
They also work closely with community cultural tour de force Mike McGrother – “he has the big ideas and we help put the into practice”, from The Loudest Whisper – a positive message about Stockton designed as an antidote to the second series of Channel 4’s Benefit Street filmed there to The Most Wonderful Bank in the World, a reference to the one run by George Bailey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ where the only currency kindness.
“Amazingly, the dance becomes the least important part. It works because we are in Teesside and it’s us – we try and get the best out of people’s personalities.”
Kelly Ensbury, Urban Kaos
One of its month-long community engagement events was ‘Very Important Little People’ which saw 104 of the town’s children in need treated to a very special night to remember featuring carols round a Christmas tree, a human yellow brick road, a performance of the Wizard of Oz before enjoying an awe-inspiring Mad Hatter’s tea party and presents.
Despite their longevity, Urban Kaos has been tripped up a couple of times along the way – in the early days they were forced to sell their cars when ‘healthy schools’, one of many funding streams dried up and it took five years to pay off a bank loan taken out on a doomed street dance clothing sideline which was wound up when the recession hit. “We opened a bottle of Champagne the day we paid it off it was such a wonderful feeling, now we’ve no outstanding debts,” Kelly explained.
Aims for 2016 include trying create a similar event to Rink Revival in Stockton, engaging with refugees in the town by learning their cultural dances and taking part in the closing ceremony of Stockton International Riverside Festival (SIRF).
“We are changing peoples’ lives in the community – not everyone wants to be a professional dancer but they want to be happy and healthy,” Amy said.
“We just know that dancing, or even just clapping your hands, makes you fee good. So if we can give people an hour when they can forget about their lives, than that’s a fantastic thing to be able to do.
“We’ve always said we’ll keep going as long as we enjoy it. It’s hard to constantly be looking for work but at the end of the day we are so lucky.”
To celebrate their 10th anniversary they visited Kelly’s hairdresser in Fishburn, County Durham, where they chatted to the stylist about what had prompted them to set up Urban Kaos they mentioned the bizarre sight they couldn’t believe they’d both seen through blurry eyes at a service station on the A1.
He laughed and said, “You know there is a field of white horses there. And they have been known to be hired out for weddings – wearing unicorn horns…”
Positively Stockton on Tees http://positivelystocktonontees.co.uk