Birmingham Royal Ballet dancer creates film to help students process their lock-down experience


Fraya Cowan

The dance world has been especially hit by the COVID-19 lockdown, with classes, auditions, and exams cancelled around the world. According to parents and teachers, this has had a negative impact on students' psychological wellbeing.

To stimulate their creativity and keep them engaged, Brandon Lawrence, Principal Dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB), created a choreography challenge in partnership with bbodance earlier this summer.

151 students from the U.K., South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Kuwait, and Canada answered the question, What does lockdown mean to you? by choreographing a dance to an original score commissioned from the award-winning composer, Andrew Kristy, especially for this project.

Their work was assessed by Brandon Lawrence, Julie Bowers, the bbodance Director of Artistic Development, and BRB's former Artistic Director, Sir David Bintley, CBE. The internationally acclaimed choreographer also chose the overall winner of the challenge, Fraya Cowan, aged 11, a student of Emily Jade Theatre Arts school in London.

Following the assessment, Brandon chose clips from all the dances entered into the challenge and edited them together to an extended version of the score entitled Pandemisis — the start, lockdown, hope.

In contrast to the many dance films created during the lockdown, which feature professionals, Brandon's film sought to bring together the imperfect, unfiltered efforts of dance students seeking to come to terms with the pandemic. The result is a unique testimony of their collective experience — and, perhaps, catharsis.

"I’m humbled to have had the opportunity to deliver this event alongside bbodance," Brandon stated. "I’m very grateful to Julie Bowers, Andrew Kristy, Dansez, and Sir David Bintley, as well as each and every dancer who should be proud of their contribution. Bravo!" 

"I thoroughly enjoyed watching all of the students and their responses to the challenge of making dance during the lockdown. The ingenuity and inventiveness of young minds exploring the limits of their imaginations as well as the limits of their kitchens, living rooms, backyards, and gardens was both exciting and entertaining, but the piece that really captured the COVID zeitgeist for me was Fraya Cowen’s Lockdown. Beautiful, beautifully conceived, and touchingly simple," Sir David said.

Brandon Lawrence is featured on the cover the July Dancing Times. He is the youngest Patron of bbodance, the organization that trained him.

bbodance celebrated its 90th anniversary this spring.

Press Release