Case Study: Anna Holmes and Northern Rascals

Anna is a choreographer and performance artist who grew up and is now based in the vibrant area of Hebden Bridge. Throughout her educative years, Anna experienced much of the northern dance scene before finishing her studies at Northern of Contemporary Dance (NSCD) in 2016. Here she was developed and nurtured as a creative and performance artist alongside a selection of some of the most talented dancers in the country. Post-graduation Anna was fortunate enough to work with esteemed artists such as Jasmin Vardimon, Marilena Dara, Snow Patrol and most notably with Jasmin Vardimon Company and JV2 for the Gala for Grenfell at the Adelphi Theatre, London.

Following her passion for creation as well as performance, Anna and fellow NSCD graduate Sam Ford created Yorkshire-based company, Northern Rascals. Entering it’s second year of development, Northern Rascals has been described by its audiences as ‘the best new dance company that they’ve seen in years’. Northern Rascals say that they believe the unique ingredient in their work is the diversity in their repertoire; every piece is created for a different audience and performed in a different setting to heighten the impact that they have on the public. Northern Rascals pride themselves in creating work that is always of the highest standard, something that they believe is reflected by their current track-record.

Initially commissioned by The Brewery Arts Centre, they created their first duet 2 Peas, a work that has toured nationally, most recently as a part of the International Dance Festival Birmingham. Here the work received praise by The Dancing Times as they highlighted their appreciation of the ‘stand out performance’ at ‘the most interesting evening of the three weeks’ of the renowned festival. Additionally, their site-specific work Dear Daisy underwent redevelopment in summer 2018; the sold-out show was generously supported by Arts Council England and Leeds Inspired. Northern Rascals we were also awarded the judges prize for Like Rumours of Hushed Thunder by SLAP at York Theatre Royal. The piece has been awarded funding by Arts Council England to be developed into The Mesmerist, a full-length family-friendly work of which a version will première at York Theatre Royal in February 2019. In 2018, Northern Rascals were also short-listed for The Hodgkiss Award by The Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.

As a company, they have performed at many renowned theatres and events across the country including The Brewery Arts Centre, York Theatre Royal, Square Chapel of the Arts and The Omnibus Theatre in Clapham.

Anna Holmes on Northern Rascals and life in Leeds

‘As the name suggests, I am passionate and enthusiastic about bringing the performance of and keeping the creation of first-class performance art ‘up North’. Fundamentally, it is where the foundations of all my work as an artist and as Co-Artistic Director of Northern Rascals began. Inspired by its contradictions, i.e. the vast freedom of the moors aligned next to the close-knit communities of the valleys, I have always felt that Yorkshire has been the ideal place to offer me the challenges, the respect and the space to breathe that I feel is much needed to create work of substance.

Alongside the devising of our productions, I work frequently with hard-to-reach rural areas of Yorkshire, allowing a route of expression to those that might otherwise not be able to access it. I believe that creative expression is vital to our personal and social growth and shouldn’t be a privilege but rather the ‘norm’ to all. Perhaps that sense of growing with your community is the Yorkshire in me.

‘My journey at NSCD began when I was 13 years old; fast forward 11 long years of education on their Community, CAT and BA strands, it seems both strange and wonderfully comforting to find myself back here as a professional. However, perhaps I knew that NSCD would always be a stable feature in my life. From my second year of my degree, I dreamt that myself and Sam would eventually come back together as a partnership to create the work that we dreamed of as students. To me, NSCD is the safe place that offered and continues to offer me the challenges that I need to create my work. There’s something about being in a place where you feel respected as an artist that really allows your creativity to flourish. In fact, the stage that myself and Sam envisage when we close our eyes and picture our work being performed is always under the starred dome of The Riley Theatre. There are few places in the world like it.’

Performance experience

  • 2016 Wonderland by Sally Marie, graduation performance at NSCD
  • 2016 Dear Maggie, created in collaboration with Bramley Baths and Leeds College of Music
  • 2016 Orfeo…Can you hear me? in collaboration with Leeds College of Music
  • 2017 2 Peas, by Northern Rascals, performed at The Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
  • 2017 Gala for Grenfell, Jasmin Vardimon Company, Charity Performance at the Adelphi Theatre, London
  • 2017 JV2 2017, touring a triple bill including Wear Your Wounds’by Marilena Dara, Volhfs by Jukstapoz and Tomorrow by Jasmin Vardimon
  • 2018 Like Rumours of Hushed Thunder, Northern Rascals performed on tour
  • 2018 Born & Bred, Rosental&Company commissioned by Wigan Council
  • 2018 Don’t Give In, featured dancer for Snow Patrol Music Video

Choreographic experience and commissions

  • 2017 Awarded Commission by The Brewery Arts Centre
  • 2018 Northern Rascals Awarded ACE funding for Dearest Daisy and The Mesmerist
  • 2018 Awarded Commissions by York Theatre Royal and Didsbury Arts Festival
  • 2018 Shortlisted for Hodgkiss Award, Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester
  • 2018 Two short UK tours of 2 Peas and Like Rumours of Hushed Thunder

Professional Development

  • 2015 Rod Dixon. Week Physical Theatre Intensive
  • 2015 The Hiccup Project. Led by Cristina Mackerron and Chess Dillon-Reams
  • 2017 Avant Garde Dance. Research and Development for new work
  • 2017 Jukstapoz. Week intensive with Christine Gouzeli and Paul Blackman
  • 2017 Geoffrey Colman. Week Acting intensive.
  • 2017 Meisner Technique. Acting workshop led by Raymi Ortuste Quiroga
  • 2017 Voice/Singing Workshop. Led by Melanie Pappenheim

Education and Training

  • 2010-2013 Centre for Advanced Training (CAT Scheme) Northern School of Contemporary Dance
  • 2013 Achieved AAAB at A Level, including A’s in Dance and Drama
  • 2013-2016 Bachelor of Performing Arts in Contemporary Dance First Class Degree from Northern School of Contemporary Dance, (NSCD) Leeds
  • 2016-2017 JV2 – Jasmin Vardimon Company Professional Development Certificate

Northern Rascals

Choreographic experience and commissions

  • 2016 Instagrim at Northern School of  Contemporary Dance
  • 2017 Christmas Parade, created for Chilled Events and The Booking Team, performed by 16 dancers in Leeds and London
  • 2017 Techno, duet created for Technological Conventional, London
  • 2017 2 Peas, commissioned for Journey Dance Festival, The Brewery Arts Centre performed at Innovations Dance Festival, Chester
  • 2018 The Mesmerist, awarded Arts Council Funding for full development of work
  • 2018 The Mesmerist, awarded commission by Didsbury Arts Festival for 2019
  • 2018 Dearest Daisy, Arts Council England funded project performed at Bramley Baths
  • 2018 The Gallery of Fools, rework of Instagrim, Shortlisted for Hodgkiss Award, Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
  • 2018 ‘ Peas, commissioned for Journey Dance Festival, The Brewery Arts Centre. Performed at Innovations, Chester. Introducing, Birmingham Dance Network
  • 2018 Dear Maggie, awarded Arts Council Funding for full restaging at Bramley Baths. Originally created in 2016
  • 2018 Like Rumours of Hushed Thunder, winner of SLAPmoves at York Theatre April 18
  • 2018 Like Rumours of Hushed Thunder, site-specific adaptation. Performed at Collide Boys Take Over Day commissioned by NSCD and Emerge Festival, Cannock Chase
  • 2018 Dark, Dark, Dark, commission by Calder High School to create a new work on students