PREVIEW: Dance star Tala Lee-Turton 'honoured' to perform parler femme in history-making homecoming debut
Tala, an inspiration in her own right, is only the third British female student ever to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow in its 243-year history.
The Barnsley -born performer has gone on to dance for English National Ballet and Astrakhan State Theatre of Opera and Ballet, in classics such as Swan Lake, Giselle, and The Nutcracker.
Now in an exclusive interview with Graham Walker – watch their full chat above or click here – the 27-year-old told how she is pushing boundaries to defy traditional ballet views, encourage new audiences and inspire future stars, with a new multi-media dance show to celebrate her homecoming debut and launch professional dance shows at a popular venue in her home town.
She has produced and stars in parler femme – which translates as ‘talking women' - a dance-based triple bill featuring live performance, screen and immersive technologies and she will make her homecoming debut in a performance at Elsecar Heritage Centre's Ironworks on Thursday, November 16, 7.30pm-9.30pm.
It will be the first time a professional dance of its kind has been staged at the heritage venue, after a new sprung floor was installed to encourage more cultural live performances, in a project bringing arts and cultural events to Barnsley communities.
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Tala said: " I'm from Barnsley and it means a lot to bring to my home town such ambitious work as this.
"Elsecar Heritage Centre is not traditionally a performance venue. This will be the first time that a show of this nature has been staged there. So that feels really special.
"I couldn't have done it without Barnsley Council. It means a huge amount that they have been so understanding and supportive of the arts in general and in particular of dance, which really struggles funding wise.
"I'm really honoured that they believe in parler femme and in my work. It means so much and to have this opportunity to share my work with Barnsley audiences. It is really crucial and integral to what I do and why I create work to be honest.
"I'm really hoping this is just the beginning for a wide range of dance based work at Elsecar.
"When the pandemic hit, as many people did then, I spent time reflecting on what I wanted to do career wise. If I wanted to continue to pursue dance I was really going to have to take the reins and create my own work. So that's when I decided to found Tala Lee-Turton Productions and began working on parler femme. "But she says the show will surprise some.
"I think it's not going to be what people expect, especially with such a focus on my training. People expect ballet, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, all of those things. And it's definitely not that.
"It's really multi-disciplinary. It's ambitious in its storytelling, using lots of different media, welcoming lots of different voices into the space.
"There's some fabulous music, film and other performance media in this show.
"I have a fabulous team of collaborators that have really brought their wildest, most thought provoking dreams to this project.
"There's quite a lot of dialogue, a lot of exchange; not in the literal sense, although we do vocalise at various points, but there is an exchange between the performers and the audience, - you're not just sat there, receiving something in front of you.
"The audience are very much part of the energy of the whole production."
As creative producer and a dance artist she works alongside four other dance artists and a musician performer.
The three act show begins with a compilation of award-winning short dance films, telling the stories of female filmmakers, while the second act is a multi-layered dance and music duet, about two estranged sisters, reconnecting after the death of their grandmother. The final act features a cast of five dancers performing to a synth-pop score, exploring power and femininity.
It will be followed by a Q&A with the creative team.
The performance has been made possible by funding from the Cultural Development Fund a project which aims to boost Barnsley’s cultural and creative sectors right across the borough and create new exciting partnerships.
As well as bringing new cultural experiences to principal towns it is also working closely with communities, to find out what they want to see in the areas they live.
Elsecar is a key cultural location with space to host events like this. There will be major investment at Elsecar over the next year as part of the Cultural Development Fund to create new stunning event spaces, inside and out.
Now living in Sheffield and London, British Chinese creative producer and dancer Tala was born and brought up in Barnsley and is proud of her roots. She is thrilled to be performing in front of family and friends.
"I love showing my work to people that I'm closest to. It's always brilliant to do that, especially those who don't really understand what I do. So yeah, that will be fantastic. And I'm really looking forward to it," she said.
Now based in Sheffield and London, she gets to Barnsley whenever she can, adding: "I've not lost my accent despite training in various different places. It's who I am. I'm from Barnsley and I'm really proud of it.
"I aim to continue doing more like this, as long as my body holds up.”
Tala hopes it will also inspire other young dancers to follow in her footsteps. "Absolutely 100%," she says. "I would love that.
"When I talk about the exchange between the audience and the performers. It's not just during the performance, but it's a conversation that I'm really keen to continue afterwards. "I did a lot of audience development before the tour in a workshop series where a few of my colleagues and I went to local community groups and schools and engaged young people in the community, in movement generation. It wasn't a dance class, though people turned up expecting it to be.That's the assumption when you hear something like this is happening.
"But I just wanted to facilitate a bit of access for young people in ways that are not always available for everyone. The team and I have been doing that already. And conversations with Barnsley Council are in the same vein for after the tour.
"I'm really keen for more people, especially young people to be inspired by dance and to bring them on board to these amazing processes and experiences that dance and many creative disciplines provide."
Coun Robert Frost, Cabinet Spokesperson for Regeneration and Culture, said: “It’s such a proud moment for us to have Tala perform in Barnsley. She is an inspiration, and it shows how far talent and dedication can take you.
"After performing around the globe, she is returning to her hometown with an incredible performance that we hope will encourage a new generation of dancers to aim for the stars. To have such an immersive experience take place in the historic setting of Elsecar will be a real treat.”