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Dance as an art form breaks down barriers in South Shields

Local breakdancers Bad Taste Cru have been caught on canvas for artist Emma Tooth's exhibition at The Customs House

Werner Kmetitsch Last Man Standing by James Wilton Dance company, is coming to The Customs House
Last Man Standing by James Wilton Dance company, is coming to The Customs House

Dance is an art form that can transcend boundaries, and it certainly has an impact on painter Emma Tooth, who admits she was “blown away” when she saw local breakdancers Bad Taste Cru in action.

The skills of the fast-footed, body-spinning dancers in­­spired the portrait artist to cross boundaries of her own, as is revealed in her new exhibition which opens this week at The Customs House in South Shields.

Called Breaking Art, it focuses on one of the dancers, Robby Graham, and sees Emma turn a few art traditions on their head as she tackles her contemporary street subject in traditional style, capturing his energy and movement in dramatic oils.

There will be a special preview of the show on Friday before its official opening in The Gallery of the theatre on Saturday. The boys from Newcastle-based Bad Taste Cru will be attending both events in person to help launch it in their trademark style, with the kind of performance which first impressed Emma.

She recalled: “I was blown away. It opened my mind to a whole other culture.

“The dancers seemed to escape the limitations of their bodies and go beyond what I imagined human beings are capable of.”

Dancer Robby modelled a number of poses for her portraits and Emma added: “The notion that dancers need nothing but their own bodies to present their art and express themselves really inspires my work.”

Northcliffe Media Ltd Painting by artist Emma Tooth which is exhibited at The Customs House in South Shields
Painting by artist Emma Tooth which is exhibited at The Customs House in South Shields

The Derbyshire-based artist, who has exhibited at the venue before, is interested in representing the diversity of the body through alternative dress, posture, surgical modification and tattooing, saying: “The human body only becomes interesting to me when it becomes a reflection of the soul that inhibits it.”

Esen Kaya, curator of visual arts at The Customs House, said: “We’re really looking forward to exhibiting Emma’s latest collection.

“Her work captures the human form through depicting the acrobatic precision of breakdance in unexpected elegant freezes and power moves.”

The paintings will be on show until March 16 and the unlikely fusion of fine art and street-dance is likely to appeal to a mix of ages.

Meanwhile, dance lovers will like to know that Saturday also marks too the start of The Customs House’s new dance season.

An award-winning company will be kicking it off with new show Last Man Standing.

Commissioned by Dance City in Newcastle, this first full-length show by James Wilton Dance (which also will be presenting a two-day workshop starting tomorrow) promises an adrenalin-fuelled showcase by top dancers of exhilarating athleticism set to a music backdrop blending heavy rock and ambient sounds.

Rising star James, who has been called “the future of British choreography”, draws from a Brazilian martial arts form called capoeira in his work. It combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music and his choreography blends in other martial arts and break-dancing.

His training workshop, open to people of any age and experience, has 15 places available at £45 each, including a ticket for the show.

Other upcoming participatory events include Step Up and Dance on April 1, while other highlights of the dance season include performances by Pasha and Katya from Strictly Come Dancing and UK Ballet Theatre’s The Little Mermaid.

For the full programme and for tickets for Last Man Standing, which starts at 7.45pm on Saturday, visit www.customs house.co.uk or call the box office on 0191 454 1234.

Breaking Art is free: Bad Taste Cru will be performing at Friday’s preview, which takes place at 6pm, and also on Saturday.


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