Ragtime to Grime promo image
You can have your own Ragtime to Grime performance on your doorstep

Covid-19 has already brought singers and musicians to perform on the streets of SE London. Now Greenwich Dance is facing up to the challenge of social distancing by offering residents the chance to have a bite-sized dance-theatre show take place right on their doorstop. NIKKI SPENCER found out more.

Starting this Saturday in Abbey Wood and ending on 24 October in Charlton and Woolwich Common, the dance and rap show Ragtime to Grime – Bring it Home Tour by south London based Grounded Movement will be visiting a different area of Greenwich borough everyday over ten days, and putting on three shows a day.

Members of the public can book a slot for the production to come to their home and perform on the pavement outside in return for a donation via the Greenwich Dance website.

“We were looking for ways that we could still do live performance within the Covid guidelines,” explains Grounded Movement’s artistic director, Temujin Gill.

“We brainstormed all sort of ideas, such as performing on a float in the street, but what’s great about this tour around Greenwich is that we are able to bring this inspiring show to people right where they live.”

“It’s a difficult time for everyone at the moment and this works on so many levels. We are providing an entertaining, thought-provoking and socially-distanced performance to local audiences and much-needed work for artists too,” he adds.

“People just need to go onto the website, select their area and pick their preferred time and pay what they can,” says Temujin. “We wanted to make this affordable for everyone.” All box office proceeds will then be shared between the members of the production, in addition to their wages.

Once people have booked, Grounded Movement’s production manager will visit each of the 30 locations to work out how best to stage the show.

“Every location will obviously be different so we may have to adapt the performance slightly to fit in with the space we have outside at each home, but that also makes it exciting. We are used to thinking on our feet,” says Temujin, who along with his co-director Sunanda Biswas, directed the choreography for the NHS segment of the London Olympics opening ceremony in 2012.

Ragtime to Grime – Bring it Home Tour marks Black History Month and the production, which has a small cast of two dancers and a rapper, explores the stories of young people mentally adrift and feeling disenfranchised, whilst highlighting the impact and power of music to anchor us in our lives.

The 10-minute performance is an adaptation of what will be a full-length show that Temujin started developing in 2018, featuring music by Nick Ramm and lyrics by the late south London hip hop artist Ty, who died earlier this year after contracting Covid-19.

“Ty is sorely missed and it will be good to be able to pay tribute to him in this way,” says Temujin.

And if Ragtime to Grime goes down well with audiences, the team may take it elsewhere.

“It feels like the right time for this show and if it works in Greenwich, we will look at doing it in other areas too,” says Temujin.

Some performances will also be live streamed on Facebook so that audiences can enjoy it from their homes wherever they are.

Ragtime to Grime – Bring it Home forms part of Up My Street: The Festival, which included a chance for non-professionals to make their own dance film and creative online performances from Greenwich Dance’s youth dance company.

Greenwich Dance’s chief executive, Melanie Precious, says that while Covid-19 has presented many challenges, she is excited to be bringing the doorstep performances to the borough.

“This is the first time we have done anything like this’, says Melanie. “It has taken a lot of planning, but it’s really important to keep performing live where we can, both for audiences and dancers, and we can’t wait to make it happen.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, she is keeping a very close eye on the weather forecast.

“We are just going to have to be flexible. If it’s torrential rain one day we will have to postpone performances and reschedule, but we are keeping our fingers crossed for an Indian summer.”

You can book your performance of Ragtime to Grime at greenwichdance.org.uk/events

This is one of a series of stories we are running on how people and organisations in SE London have responded to the coronavirus pandemic. Let us know if you have a story to tell.

NIKKI SPENCER is a freelance journalist who has also written for The Guardian, The Independent, Lewisham Ledger and Peckham Peculiar.