The Beautiful Game - a dance show about football for everyone - fan or not - at The Spring Arts Centre in Havant

Modern dance and football might not appear to be the most obvious of bedfellows.

Friday, 25th February 2022, 11:55 am

But the company Next Door Dance have created a show looking at a multitude of aspects of The Beautiful Game – from the fans, to the players, from the World Cup, to the Premiership to its grassroots.

The show was first created five years ago, and company co-founder Laura Savage-Weeden was one of the original performers.

‘It's very theatrical, so it's not just pure dance,’ she explains. ‘It's quite a mix of theatre and dance.

‘I suppose physical theatre might be the best way to describe it. It's a show about football, it's a friendly, heart-warming, nostalgic show about football and the fans. It's a look at the nation's obsession with the sport.’

Laura admits that none of the show’s creators were big fans of footie, but she says: ‘We realised everybody had somebody in their lives quite close to them who was a huge football fan and it fascinated us – their obsession and their love and their passion for it.

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‘But then there’s also those really quirky things like how a football fan can explain in great detail how a goal was scored from about 10 years ago – whether they were watching it, or it was one they scored themselves, they can remember it with such detail.

The Beautiful Game by Next Door Dance is at The Spring Arts Centre in Havant on February 25

‘They become very eloquent, beautiful orators of these stories of how these goals are scored – it kind of fascinated us and that was the starting point and it grew from there.

‘We wouldn't be able to explain as dancers a routine that we did 10 years ago!

‘We started looking at the different aspects and the different elements of football supporting.

‘Because none of us are football fans ourselves and we've been observers, we have that look on it – an outsiders’ eye.

‘We get a lot of wives and partners in the audience looking at their football fans they've come with going: “That's you! That's exactly you."’

The show also includes the match day rituals of fans, celebrations, injuries and of course, the offside rule, as well the armchair managers

‘We've really tried to cover a broad range of the highs and lows of football fandom,’ says Laura.

And how have actual football fans responded to it?

‘It was quite nerve-wracking when we first put it in front of them, but they've been really great.

‘They've loved it, and a lot of them do walk away going: “Yeah, that's me, it is ridiculous, but that's exactly what I do”, and it's really funny.’

They have also included verbatim real-life stories from fans and amateur players.

‘Even my mum's in the show,’ says Laura, ‘she's talking about my brother's first pair of football boots that she bought when he was little and how he slept in them the first night he had them.

‘It's not all about the glitz and glamour.’

On the home front, it has had the unexpected effect of helping Laura and her dad – a Nottingham Forest supporter – become closer.

‘My dad is definitely more of a football fan than he is a dance fan, and bless him, he's sat through many a dance show watching me.

‘But he came to to see this one and he was like: "That was absolutely brilliant!” He's seen it a number of times now.

‘He always take me on Boxing Day if they're playing at home, so that's my little link to football. My dad talks to me a little bit differently since we started doing this. He probably thinks I'm more interested than I actually am if I'm honest...’ she laughs. ‘But he feels like he's got more of a connection with me.’

They have also changed the show over time.

‘We're still very open to it being flexible – if something major happens. For example in the last World Cup and we got to the semi-finals, we thought if this goes our way, we're going to have to change the show in response to it! But it didn't...’

Being a dance show, music also plays a large part.

’We've got some real earworms in it – it's all very well known songs: Can't Get Enough by Depeche Mode, a bit of Oasis, the Match of The Day theme, Gold by Spandau Ballet, Things Can Only Get Better by D:Ream.’

But no Three Lions?

‘I think it was a conscious decision when we were making the show to not use the songs people might expect and try to find others that felt appropriate.’

However, Laura stresses it’s not just a show for dance lovers, or football fans.

‘It's a fun show for the whole family – football fan or not.’

The Beautiful Game is at The Spring Arts Centre, Havant on Friday, February 25. Go to thespring.co.uk.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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