If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes an equally connected community of interested parties to raise an artist.

Back in the early 2000’s, an 11 year old Deepraj took part in his first dance project at Kuumba, then a thriving community arts hub. We were running a boy’s dance and music project based on computer gaming. When that project ended, the boys stayed and Deepraj became one of a regular cohort of boys at Kuumba who now practice dance professionally – Frankie Johnson, Bryn Thomas, Ramelle Williams and Liam Wallace. They worked with guest artists like Laila Diallo, Kwesi Johnson, Irven Lewis, ACE Dance & Music and RJC and we were able to take them to see companies like Union Dance and Electric Boogaloos and one memorable night at the QEH Theatre, the maestro that is Benji Reid.

Looking at them now, those opportunities read like a blueprint to artistic greatness. It was better funded days, certainly, but that cohort of boys supported each other, held each other up, trusted each other through the vulnerability of improvisation and pushed each other forward. They were a special generation, but there was no magic in how they were able to become special. Some of them went to schools that offered GCSE Dance, but most didn’t. Dance was a leap of faith into the unknown. For most, it still is. Those boys shared an unspoken solidarity as a group of young men in the inner city, pursuing the most un-macho of activities. There’s unbound strength in solidarity.

But Deepraj didn’t just magically appear at Kuumba’s door. That was the village in action. Deeps had been doing capoeira at Easton Community Centre where his mum, Hardeep then worked on reception. The capoeira teacher, Jack, was our project’s music lead; he told them about the dance work and Hardeep brought Deeps along. Sometimes it isn’t just about signposting people to opportunities, it’s about walking through the door with them or taking the door to where they are.

Despite arts funding and education cuts, we are still that village.

We can still all be that hand that walks someone into their first creative opportunity, finding other guiding hands along the chain of a lifetime’s creativity. Dance truly is better together, in so many ways. It takes a village to raise an artist.

In 2014, Katy suggested Deepraj contact Creative Youth Network at The Station to see if there was any support he could get as a graduate Dancer in Bristol. From there he took part in their production of Cinderella, went onto their Alumni programme for emerging young artists, choreographed elements of their show A Thousand Dreadful Things and appeared in their production of The Edge. Deepraj is the first artist under 26 that Creative Youth Network has commissioned to make one of their in-house productions.

Rooted is on at The Station from the 25th - 27th July. Tickets are £1 - £20 and can be booked here.