Inclusive dance company explore their connection to the National Forest through film

29th Jun 2023
That! Dance
© Romy Ashmore-Hills


Earlier this year we awarded That! Dance, an inclusive community dance company based in Staffordshire, one of our National Forest Arts Grants to support their Burton-on-Trent group to create a dance film about their connection to the Forest. In this blog post we hear from That! Dance Co-director, Natalie Haslam as she explains the inspiration behind the project and the film creation process.

 The project, called ‘Forest’, was inspired by our dancers’ interest in nature, their local spaces and dance on film. The film aims to showcase their skills and creativity whilst encouraging more people to visit the National Forest and take care of their green spaces.

We started creating our film by thinking about how we wanted to learn about the National Forest. As a group we decided that we wanted our film to explore 3 main questions: how are we connected to the Forest, how has the Forest changed throughout history and what can we do to keep our green spaces green for the future?

A vital part of our creation process was exploring the National Forest in person so that we could think about these questions on site and create movement inspired by the Forest. We decided to use Rosliston Forestry Centre as our base as a few of the group had visited there before and the facilities at the centre are friendly to the needs of our dancers.

That! Dance
© That! Dance


During our onsite discovery, we explored the Forest thinking about how we felt in the space, how different parts of the site made us think about nature in different ways and how we could be good visitors to the Forest. We noted down our thoughts on paper and had chance to create some dance phrases in the space inspired by what we could see, hear, smell and feel around us.

“It made me feel more connected to each other and more connected to nature” - Shelly

We used our visits as inspiration to continue making movement back in our rehearsal space at The Brewhouse Arts Centre before heading back to Rosliston at the end of May to film what we had created.

All the group have said how much they enjoyed being outside and being able to dance outside together, particularly for their wellbeing. They liked the sensory experience of dancing in nature and learning more about how the Forest benefits different people, plants and animals.

“I hope our film shows people how good it made us feel being outside […] how it helps your mental health and wellbeing” – Ryan

Many of the group’s favourite part of the film is our ‘duet’ section, where we explore how different parts of the Forest are connected together. We use string to demonstrate how an action causes a reaction across nature and make us think about how important our actions in nature are.

Once ‘Forest’ is finished, we will be sharing the film on social media as well as in local community spaces. We’re also developing an audio described version of the film which we hope to showcase later this year.

The group’s work has inspired them to continue to visit and think about the Forest and nature and we are currently working on a nature-themed performance taking place this summer. We’re also exploring new projects that involve dance, local natural spaces and digital technology for 2024 and beyond.

That! Dance (@itsthatdance on Instagram and Facebook) are an inclusive community dance company based in Staffordshire, with groups in Burton-on-Trent and Lichfield.

If you'd like to help us continue to support arts and cultural projects in the National Forest, then considering donating or if you're someone who has a project in mind, then check out our grants.