Nearly 200 members of Critical Mass performed in the Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony!
After a month of rehearsals at both the Alexander Stadium and Longbridge outdoor site, Critical Mass have performed on the biggest stage, with their biggest audience, at Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony. Featuring theatre, music, dance and a massive array of performers – the event was one of the biggest and most spectacular events in Birmingham’s history. It put the spotlight on the city and its people, as well as highlighting West Midlands talent and diversity, in a way that’s never been done before.
Nearly 200 participants in the event were from Critical Mass, who have already performed in the Birmingham 2022 Festival opening event Wondrous Stories, and who opened this year’s Birmingham International Dance Festival. For the opening ceremony they performed alongside professional dancers from Birmingham Royal Ballet, wheelchair dance group Freewheelin Dance Company and students from Elmhurst Ballet School, amongst a cast of thousands.
Critical Mass exemplifies the inclusive nature of the Games with a fully integrated cast of D/deaf, disabled and non-disabled people performing together and representing the ethnic/cultural diversity of the West Midlands region.
The creative team leading the event included Executive Producer (and Peaky Blinders creator) Steven Knight, writer Maeve Clarke, Musical Director Joshua ‘RTKal’ Holness and Artistic Director Iqbal Khan. Local musical heroes Duran Duran and Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi guest-starred on a night which celebrated Birmingham’s industrial heritage and its multicultural tradition, as competitors from the Commonwealth’s 72 nations and territories were cheered into the arena by a 30,000 crowd. A stunning spectacle also included a Red Arrows fly-past and an appearance from a 10-metre high ‘Raging Bull’, in a section of the ceremony which focused on the plight of female chain-makers in the early 20th century.
Critical Mass performed in a section called Hear My Voice, by Celeste performed live by Indigo Marshall & Gambimi along side Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi and saxophonist Soweto Kinch. They performed on a LED ring surrounding the ‘Dreamers’, in front of 30,000 spectators and reached a global television audience of around 1 billion. Critical Mass has already had such a positive impact on the lives of our participants, with some members performing in different sections of the event, in paid professional roles, and many speaking out about the impact it has had on their confidence and wellbeing.
As a deaf person I never thought that dance would be something that I would be good at. Having been part of Critical Mass I’ve been inspired by everybody – the dance leaders, choreographers, participants – to just go out there and do it!
Critical Mass Participant, Sarah
Critical Mass’s involvement in the Birmingham 2022 Festival did not end here either – we performed celebratory highlights from previous shows at the Smithfield Festival Site on 7 August 2022, presented by Birmingham International Dance Festival.
This initiative is so important to the legacy that the festival aspires to. Critical Mass has had a huge impact on the way that a mass scale performance like the Opening Ceremony is pulled together, creatively and operationally. And the learnings from this year-long project will go on to become a blueprint for access and inclusion in future mass events..
Critical Mass was made possible thanks to generous funding by the Spirit of 2012 charity, to encourage the legacy of London 2012. It builds on the strong foundation which dance already has in the West Midlands, working with lead delivery partner FABRIC and in collaboration with Arts Connect and Dance Leaders Group (DLG).