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Frome-based dance theatre company open new studios

The multi-award winning dance theatre company, Mark Bruce Company (MBC), opened their brand new studio space on the Vallis Mills Trading Estate in Frome, Somerset, on Thursday December 7th.

The studio, named BlackBirdRedRose Studios, was officially opened by the Mayor of Frome, cllr Sheila Gore.

Guests included MBC artistic director Mark Bruce, past and present company members, the company’s small administration and production team, and project manager Matt Hayden, who oversaw the move to BlackBirdRedRose Studios.

Among the first to visit BlackBirdRedRose Studios were the local host families who accommodate Mark Bruce Company dancers during rehearsals and who have developed strong ties with the company.  Frome businesses were represented by Paul Hughes from Bath Granite and Marble, Sue Hounsell from Liberty Gymnastics Club (both are neighbours on the Vallis Mills Trading Estate), and architect Terry Pinto (PAAD).

Mark Bruce Company moved to Frome in 2003 and since then has produced and toured six dance/theatre productions to growing acclaim.  In 2014 ‘Dracula’ scooped four national awards including the South Bank Sky Arts Award for ‘Best Dance Production’ and the Critics’ Circle Award Dance Section for ‘Best Independent Company.’ MBC is the flagship contemporary dance touring company in the south-west and, since professional standard rehearsal spaces are in fairly short supply, the company have rehearsed all their productions in local primary schools and church halls and in nearby Bristol.

“We’re thrilled to have found a space that combines all our activities in one place,” says artistic director Mark Bruce (left). “The space at Vallis Mills – around 4000 sq.ft – gives us a rehearsal studio, storage for our past and present sets and costumes, a production office and workshop space.

“From here we’ll rehearse our touring productions and will also run our annual summer school for vocational students, as well as outreach programmes in conjunction with local schools and colleges.  I’d like to thank the many local companies who helped make our dream a reality – it’s just wonderful to know we have our own base in Frome.”

A grant from the Linbury Trust enabled MBC to turn the existing industrial unit at Vallis Mills into the new dance studio, which features a sprung dance floor by specialists Harlequin Flooring, and a radiant gas heating system supplied by Bath-based Westex Heating.

The company’s first rehearsals at the new base will be for their new production of ‘Macbeth’ which will be performed at Frome’s Merlin Theatre in January, before embarking on a full scale national tour.

When the company isn’t in residence the space will be rented out to other dance companies, artists and community groups; plans for 2018 (pending funding) include a second studio and kitting out the main studio for filming purposes.

2018’s tour of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ features direction and choreography by Mark Bruce, a cast of nine performers and design by the same creative team behind Dracula and The Odyssey.

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