Rachel Wesson is Artistic Director of Ascendance. She has 25 years’ professional experience as a choreographer, dancer, teacher, arts manager & university lecturer in dance /theatre; including University of Central Lancashire, Wolverhampton University and York St John’s.
She has undertaken a range of choreographic commissions including 8 UK site-specific tours and projects with Ascendance combining 360 VR film work, multimedia, installations, dance film & live performances.
Previously she has worked as Company Manager for Balbir Singh Dance Company, Blood Memory Dance and Northern Sydney Symphonic Wind Ensemble. Her work with Ascendance has been funded by Arts Council England and other charities to develop her vision of working with disadvantaged groups through engaging arts projects, exhibitions and touring. Rachel undertook a ground-breaking research project, ‘Castle’ where she developed one of the first intergenerational companies in the North which involved professional dancers aged 5-70 years, exploring castle locations, film & community inclusion.
In 2017 Rachel trained in delivering Dance for Parkinson’s classes with David Leventhal. Her passion for this work is now the driving force of Ascendance’s new strand of work and is committed to facilitating work with older people by increasing our mind to body awareness and connection to one another.
Rachel incorporates Tai Chi & Qi Gong practice into her work and has trained under Elena Villacorta Cortez and Master Li during her time in Australia.
She is currently choreographing a new dance for film work for a 360° VR film and live performance work with professional and community dancers, as well as a lead teacher on the DWP programme.
Emma is a professional dancer, both in live dance and video performance, a dance and yoga teacher, and an experienced choreographer, graduating with BA(Hons) from the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in 1998. In addition to performing professionally, she has been drawn to work with a variety of community groups involving heritage, local culture and disability. Emma works with them to create unique works for each, blending dance, music and creative workshops to help them tell their own stories.
Emma’s work with communities is focused around her role as Artistic Director of Blood Memory Dance, where she has created multi-dimensional performance works for diverse inter-generational groups like Hawksworth memorial community, the Swathmore centre, the York Land Army festival, the Bradford Bubble Up festival.
Emma is a Founder Member of the Ascendance Rep Dance Company, which devised and delivers the Dancing for Parkinson’s programme in Leeds and Bradford, firstly in local venues, and latterly online, where Emma is a lead DWP dance artist. Her skills have expanded around video provision to include YouTube choreography and performance, 360 degree video and online teaching delivery. Emma has been very much in demand under Lockdown, as an invited online guest artist for Hull Dance, for the Creative Well self-care programme for culture health and wellbeing, and she manages engagement with the Arts Council’s Time of Our Lives project in Yorkshire and Humberside.
Emma’s combined understanding of dance, yoga and physical therapy informs her very responsive approach to Dancing with Parkinson’s, and led to the introduction of her ambitious and successful “Dance Burst” programme for DWP, which goes from strength to strength whilst participants surprise themselves as they rise to the considered challenges which Emma sets the group, and for which she provides unbounded support and encouragement.
She’s a human dynamo. Even when she’s homeschooling!
Izzy is a lead dance artist delivering the Dancing for Parkinson’s programme in Leeds & Bradford, and is a dancer in for Rachel’s new film and live performance events.
Izzy Brittain is a dance and spoken word artist, teacher and performance maker. Since completing an MA with Transitions Dance Company she has worked in diverse contexts. Projects include Yorkshire Women (Company of Others), Scatterlings (Resolution, SVN Scratch, Unison NHS D&I conference, Migration Matters), The Book of Dave (Newfangled commission, The Turnpike) & OWN THE CRONE (Apples and Snakes ‘deranged poetesses’ commission, ARC Stockton).
She has taught dance in inclusive, community and educational contexts, and is currently developing her practice with older people as a dancer and teacher, including those living with dementia or Parkinson’s - with Ascendance and Yorkshire Dance.
We're very excited to welcome the wonderful Abigail to the Ascendance team!
Abigail began ballet classes at the age of 2 and as a child, took her classical ballet examinations with the Royal Academy of Dance and performed at major theatres in York. Abigail moved to London to attend Roehampton University, where she trained in classical ballet along-side contemporary techniques, graduating with a BA Hons degree in Dance Studies. After graduating, Abigail accepted a place at the Royal Academy of Dance on the Certificate in Ballet Teaching Studies course. Abigail began teaching alongside her dance training and her teaching practice has evolved to work with older people and those living with Dementia and Parkinson’s.
Abigail has been hosting on a Tuesday and is now hosting room side with HYBRID on Fridays and generally learning the ropes!
Natalie is one of our most versatile freelancers at Ascendance, and is a wiz at hosting and teaching on our Dance with Parkinson’s Zoom Programme. Natalie has taken over the Social Media for the charity and we are enjoying a fresh new look and feel. Natalie joined us through Zoom during Lockdown and we can’t wait to meet her face – to face one day!
Trained in jazz, contemporary and tap, she is both a choreographer and a dance artist who works with a diverse range of groups across theatre, education and community settings. Natalie loves working across stage and screen and has been involved in productions and outreach work with National Youth Musical Theatre, Creation Theatre Company and Cherwell Theatre Company. Her short film 'Inside' (designed for social media) has been featured in different international screen dance festivals and was awarded Arts Council England funding last year to develop a project leading dance workshops with Girlguiding groups in Staffordshire.
She tells us "I am a choreographer and dance artist based in the West Midlands. I have been dancing for more than 20 years and have trained in a variety of styles (including jazz, theatre, cheerleading and tap). I love sharing my passion for dance with others and inspiring individuals from all backgrounds to enjoy and participate in dance and other creative activity. Within my practice I like to work with words and language, thinking about how text and meaning can be embodied through movement and dance. I am also inspired by geometry, and like to link shapes, formulas and rules into my work to create exciting, thought-provoking pieces.
In my spare time, I enjoy walking, painting and eating (I have a particularly sweet tooth and can often be found with some chocolate or sweets, although my favourite food has to be the doughnut)."
Caroline Leung Is passionate about dance and movement. She uses her warm personality to actively encourage people to enjoy dance. Curious about neuroscience in dance, she has been working with Ascendance to develop the running of Dancing with Parkinson’s classes since February 2018.
Caroline is a creative dance practitioner and started dancing ballet at age 5. She discovered Contemporary dance at 16 and has been dancing and performing ever since. Her interest is in how dance-based movement can be helpful in the management of conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain and mood disorders. A graduate in Law and French, she has 10 years’ experience on the delivery of European Business funded projects supporting partnerships and business growth.
She teaches aerial dance at Leeds Children’s Circus and has taught Trapeze to adults for Urban Angels’ Circus. She has worked as a researcher and administrator in social prescribing and delivered classes for older people for Yorkshire Dance.
Sarah Warburton has over 28 years’ experience in professional dance and creative Arts. As a Graduate from Northern School of Contemporary Dance, she enquired into dance as a communication tool for all in an ever-changing society. She extended her research and practice in movement psychotherapy at Derby University. A self-led research and movement analysis followed on from this, looking closer at the authentic being, its relationships with self, others and within their world around them.
As a dance movement specialist, her work has been commissioned throughout a range of social and educational settings. This has been amongst a broad spectrum of clientele groups, leading as a Contemporary dancer, artist, teacher and facilitator. She uses therapeutic movement approaches in the support of health and wellness.
Her most recent work is in supporting Ascendance (Dancing with Parkinson's) with the aim to advance her work within the company's developments and that of other partnerships.
Chiara has been a lead dance artist and dancer delivering the Dancing for Parkinson’s programme across Yorkshire, bringing her extensive experience to people with movement disorders.
Chiara trained professionally in Italy, in ballet and contemporary dance and continued my training in contemporary dance and choreography in London. This year she has been co-teaching on the Dancing with Parkinson’s Programme and as a dancer in film R&D with Ascendance. Her career has taken the road of dancer, choreographer, university lecturer,community dance artist, dance teacher, and Pilates instructor, and is a qualified sport and remedial massage therapist.
Graduating with an MA degree in Choreography at Middlesex University in 2004 where she worked as a lecturer and module leader in Choreography and Performance from 2006 to 2010.Chiara has been working as a freelance dance artist with community dance since 2010 with people of all ages, abilities and from most diverse backgrounds and cultures, in Germany, Austria, Romania, South Africa, Italy, mainly with the choreographers Tamara McLorg, Janice Parker, and for different organizations such as TANZ DIE TOLLERANZ, (Vienna), PETER GLASEL STIFTUNG (Detmolt), MAKING A MOVE (Hamburg), MIREILLE PERRAUX ( Vienna), AGAPE ASSOCIATION (Romania), Bolzano dance Festival ( Bolzano). In 2013 she founded the association Barriere al Vento in Southern Italy, bringing people together through the philosophy of community dance.
Georgia Jakubiak is a vocalist, teacher and composer. She graduated from Bretton Hall of Leeds University with a BAHons in Popular Music Studies and soon after joined indie pop band ‘The Research’ on bass guitar and vocals. The Research were signed by EMI records and released two albums and several singles seeing the band touring the world and being played on TV and radio. Georgia sang lead vocals on ‘Lonely Hearts Still Beat The Same’ which charted at no32 and featured on an episode of popular TV series ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’
Georgia currently teaches vocals at Leeds Arts University on the Bmus Popular Music course where she also runs several choirs. Alongside her University work Georgia runs Singing Mums, arranging music and supporting teachers for the three Yorkshire based choirs.
Georgia works as a pro singer singing solo with the piano at weddings and functions and as part of 1940’s close harmony trio ‘The Hummingbirds.’ She likes to write her own music and release albums under the name ‘The State of Georgia’ often getting radio play on BBC Introducing and BBC 6 Music. She has four albums released to date and plays gigs and festivals with her 7 piece band. Performances of note include the Olympic Park in London for the para-athletic championships where Georgia entertained crowds solo in the lead up to the medal ceremonies and a festival in Barcelona for the staff from all around the world from ‘King.’
Georgia recently performed her song ‘Punching’ for the World Taekwondo championships at Manchester Arena where she changed the song to ‘Kicking’ for the occasion.
Georgia also writes and performs music for ‘Blood Memory Dance’ alongside Emma and has contributed to several projects. She has developed a keen interest in ‘singing for health’ and is currently doing project work helping people rehab their voices as well as lifting their spirits, expanding lung capacity and creating a general sense of wellbeing. Georgia is passionate about vocals and using her skills to help others ‘find their voice’ and delighted to be joining the Asendance team to work with people with Parkinson’s.
Georgia's website: https://thestateofgeorgia.bandcamp.com/
Chair – Jan-Pieter Costima
Secretary – Janet Mitchell
Trustee – Chris Lloyd
Trustee – Sam McCormick
Laura Rossi - music composition
Devon Armstrong - film maker
Lucy Barker - film maker
Troy Faid -music composition