Extraordinary Things Performance – A tribute to Avril Hitman BEM Magpie’s Founding Artistic Director


Posted on: July 24, 2017

Magpie Dance hosted a very special performance, dedicated to Magpie’s Founding Artistic Director Avril Hitman BEM on Sunday 16th July 2017 at the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells to celebrate her outstanding work and achievements over the past 32 years before retiring this summer.

The Magpie team, from trustees to staff, to the dancers and their families, wanted to put on this wonderful surprise performance, involving the whole company, to honour Avril. Over 250 guests came together to watch the performance and celebrate the work Avril has achieved with Magpie over the past three decades. Participants from Magpie’s entire classes programme from Youth Groups, Community Sessions and Adult Group dancers including Highfliers performed as part of the inspirational and talented line up on the central London stage.

The show opened with the colourful and technical extravaganza ‘Aurora’ performed and choreographed by the current 22 strong Adult group dancers. As the dancer’s spiralled around the stage, a series of intricate solos, duets and quartets were performed leading to a powerful crescendo with the ensemble rising towards the light. Both Youth Group Seniors impressed with their pieces ‘Streetmix’; a slick, energetic street dance and ‘Walk on by’ which created a dynamic city landscape where the dancer’s greeted each other, frantically travelled and explored different pathways. The first half concluded with the Highflier’s acclaimed performance of ‘There were Definitely Swans’ choreographed by dance artist Ben Duke, where 4 performers try and re-stage Swan Lake. As they piece the tale together, reality and fiction become confused, emotions run high and while the traditional choreography is nowhere to be seen, Swan Lake comes to life in the most unique of settings.

“Thank you so much for inviting us to the most wonderful performances and of course the opportunity to say a big thank you to Avril” – Magpie Supporter

Throughout the performance, Avril received accolade and video messages from a range of participants, parents, friends from the dance community and the Magpie Dance staff.

“Words cannot express how magical this afternoon’s performance was, filled with such passion, dedication and commitment and beautifully performed work, where the dancers performed to their full potential as they always do. You must be so proud of all the dancers and everyone at Magpie Dance” – Magpie Friend

The second half continued with the same excellence and high quality performances as the Community Classes took to the stage high kicking and shaking for the Jive and marching for the dynamic Tango as the audiences toes tapped along. Magpie’s youngest junior dancers took the audience on a journey of their day- to –day activities through movement in ‘This is Us’, ending with them hitting the dance floor and throwing their favourite shapes.

“Thank you for what you have done for all of the groups! I have made so many friends here at Magpie. I will miss you and good luck with your retirement” – Highfliers Dancer

As the final piece ‘To be human’ was performed, a selection of the dancer’s lifetime images was cascaded on the stages backdrop. Drawing on memories of childhood and adolescence, the dancers recreated special moments from their lives showing how, with the support of others and their families we can all come together and be extraordinary.

Avril, who was moved to tears said, addressing the audience and performers “I’m overwhelmed with the tribute you have given me, it’s extraordinary. I’ve been so fortunate to have such an amazing team to work with. I know Magpie will go on and on and on because you are all so passionate and have such strength. Performers, you have done me proud. It’s not goodbye it’s ‘Au revoir’.

Marc Dempsey, chair of Magpie board said “This performance was a fantastic tribute to Avril’s dedication, determination and commitment. Avril’s leadership and entrepreneurship has been a true inspiration and we are going to make sure it doesn’t stop.”

The whole Magpie team would like to thank Avril for her unwavering dedication to Magpie Dance and to the continued development of inclusive dance, the community and dance industry. She will be dearly missed and we would like to wish her the happiest of retirements!

Thank you all that attended on Sunday! There’s still time to make a contribution towards this superb performance for Avril here

Photo credit: Phil Polglaze