Brighton online speakeasy raises cash for domestic violence charity RISE

With the Brighton Fringe cancelled, a planned dance speakeasy from MyCharleston went online instead to raise £220 for the domestic violence charity RISE.

Friday, 22nd May 2020, 9:53 am
Brighton online speakeasy

Company co-founders Elena Burslem and Fiona Ring had already moved their weekly classes online back in March and soon realised the value of coming together to dance digitally. They decided that an event would be possible but in a new virtual format and so the planning began.

Speakeasies were secret underground parties which started during the prohibition era in 1920s America. MyCharleston were looking forward to celebrating the return of the 20s with their annual speakeasy at Brighton Fringe but lockdown forced the party underground in a way they never could have imagined. Elena and Fiona brought together 15 performers for an afternoon of entertainment, Charleston lessons and a dance contest to raise money for the charity RISE. Via Zoom, more than 80 glamorously dressed guests joined in all their finery to bring the roaring 2020s to life. The result can be seen at https://youtu.be/11cqYGw6XvI

“Moving it online we were able to run dance classes, vote for the dance contest winner and have a cheeky cocktail from the comfort of our homes” said Fiona.

“Despite Brighton Fringe being postponed, we still wanted the public to experience all the humour and energy of our annual party’, Elena added. “We also want to support a local charity which is helping those in need during these difficult times. We are delighted to have raised £220 for RISE”.

Fiona said: “We weren’t really sure what to expect but it was incredibly uplifting to see everyone dancing together in the group lessons and in time with our singers. The Saturnalia Sisters recorded two of our favourite tracks especially for the show.”

The afternoon included a dance competition where three different households competed for the audience’s votes, who had tuned in from the UK, Norway, France, Canada and India.

Winning dancer Natalie, who performed a Charleston solo from her garden in Holland, said “It genuinely felt like a special afternoon. Although we are in lockdown we can still dress up and dance together even if we are in different countries!”

MyCharleston has been running speakeasies at Brighton Fringe since 2015 and they wanted the 2020 Speakeasy to be something really special. “Lockdown certainly made it different!”, says Fiona, “managing the new software was quite full on but the feedback was amazing... one person even saying we were more pro than the BBC!”

To counteract a feeling of anti-climax after running a big event and the challenges of social distancing, Elena and Fiona are teaching online classes with up to 100 weekly attendees. Fiona said: "These virtual lessons are the highlight of my week- it’s a great way to stay in touch with others, lift spirits and get fit at home whilst having fun".

The dancing duo have also kept students swivelling by creating a new video series on their YouTube channel. These videos showcase Charleston routines performed by their students at home. “We have already produced four dance films since March and have another three on the way! We are amazed by how many people want to be involved in these projects”, says Elena. To join MyCharleston upcoming events, classes or watch the videos, visit mycharlestondance.com

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