“Since 2014 Fallen Angels has supported 349 individuals in recovery through dance,” says Claire Morris, with justified pride and an energy and enthusiasm most of us could only dream of having.
Claire is founder, along with her husband Paul Bayes Kitcher, of ‘Fallen Angels’ Dance Theatre, an organisation helping those in recovery from addiction and mental health problems through the medium of dance. In her very positive way, constantly smiling as her wavy, brown bob falls around her face, Claire explains that,“Fallen Angels Dance Theatre (FADT) exists to support those in recovery from addiction to transform their lives and increase their confidence and self-esteem…allowing a platform for achievement as well as helping them develop social networks in a safe and caring environment.”
Claire is the image of what I would expect a dancer to be; tiny, toned and graceful. A trained dancer, Claire graduated from The London Contemporary Dance School and worked at The Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance before deciding that her future lie in working to help the community, through her passion for dance.
Claire tells me about one current participant, or ‘angel’ called Katie. “Last year Katie went through a really challenging time. She’d gone into recovery and dealt with the physical addiction, but not with the problems that surrounded it. Then she came across, and started to talk to, ‘Fallen Angels’.
Katie says, “Up until recently my life consisted of taking my kids to school, doing the shopping and I was a hermit at home. I didn’t go out anywhere, I didn’t do anything. So just coming to Fallen Angels first of all got me out of the house doing things, and then opened up other opportunities. It’s made me think where I want to be and finding out that other people have gone through similar experiences really helps.”
Katie also shares that during school holidays Claire runs family dance workshops where the ‘Angels’ can still get out and get their dance fix and the kids can have fun too.
Now with projects in Chester, Leigh (in Greater Manchester) and Liverpool, Claire and Paul have plans for expanding into other parts of the North West, and are currently in residence with Fallen Angels at Chester’s Storyhouse. “Art brings people together. It gives them experiences they wouldn’t normally have.” Claire enthuses, as she begins to tell me about how it all began.
“Paul’s high school was ‘The Royal Ballet School’ in Richmond Park. He was like the original ‘Billy Elliot’”, Claire laughs fondly. But it wasn’t until 2004 that Claire met Co-Founder and now husband, Paul. He was a soloist dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet, “Paul left the ballet thinking it was this that made him unhappy, but that’s when things fell apart for him.” Paul hit rock bottom and spiralled into addiction. When Claire met him again he’d already been in rehab and was in recovery, teaching ballet once more and rebuilding his life.
A defining moment, which was integral in sowing the seeds of ‘Fallen Angels’, came when Paul was working in a rehab centre in 2011. Claire explains, “One of the participants had painted a picture in prison of Christ being ripped apart. Paul, thinking it was an amazing piece of art asked if he could use it in the project. The workshop participants wrote about what they saw in it, and this developed into a choreographed movement and dance piece.”
Paul filmed the piece and then showed it to the person who had painted it, who was, at this point, in recovery, and he broke down in tears on seeing the piece. This was the point at which Paul fully realised the power of dance and performance and, along with Claire, set about creating ‘Fallen Angels Dance Theatre’ via ‘Chapter.1. Battle For The Soul’ performance project.
Still reeling from their recent big royal engagement at Storyhouse, where they performed for The Queen and Duchess of Sussex, which was both, “amazing and surreal”, Claire and Paul are excited about the future of ‘Fallen Angels’ and what they feel they can achieve for, and with, the participants of their projects.“Our current ambition and plan is to help many more individuals escape addiction and continue on to recovery through new sustainable projects.”
And for Katie? “My life is very busy, workshops, performances, involved with Chester Plus- volunteering and becoming a trustee, and Cheshire Recovery Federation planning a recovery walk, and other opportunities. A couple of weeks ago I met some people in recovery in Manchester…my friends and family network has grown so much.”
When we say goodbye, I ask Claire if she minds me referring to her as a ‘tiny dancer’ and Paul as Billy Elliot in the article. She throws her head back and with that amazing energy of hers, laughs and says, “There are worse things to be called…”
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