A GLASGOW group smashing stereotypes about boys who dance has been recognised for its creative efforts during the pandemic.

Overdrive Dance Company was set up in 2015 to give boys and young men in the city a place to express themselves through choreography and movement.

The troupe was on the cusp of showcasing a new work at the Edinburgh Fringe just as lockdown gripped the country.

Glasgow Times: Overdrive Dance Company Picture: Alex Innes

While devastated not to be able to perform live, the young men reimagined the performance as a film, setting up cameras everywhere from their own bedrooms to Glasgow Green.

And the resulting digital piece, 3billion, has been rewarded with a Creative Lives Award in Coventry as part of the City of Culture 2022.

Hayley Earlam, an independent dancer and choreographer, founded the group with fellow choreographer Lucy Wild.

Hayley said: "When the pandemic hit we were just about to premier our new show.

"It was a massive loss for them – they had invitations to perform at the Fringe, they were chosen to perform at UK National Showcase – so they had gained achievements and were not getting to live them."

Overdrive normally meets in the Theatre Royal on a Friday night but the theatre had gone dark in lockdown.

Glasgow Times: Overdrive Dance Company Picture: Alex Innes

But a micro grant from Youth Theatre Arts Scotland gave enough funding for Hayley and Lucy to set up online sessions and find a way to be together virtually.

Hayley added: "The boys are a really tight group and are their own community yet they couldn't be together.

"Loss is the best way to describe it, there was a real sense of loss.

"We challenged them to film at home and to reimagine 3billion in their own spaces but they really went above and beyond with it.

"Out of a really negative time they challenged their creativity to make something funny, poignant and a real testament to them."

Hayley's mum sent her to dance classes as a child in the hope they would help her burn off energy, which sparked a life long passion that has seen her perform around the world.

She and Lucy were dance ambassadors for Matthew Bourne's New Adventures in 2014 and were tasked with engaging boys and young men in the city to learn dance.

Of the boys they worked with, 25 were chosen to take part in the show.

Hayley said: "We felt awful that we had to tell people that their journey with dance had finished at that point so we were given legacy funding from the Matthew Bourne and decided to set up an open company for the boys to continue with dance."

Glasgow Times: Overdrive Dance Company Picture: Alex Innes

Diversity and inclusivity have always been important to Hayley and she says the Scottish dance scene is particularly strong in building dance communities.

She added: "People often think dance works because it's a codified, structured thing and you have to be a certain type of person with a certain type of body to take part.

"How I view it is the other way around, that we can make dance fit around people to help build community, to help build people's confidence, their self-expression, their wellbeing and enable people to become artists themselves.

"The Scottish dance sector has that attitude as part of its foundation."

One of the challenges of inclusivity is getting male dancers involved.

During the work for New Adventures, Hayley and Lucy kept hearing boys saying that they really wanted to try dance but didn't want to be the only one.

Hayley said: "The stigma is still rife.

"You'll find from younger ages boys will say, 'That's something for girls to do, that's not for me,' so the stereotypes of everyone wearing pink and dancing in tutus is alive and well.

"Because it is boys dancing they do tend to do things that are physically daring and so the class creates that space for those things, the vibe and the energy that in a mixed gender class don't tend to happen."

Glasgow Times: Overdrive Dance Company Picture: Alex Innes

The group have been together for eight years now with some of them going on to train in dance.

Hayley added: "Some of them would have been 10 when we started and they're 18 now so dance has been part of their whole adolescence."

Winning the Creative Lives Award has been a real boost for the company, which is now fundraising to travel to Inverness to take part in Destinations, the National Youth Dance Showcase in Scotland.

After performing in Inverness, the young company will be entered into selection for the UK National Youth Dance Showcase in Birmingham.

Hayley said: "Because we are a really small community group this is recognition and celebration of how wonderful our young people are, and how they conducted themselves and channelled themselves during the pandemic.

Glasgow Times: Overdrive Dance Company Picture: Alex Innes

"They don't just face the stigma of being boys who dance but also the stigma of just being a young person and they show they are more than capable of performing really amazing things."

To contribute towards the fundraiser see: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/help-overdrive-perform-at-the-national-youth-dance