A Diversity of dance talent

Diversity, appearing at the Motorpoint Arena, Dec 12, 2013
Diversity, appearing at the Motorpoint Arena, Dec 12, 2013
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They won the nation’s hearts as winners of Britain’s Got Talent in 2009 and since then street dance team Diversity have performed to more than one million people around the world.

Their leader, dancer and choreographer Ashley Banjo, has also become a famous face on TV in his own right.

He starts his fourth season as a judge on the Sky 1 talent show Got To Dance in January, followed by another series of the Sky 1 hit show Ashley Banjo’s Secret Street Crew.

The Motorpoint Arena, where Diversity appear tonight, is just up the road from Meadowhall, where the east London team made some of their earliest appearances.

Ashley said: “It’s before we were Diversity as people knew us.

“We used to be dancers on the fashion shows my mum used to produce. That’s where we got our performing experience from.

“And that’s why she started a dance school, to train people up to dance in those shows.”

Ashley was able to put together the team from among friends and family who came to his mum’s dance school to learn street dance moves.

Ashley says those close associations have helped to make Diversity so successful.

He said: “When we went on to Britain’s Got Talent I’d already known some of those boys for 14 years.

“The crew’s made up of four sets of brothers, cousins and friends.

“That’s the beautiful part for me. People have left, I’ve never kicked anybody out.”

Their closeness is also important in building trust in some parts of the routines, where a big element of danger is involved.

The distinctive figure of Perri, the youngest member with the amazing huge mop of hair, is a case in point.

He is often thrown through the air by Ashley or other team members to perform his incredible acrobatic moves.

Ashley said: “He’s got a lot of trust. He gets scared quite easily but he is confident in whoever is throwing or catching him.”

Those moves have to be perfected through lots of practice before they go on stage for the first time.

Diversity’s third tour, Limitless, is more spectacular than ever.

This time Ashley has added more special effects and world champion acrobats and gymnasts to the mix.

He said that the show follows on from the first tours, Diversitoys, where the boys are trapped in a toy shop, and Digitised, where they find themselves part of a video game.

Limitless, inspired by Diversity’s slogan Dream, Believe, Achieve shows the team getting superpowers and finally winning the game.

Ashley said it took a while for Diversity to realise how famous they had become.

He said: “Fame was just a by-product of winning Britain’s got Talent.

“We think more about what our next routine will be and can we take this to Europe and America?”

Ashley has taken that ambition on to our TV screens as well.

In the next series of Ashley’s Secret Street Crew, instead of teaching a group of friends and workmates how to perform street dance, he’s taking on a whole town. The aim was to involve the people of Stockton-on-Tees in a big town dance.

Ashley said: “It wasn’t easy. People love to watch it, not to do it.

“We started off with small crews of people who were just up for it. We went out and did performances.

“Then people started thinking, perhaps I could do it. We used the smaller performances to recruit people for the big ones.”

Now maybe it’s time for Diversity to think even bigger and come back to Sheffield to form a gigantic Steel City Street Crew.

Now that would look impressive in the Oasis!