DAZL tackles toxic masculinity through dance


By Vicky Prior


Dance Action Zone Leeds, known as DAZL, is a dance group for children and young adults aged 3-19 (up to 25 with disability). It was started 21 years ago and quickly became a fixture of its Leeds community. All styles of dance are covered, with the aims of keeping fit and having fun.


DAZL has its own research centre which works with organisations across Leeds including the University to explore connections between good health and dance. Choreography performed by DAZL students often tackles youth and community issues. Multiple awards have been won by DAZL, including an Outstanding Contribution to Public Health Award in 2016 and The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2021, for their outreach work during the pandemic.


Wayne Sables has been on the board of DAZL for several years. He works to upskill the organisation digitally. He also helps with funding applications and general governance. Wayne was chosen for the board through his many collaborations with DAZL. In Summer 2021, Wayne spent time filming DAZL youths in and around Leeds, specifically the areas of Middleton and Belle Isle. He made two pop videos , one with young children and one with young teens. Then a documentary and dance piece was filmed, exclusively with male dancers of all ages that are part of the Kick Off project.


Wayne explains further: 


‘I worked with Dance Action Zone Leeds to create a series of short films with young people around themes and topics they felt affected them. The themes that emerged were anxiety, knife crime, especially with young men, and toxic masculinity. The three films were very different in nature. We created two pop style music videos and one short dance film and documentary with Kick Off Youth Dance Project around knife crime, specifically their experience of knife crime in Leeds and toxic masculinity.’


Pop video 1


Pop video 1 is a bright confection set to How You Like That by K Pop icons Blackpink. This was my first viewing of a DAZL piece, before I’d done my research (naughty me) so I was not expecting some of the participants to be so young. The urban dance style definitely owed something to TikTok dances, which was to be expected given the children can help with the choreography. I was pleased to see that the routine was age appropriate and it was very fun to watch. The piece was set against some great graffiti and Wayne had done well to highlight each individual dancer as well as having group shots.




Pop video 2


Pop video 2 featured older teens but had the same backdrop and was similar in dance style. It was set to Let Them Know by British star Mabel, and the choreographer had sensitively chosen the censored version. It was a shame to see less male dancers in this film, I initially thought this meant that interest in dance dropped off the older a boy got, but it might have been that they were busy with the Kick Off project. It was clear that the extra years of practice had paid off as the dancers had crisper moves.




Kick Off Boys documentary:


Kick Off is a specific group for boys of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds to come together through dance. Students teach each other different styles. Many of the boys had been told previously that only girls could dance and were pleased DAZL gave them an outlet for their creativity. It has become a great forum for the boys to talk through issues and express themselves and clearly helps their mental health. The documentary ends with a performance of Hoods, showing a gang initiation in moody black and white.




DAZL is clearly a valuable and much needed organisation in Leeds. Wayne’s work with them is of his usual high standard, and while as his official blogger I would say that, it is clear from the videos that the children were comfortable working with them. They say never work with children or animals, but it would appear that at least with the former Wayne is a filmmaker you can trust. Now I just need to work out how to get him a gig at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park!