London theatre duo take to global stage

Pietra Mello-Pittman and Ella Spira, Sisters Grimm

West End theatre company Sisters Grimm has announced a major partnership with the largest theatre company in Asia to tour China this winter, thanks to support from the Department for International Trade (DIT).

Founded in 2009 by ex-Royal Ballet dancer Pietra Mello-Pittman and Grammy-nominated composer Ella Spira, Sisters Grimm create cultural performances inspired by dance, theatre and music from across the world.

In February, Sisters Grimm signed a deal with Poly Culture, a government-owned organisation and the largest theatre group in Asia, to bring its shows to China.

The duo began working with DIT in 2014 to help reach new, international audiences with their performances. In November 2018, DIT was invited to attend an anniversary event at the Ministry of Sound to celebrate ten years of Sisters Grimm.

It was during this show that members of DIT identified an opportunity for the company to engage with Chinese audiences, feeling that the style and symbolism would be well received by the country. Following the event, DIT introduced Pietra and Ella to representatives from Poly Culture and, within six months, Sisters Grimm had signed its first Chinese partnership.

The company’s South African-inspired ‘INALA: A Zulu Ballet’ will embark on a four-week tour of China this winter, visiting Chongqing, Nanjing, Wuhan and Shenzhen. The tour will visit four theatres and reach an audience of more than 23,000 people.

The creative duo began working with DIT five years ago with the ambition of taking their performances international and since then, the company has performed in Singapore, Japan and the US.

Ella Spira, co-founder and director at Sisters Grimm, said: “Our performances are globally inspired. Our work aims to provide a platform for all nationalities and cultures, and we want our work to be accessible to everyone, whatever your age, background, or mother tongue.

“DIT has been instrumental in securing relationships in other countries and helping us to reach audiences across the globe. We always knew that our performances could be enjoyed by audiences everywhere, and it is thanks to the support from DIT that we are able to put on our performances in all corners of the world.

“The West End’s global reputation for performing arts definitely does give us a competitive edge. If we can see our performances succeed on international stages, so can other London-based performing arts companies.”

Parveen Thornhill, Head of London Region at DIT, said: “Sisters Grimm is a truly unique theatre business and their cultural shows have touched audiences across the world. It’s fantastic that Chinese audiences will now see INALA.

“Sue Bishop and Michael Charlton, the senior civil servants at DIT that encouraged Sisters Grimm to tap into the Chinese market, had both been posted in Asia for several years previously and envisaged the show would be positively received by Chinese audiences.

“To any creative business interested in taking its ambition from the West End to Asia, we have a team of advisers located across Greater London that can offer businesses tailored support, whether it be practical advice and training sessions or introductions to valuable business contacts overseas.”

Firms looking for support should call 020 7234 3000 or email export@tradelondon.org.uk. They can also visit great.gov.uk, which has information on live export opportunities and includes general information on exporting and events.

Watch our interview with Pietra Mello-Pittman

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