C-12 Dance Theatre: Shhh!



Described as a story of love, flying overdue library books, and a dancing librarian, Shhh! celebrates the humble local library. A narrative work with twelve scenes and five performers, C-12 Dance Theatre’s production also employs original music, immersive projection work and movable bookcases to tell a story set in a closing-down library. Telling stories seems a particularly apt choice for a work about libraries, and it soon becomes clear that the library is a space for more than just books. Personal and fictional stories play out as the library is revealed as a space for encounters of both the social and imaginative kind.

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Rubberbandance: Gravity of Center



The rhythmic, musical, unison movement performed by Rubberbandance's five dancers in the opening of 'Gravity of Center' very much sets up what is to come. They creep and shift throughout the stage as a tight unit, gazing intensly out beyond the audience, and in one moment, Daniel Mayo plunges off the edge of the stage, to be hauled back by the others.

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Mad Dogs Dance Theatre: Dogs Land



Contemporary dance work can often unsuccessfully dangle somewhere between pure dance and theatre: vague characters and hard-to- follow plots which leave some audience members confused and bored. This is not the case with Dogs Land by Mad Dogs Dance Theatre. This piece of contemporary dance theatre combines hard-hitting and convincing storytelling, with choreography that pushes the boundaries of physicality in astounding and surprising ways. It is multi-layered and engaging for both dance and non-dance audiences, and gives the audience a real insight into the intense and passionate idiosyncrasies that occur inside conflicted relationships.

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Eastman-Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui: Puz/Zle



Large architectural structures on stage, a rich blend of cultural influences, ambitious universal themes — this is definitely a Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui work. The architectural structures in this instance are large blocks of various shapes and dimensions, puzzle pieces to be put together and taken apart. The performers do just this, manipulating their landscape, arranging and rearranging them to form stairs, walls, columns, corridors, platforms. They run through them, into them, climb up, tumble down, constantly returning to these monoliths for support and purpose. Order and disorder. The term monolith has literal roots, as the work was originally inspired by and performed at an old stone quarry (now used as a performance venue) near Avignon, France. The sense of scale, labour, and a timeworn landscape are still present in this very different setting, and the blocks anchor the work, demarcating and framing the spaces that the performers inhabit.

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Bowie Got Me Thinking

So recent months have seen the return of the likes of The Rolling Stones and David Bowie. Music royalty, if you will. Or perhaps, simply: legends.

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English National Ballet: Etudes

A contemporary of Roland Petit's Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, Harald Lander's Études takes the audience through the daily routine of a ballet company, with the start of their warmup class through to technique exercises and company rehearsals. While the start of the work seems to play with the effects of lighting on imagery, more than on the choreography itself, the rest of the work is a feast for classical ballet fans.


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English National Ballet: Petite Mort

Jiri Kylián is one of modern ballet's best-loved choreographers, but his work is all too rarely performed in England, in part due to mixed critical response.

And Petite Mort is one of his best-loved works. Created in 1991 for the Salzburg Festival, Kylián draws on the dual meanings of "petite mort", exploring fencing and orgasmic ecstasy in visually striking duets.

The photos below are of both English National Ballet casts in dress rehearsal.

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English National Ballet: Le Jeune Homme et la Mort

If I could pick two works for my dream triple-bill of ballet works, Le Jeune Homme et la Mort by Roland Petit would be way up there at the top. And fortuitously, Tamara Rojo, the new Artistic Director of English National Ballet, seemed to feel the same way.

Here are photos of Nicolas Le Riche and Tamara Rojo in the lead roles; there are still two performances left at the London Coliseum, if you want to see it:

English National Ballet's website:

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Taciturn are a very warm and endearing company based in Liverpool: their personality and relationships with each other bubble forth in each of their works, many of which have been created in collaboration with leading choreographers, including Tom Roden (New Art Club), Gary Clarke, Frauke Requart, Company Chameleon and Lisi Perry.

Worst Case Scenario is their latest work, which had its London premiere in February at The Place's annual platform Resolution!, followed by a performance back in Liverpool as part of Merseyside Dance Initiative's LEAP Festival. These photos were taken during their tech rehearsal at Capstone Theatre, with Jennifer Hale, Jenna Jungbluth and Lizzie Ryder, wonderfully standing in for Jenny Rees, who was injured at the time.

Worst Case Scenario helpfully advises the audience as to what to do in case of an earthquake, how to find a bomb, and most usefully... how to take a punch.

Taciturn's website is:

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English National Ballet: Ecstasy & Death



If you asked me to devise my ideal triple bill, Jiri Kylian and Roland Petit would be way at the top of the list - and I'm certainly not alone in that. So English National Ballet's first triple bill under Tamara Rojo's leadership is a dream come true, with Jiri Kylian's Petite Mort and Roland Petit's Le Jeune Homme et la Mort. And as English National Ballet is fundamentally a classical ballet company, it was only fitting that the Ecstasy & Death programme concluded with Harald Lander's Études, a quirky insight into the workings of a ballet company.

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Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre



Ten of the twelve performers are lined up across the back of the stage clutching large cardboard boxes marked ‘FRAGILE’. This label could describe the performers as much as the content of the boxes: dressed in odd assortments of clothes which appear cobbled together, they seem desperate and forlorn as snow falls around them. The vulnerability sensed in the opening of The Rite of Spring gives way to urgency and desperation as Stravinsky’s score takes off. The group pulses and pounds to the visceral thrumming of the music, played live by sister pianists Lidija and Sanja Bizjak, who also arranged the work for four hands. The performers’ commitment to the simple physicality and the intensity of the rhythm is compelling, and this opening sets up an intriguing group psychology. Add a comment

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Weekly Roundup: 13 April

We interrupt this silence to rave about all the good shows which are on in London over the next week. I'd stopped writing these roundups as it seemed a bit silly for only one or two shows every now and then, but over the next week, we are truly spoiled. Which is a really really good thing if you've seen, or if you're about to see Midnight Express.

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In his 'Brief Introduction to the Shaolin Martial Arts' in the 'Sutra' programme, Meir Shahar suggests the appealing notion that through their Shaolin martial arts training, the monks are not training their bodies for battle (being Buddhist and therefore inherently non-violent), but rather "cultivating their minds for spiritual awakening".

The movement content in Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's 'Sutra' is undeniably impressive, but there is sadly little evidence of anything deeper than incredible physicality. The presence of twenty-one Shaolin monks and Antony Gormley's sixteen large wooden boxes on the Sadler's Wells stage is, however, truly a spectacle unlike any other that's been seen for a long time.

The opening of the work sets up a relationship between Ali Thabet and the youngest of the monks, seemingly pondering deeply over a miniature version of the structure of boxes. The nature of their connection isn't completely clear, but there is a sense of Thabet playing 'puppet master' with the small boxes, dicatating what happens on a larger scale onstage, which continues throughout the work.

With his incredible skill and undeniable cute-factor, the young boy monk has the audience captivated from the start, and is responsible for many of the gently comedic moments sprinkled within 'Sutra'.

Another element of this is Ali Thabet's innate 'non-Shaolin-ness', as he moves through moments of confrontation with individuals and groups of monks, sometimes clumsily and occasionally with real skill.

The piece moves through costume changes from the traditional to more modern suits, as the monks move 'wearing' the boxes and walk in a charming, Chaplin-esque way that carves the space, followed by criss-crossing pathways of incredible tricks to the soundtrack of the monks' shouts and cries.

There is no shortage of striking imagery and heartstoppingly slick moments, and Cherkaoui excels in choreographing the space through frenetic moments and times of stillness, juxtaposing the Shaolin elements of calmness and aggression in equal measure.  

Although the monks' movement does not lend itself readily to musicality, Szymon Brzoska's beautifully-performed score keeps a constant connection to the visual action as the energies build and ebb together.

Towards the closing of the work there is a sense of reconcilliation, or conclusion, though quite from what has never been abundantly clear.


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BalletLORENT: Rapunzel



BalletLORENT's monumental debut performance at Sadler's Wells saw Rapunzel sell out with an audience of over 2000 people over the weekend.

Rapunzel unravels a fascinating and multilayered journey through a well-loved tale and is more akin to the Grimm original. What is different about this version is that it explores the husband and wife's story alongside that of the Witch, Rapunzel and the Prince. Artistic Director and choreographer Liv Lorent became interested in the fate of the husband and wife who lost their child and so there is a sense of their story throughout. This production brings together an award-winning team of collaborators, who do not disappoint, including composer Murray Gold (Doctor Who), costume designer Michele Clapton (HBO’s Game of Thrones), and poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy. There was also an inspiring cast of eight professional dancers and eleven non-professionals.

The choreography and direction by Liv Lorent chimes well with the other strands of the production, capturing the essence and intensity of the characters. At one point, Rapunzel jumps up and down repeatedly: this perfectly translates her teenage frustration at being constrained, and the idealised images of parenthood is excruciatingly beautiful. With meticulous timing and movement which appears effortless, the performers deliver in full. Gavin Coward and John Kendall as the creatures were especially engaging characters, bringing to life these 'prehistoric labradors', and one can only imagine the difficulty in moving with the weight of that hair. The scenario written by Carol Ann Duffy and retold by Lesley Sharp is clever and entrancing. The words set the scene and create epic imagery: the wife’s childlessness like " a planet without a moon ... an ocean without fish, … a tree in the orchard that bears no fruit”.

Murray Gold’s music is beautiful and penetrating, seamlessly punctuating the scenes and characters: Rapunzel's theme tune is a subtly haunting lullaby, while the Witch’s exudes suspense and wickedness. Phil Eddolls does an impressive job with his set, and this works together with Malcom Rippeth’s lighting to conjure extraordinary images. In the second half, the Witch and Prince are projected in quadruple in dark shadows on the backdrop, one of the many mesmerising visuals. Michele Clapton’s costumes are brilliant: mythical creatures, hooped skirts and a simple medieval feel which contrasts well with the ravishing reds in the set, lighting and Rapunzel’s hair. A nice touch was the design on the material of entwined branches and roots, exemplifying the flawless meshing of the different production elements.

BalletLORENT’s Rapunzel was part of Sadlers Wells’ annual two-day Family Weekend festival this easter and offered activities based on the themes of the production before and after the show. Anna Bruder, an artist involved in creating the themed art work in foyers said that it helped children relate to the darker characters and plot. This added a more immersive and interactive tone and dancers even mingled with youngsters during the intervals. That and the high quality choreography created with the non-professional dancers, illustrates balletLORENT's commitment to involving the community and the next generation of talent in their work at a meaningful level - an exceptional production and company for dance and non-dance audiences alike.


There will be further performances of Rapunzel at Oxford Playhouse on 5 & 6 April; for details and booking, please visit


You can read Zoe Parker's interview with Liv Lorent about her work and this production of Rapunzel here:


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Tom Dale Company



People often become accustomed to the dance companies which form their regular diet, which allows certain gems to slip through their would-be nets, and Tom Dale is one such gem. A British Council artist, a resident company at Dance4 (Nottingham), a DanceDigital (Essex) Associate Artist and a Déda (Derby) Associate Choreographer, it's little wonder his company only passes through London fleetingly, with just two tour dates planned: 19 and 20 April at Laban Theatre.

Refugees of the Septic Heart is more than just a dance show. A collaboration with composer Shackleton, it's a concept album with a concept-based narrative brought to life through Tom Dale's choreography, Barret Hodgson's digital arts and Kate Unwin's set design. The result is an exquisite feast for the senses which tantalises the audience for the hour of its duration - and in the case of the opening night audience, stunning them into silence for the postshow Q&A.

The set consists of blocks, apparently scattered randomly, with a disc at their centre and screens above. As the piece starts - preceded by a curtain-raiser skilfully performed by MOTUS (dancers from Birmingham Ormiston Academy) - digital projections cover both floor and set with gridlines, dots and blurry sections, which almost hide the dancers when they appear.

The digital projections skillfully change the set in each scene, from a futuristic apocalyptic setting - accentuated by Shackleton's music - to a tense everyday scene of office windows and characters dressed for work, exuding  consternation and apprehension. A lone character, Hugh Stainer, seeks to distract them by holding up a cardboard sign "Out of time"; the dancers respond by creating tableaux of their bodies around him, while in response to his sign, the music becomes more agitated, and the dancers' movement becomes more rushed.

The true wealth of Refugees of the Septic Heart, though, is in the movement: Tom Dale creates beautiful movement which is a rare joy to watch. Also a joy to watch are Tom Dale's talented dancers, who capture his ideas perfectly: the unique lithe gracefulness, with shifts in dynamics between utter stillness and fast-paced fluid movement, helping to drive the piece forward. It's rare to watch slow movement performed with such effectiveness and control, and even rarer still to watch such an accomplished collaboration between score and choreography, to the extent that both appear to be deftly taking their cues from each other, and the choreography drawing on the voiceover.

Refugees of the Septic Heart is a very rich work, with the audience being taken on a journey by Tom Dale into a futuristic world where existential themes are explored, as is the notion of an end game. It's a feast for the senses, and one to savour every moment of.


Further tour dates are:
Thurs 28 March: Pavilion Dance, Bournemouth

Tues 16 April: Lakeside Arts Centre, Nottingham

19 – 20 April: Laban Theatre, London



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In conversation with Liv Lorent

“For me, the quest is to emotionally move someone rather than impress or perplex them”. 

Having been totally mesmerised by balletLORENT’s latest show Rapunzel, Zoe Parker finally caught up with choreographer/director Liv Lorent, and here is what she had to say.

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bgroup: 'Just As We Are'



Recently cited in the Metro as one of the 'Top 5 in Demand Dance-Makers' (, and currently working on projects with English National Opera and the West End's 'Privates On Parade', as well as being a Place Prize semifinalist in both 2008 and 2012, it's safe to say there was a great deal of anticipation and even hype around Ben Wright's latest offering from his own company, bgroup.

The anticipation transferred onto the smoke-filled, red-lit stage at The Place, as two men in white lab coats surveyed the audience, then asked one woman ("you in the orange top") to join them onstage.

Positioned in front of a projector, a sequence of words flash up across her torso ('horny', 'inhaling', 'frequently hungry', 'spiritual', 'a lover', 'a liar') as four carefully-articulating bodies shift towards her. As a quintet, they move through the blank space, shifting weight and relationships to a soundtrack of heavy breathing and not much else.

There are sinister attempts to strangle, kiss and paw at the woman in the orange top - who is, in fact, dancer Allison Ahl. The group surges around Ahl as their pivotal point, and an absorbing tension builds as she is playfully thrown, deftly caught, and tickled.

A mechanical soundtrack serves as a well-placed accompaniment to these seemingly intentionally fragmented sequences that move expertly in and out of structured moments of unison. Focus shifts occasionally to others, and an angst-ridden Robert Clarke shouts from the floor before stripping off from the waist down, perhaps a step further than necessary in this otherwise cleverly subtle composition.

The dancers continue to shift in Wright's signature effortless movement style through many mini-climaxes, a pattern which is consistent throughout the work, lacking in a sense of constant building.

A continuous spiralling leads the four to gradually leave Ahl centre stage in a soft spotlight, gradually turning, arms aloft, to the heartwarming sounds of Louis Armstrong's 'What a Wonderful World'.

Exposing something very human within his performers is where Wright's direction excels, and 'two of us' (a duet for Lise Manavit and Michael Barnes, originally commissioned for the 2012 Place Prize) is a great example of this.

A contorting, pulsating, caressing Barnes is joined in the soft centre stage spotlight by Manavit's ever-powerful grace. As they intertwine in and out of each other's space, the large expansive material is interspersed with small, well-placed isolations. The two dancers magnetise closer and closer, and pianist Jon Byrne breaks the silence which had engulfed them until now.

The bare brightly-lit stage plays host to unashamedly beautiful choreography, and it's as if we're witnessing two people's private connection, until they filter away and the stage refills with red-lit smoke. The concluding section of 'Just As We Are' is 'all of us': originally 'This Moment is Your Life' for the 2008 Place Prize.

Still in his lab coat, and along with the rest of the cast and a 70's twist, Robert Clarke commandingly explains the experiment that is about to happen, to address the 'self - centred individualism' that makes people not want to risk appearing foolish. All five performers call for fifteen volunteers (again the word is explained), all of whom are given 70's attire and taught disco moves on a loop. The glitter ball, costumes, disco curtain, charisma of all on stage, and disco glasses given to the audience all work fantastically to create an infectious, raucous atmosphere that reminds us that dance is, and should be fun.

In 'Just As We Are', bgroup have achieved a brilliant equilibrium between insightful, challenging choreography, and accessing and entertaining our basic human nature. And of course, to quote one audience member, 'Life is so much better through disco glasses'.

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DeNada Dance Theatre

Certainly one of the most inventive and original works to be shown in this year's Resolution! at The Place as Carlos Pons Guerra's Young Man!, inspired by Jean Cocteau's Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, which was famously adapted for ballet by Roland Petit. Pons Guerra relocates the story to Spain, with simmering passions, lusts - and a truly unforgettable ham.


Leeds-based artist Pons Guerra has been invited to perform Young Man! at Sadler's Wells on Friday 15 March as part of the opening of the London Flamenco Festival. You should absolutely go see him. If you can, that is.

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Scottish Dance Theatre



I think it's safe to say that I am, at the best of times, extremely gullible. And I know this. But in 'Second Coming', the opening of Scottish Dance Theatre's double bill, they truly had me, and I'm fairly sure everyone around me, hook, line and sinker.

From a bare stage, house lights still up, with dancers milling around in warmup mode, we were told that there was a water leak and a consequent electrical fire backstage the previous evening. That they'd only been able to enter the space an hour previously and to allow the technicians time to set up, the dancers would simply demonstrate raw movement material from the choreographic process.

The dancers take to the stage, filtering in and out, deftly executing swift and everchanging movement sequences, creating a relaxed and intimate environment.

We're then told of a dancer being injured the previous night, and an exchange begins between technicians, setting up standing lights and shouting over the dancers; only now (despite the brilliant acting skills of Scottish Dance Theatre's technical team!) did I start to smell a rat. With a lighting state now in place, all eight performers move through a pulsating unison phrase, with solos and trios breaking out and becoming skilled and slick moments of confrontation or unity.

There is a delightful tension throughout this work, fuelled by the scratched, fragmented soundscore working against the everfluid movement material.

The charade of disastrous occurances continues and we're told that "the choreographer was fired - it got ugly". The charming sincerity with which Joan Cleville delivers this information is hilarious. He begins to demonstrate his solo ("the best till last"), and is increasingly interrupted by the wrong music, and by Jori Kerremans and Nicole Guarino. The solo becomes a duet, which becomes a trio, a slapstick, comedic, manipulative struggle for the limelight. These performers are masters of their craft, and maintain the intimate connection to each other and the audience, with a sense of constant communication throughout.

With nothing ever quite concluding, Matthew Robinson enters for a rant about choreographers' fixation with breaking down the fourth wall: "is this trying to be conceptual?!" he pleads, and is soothed and dragged ("cue the sappy music!") and once again manipulated throughout the space.

In 'Second Coming', choreographer Victor Quijada has succeeded in creating a sensitively selfaware and captivating work with incredibly-exectuted movement, sporadic violence, charming humour and satisfying unity sprinkled pleasingly throughout.

Jo Strømgren's 'Winter, Again' offers a juxtaposition to the previous work, whilst still utilising Scottish Dance Theatre's dancers' impeccable skill impeccably well. Through a screen of dirtied white paper panels, they appear and disappear, performing brilliantly overegged balletic parody movement. These surreal characters are seen mourning the loss of a number of dead birds, creeping surreptitiously with guns, wringing and clasping hands and discovering equally loving and threatening relationships.

With spine-tingling proficiency, Natalie Trewinnard enters with bandaged and bloodied eyes, whilst Maria Hayday, spoon in hand, seeks her next victim whose eyes to add to her small tin box.

Alongside the cleverly accomplished humour of 'Winter, Again', there is a bleak and somewhat sinister feeling to the work, as a voiceover narrates the meaning of winter - "hides the guilty" - and Natalie Trewinnard covers hers hands in the blood that has been relentlessly dripping into a tin bucket downstage left.

Shifting unison work, a dead deer being dragged through the space, and fleeting nudity are woven through the movement of this piece, working cohesively to create an environment that seems happy to remain somewhat unexplained, satisfyingly so.

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Franko B


There is no question of artist Franko B’s gift for generating live imagery of almost alchemical imagination. The conception and arrangement of Because of Love Volume 1 are striking in themselves; but it is the performance – in which he brings to bear his neutral, cohering presence and consummate, wordless candour – which finally endows this work with its uniquely moving qualities.

He arrives on stage in sandshoes, white singlet and shorts as the back wall flickers with a montage of political conflict, sparing us neither war atrocities nor anodyne Fifties' ads. No dancer, he paces, jogs, stands. The images pass with minimal comment from his body, and when they cease, we are sunk in a silence which  dominates much of the rest of the show.

Franko B presents himself in poses of stark simplicity, colonising the audience with his gaze. He draws a line on a blackboard and permits us to ponder it for a good five minutes; he stands on profile, staring into the wings for five minutes more. That the audience is palpably captive is a testament to some uncanny truth about human presence, his lightness of touch, and an almost metaphysical wisdom in letting time and space speak for themselves. He is a performer you trust absolutely, immediately, for his unadorned vulnerability. No pretense here.

As he kneels and draws a length of cotton chord from across the stage, the piping song of a child reveals fragmented episodes from his ‘autobiography’. Each one comes as a sudden surprise, and what is literally personal, or vicarious, or ‘appropriated experience’, is both unclear and of no final importance. All is deeply felt, and shared.

As he repeatedly lies and rolls off a table, hot water bottle flopping and dropping beside him, life has sent him tumbling, it seems. He cannot get comfortable, and the mood of the piece cradles discomfort, saturates it in awareness. Discomfort is the fact it presents without horror, and with this comes the immediate, paradoxical effect of soothing and union.

Franko B knows how to range beyond humanity, too. The plight of a hapless space dog unfolds as a stretch of eclectic magic, in all its unsuspecting innocence, oblivion and lonely adventure. There are taxidermised fox heads too. He chooses animals that are troubled and severed, in danger somehow. Consider the ten-foot polar bear: a remote-controlled robot and the show’s magnetic centerpiece. One wonders by what arbitrary force it assumes archetypal resonance, but it does. The performer’s communion with it peaks in a dance to a stuttering, ultimately carnivalesque piano piece by Othon, two figures reconciling a hinted absence in their mutual colour of amnesiac white.

Hailed as a departure from previous work, Because of Love Volume 1 brings life’s intimate pain and strangeness to the stage and transmutes it, with a universalizing gaze, simplicity, acceptance and reassuring calm.


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