Category Archives: Dance

Review Lay Down Your Burdens, Rhiannon Faith Company, Barbican Centre by Tanica Psalmist

Lay Down Your Burdens by Rhinannon Faith Company explores themes of judgement, depression, trauma, loss, grief, serious illness and personal suffering.

From immersive to interactive the audience is fully immersed in and around the stage to feel the sensory experiences within the pub atmosphere. As you enter there is a combination of bar stool seating, where you may get a Mocktail or Guinness on the house from the generous landlady, Sarah! however, don’t forget the ”eyes, eyes” before you take your shot!

This production uniquely, contains philosophical, meaningful and enriching messages throughout! Taking you on a surreal adventure of emotional distress, attachment and self neglect. However, there’s ample space made for selected audience members to display appreciation, honesty and deeper insights of gratitude whilst simultaneously magnifying nostalgic memories, articulated poetically from everyone who courageously approached the microphone on stage, which was obliviously looped to create an impressive thread, echoing symbolically towards the end, mystifyingly the shared theme of love; what it takes to love, the simplicity of why we love and our personal lived experiences due to a lack of love.

Lay Down Your Burdens features liberating choreographed physical theatre movements. The ambience of live music played throughout; magnetically paved the way for individual stories and dance sequences to expand on conscious awakening, growth, relationships, chances, self-healing, fulfilment, conviction, vulnerability, infinity, embracement, encounters, barriers, conflict, purpose and hope collectively, fully exalted through the vibration of sound & frequencies.

Each string instrument released the chords of pain, strength, fear, loneliness and intention, as we unlearnt patterns to how we survive & cope to avoid threat, pursue happiness and success. As we repetitively vocalised the statement ‘I carry you & you carry me’, the expression of movement alongside the intrinsic decoding of our natural rhythm and synchronicity, helped to form the basis of human touch, soul connections, love languages, verbal & non verbal communication, highlighting deeper resonances from our past, present and future; infused with the good, the bad & the ugly episodes.

Overall, Lay Down Your Burdens is packed with the right dose of humour, audience participation and experimental play. You can’t help but form authentic bonds, due to the universally related themes and intimacy, whilst getting lost in the moment you will inevitably escape fantasy to touch and dive deep into reality. This show is highly recommended!

Review Songs of Songs, Barbican Centre by Tanica Psalmist

Song of Songs, choreographed by Pam Tanowitz collaborates with composer David Lang, The production is inspired by an exploration of Jewish dance history, establishing two worlds of surrealism and transparency to create an equilibrium of openness and realness. Produced by Caleb Hammons and Jason Collins to infuse the notion of life, beauty, magic, compassion and human connectivity within the association of life in a divine interlinked extract of percussion music, poetry and movement that liberates ancient rituals of sincerity, dignity and agape.  

Song of Songs as a biblical poem of yearning, magnetically and majestically astral travelling the audience into an invigorating journey diving into tangible elements of experiences within the physical realm, within the real world.    

In this production, the instinctive essence of New York-based Tanowitz beautifully expands on classical dance using metaphorical distinctive language to examine chapters of complexity and freedom simultaneously. The empowerment was deeply engrained through delicate lifts, light head turns, soft dim lights overhead spins and captivating gentle touch, eye glances over poetical sounds and sacred tradition.

Review Moss, Barbican Centre by Tanica Psalmist

MOS, presented by Barbican and Dance Umbrella, choreographed by Ioanna Paraskevopoulou, playfully explored the relationship between sound and movement in bewitching different ways. Featuring multimedia & pumping vigorous, upbeat looping sounds filtered into the space; accompanied by surrounding plungers, steel bins, a mini wooden door, forest leaves and twigs, tap dancing shoes, roller-skates, a basketball, sticks, sand trays & many more intriguing objects across the entire stage.

Each rehearsed & choreographed expression of sound and movement was perfectly synchronised to the tuned out media, tightly reflective of gestures played out by the actors who hypnotically worked in duality to devise repetition and rhythm to outlet electrifying energy to stimulate our gaze & catch our attention throughout. The visual imagery was acted out by the actors using various sounds from each object in a vibrant way, which allowed the mind to ignite imagination, as the actors enthusiastically watched each action acted out by mimicking the storytelling narratives from the screen, creating an intimate reality to watch the screen and occasionally observe the motion on the stage simultaneously, as we immersed into two separate worlds, consisting of animated expression blended in with real time sound effects and dance, very impressive to watch!

MOS, is an exciting fusion of humour and poetical metaphors through expansive movements and sound. This production ended with tap dancing moves, grooves & of course; sound, looped over & over through potent vibrations and high frequencies, which circulated non-stop energy, passion, innovation and creativity; until they both yearned for the essence of silence, naked quietness, appreciation of soundless motion to alter the ambience and atmosphere; which left us finding the beauty, thriller and adventure, getting lost in radio waves, echos and muffled noise. In and out volumes & subtitles highlighted the themes; in-figurative souls, delicacy, enchantment, discrete, frightened, petrified and unapologetic incentives as we moved in-between different effects, genuine expression and fluid energy.

Review: Marina Abramović: A Visual Biography & Institute Takeover, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Arguably, Marina Abramović is one of the most influential and incredible Performance Artists of all time. Her methods of challenging the body, of challenging the social norm, of breaking boundaries and being raw and in your face has transformed much of the performance landscape over the past 50 years and inspired many an artist, including myself.

Abramović is everywhere in London at the moment. Not only with her new book launch, A Visual Biography and her Institute Takeover, both at the Southbank Centre, she is also taking the Royal Academy by storm as the first solo woman performer in their main space and with an opera, 7 Deaths of Maria Callas at the English National Opera. For a woman who was literally on death’s door only a couple of months ago, at 76, Abramović is still pushing boundaries and her body to extremes for art. And us number one fans are happy she still is.

After her memoir in 2016, A Walk Through Walls, telling the story of her life in Belgrade and her art across the world, you wouldn’t think there was much more for her to tell us about. This raw and personal memoir seemed to feature it all, her life, her feelings, her failures, her successes. But in this new book, A Visual Biography, she has teamed up with arts and fiction writer, Katya Tylevich, to delve into her aeroplane hangers full of memorabilia of her life to bring new stories, new insights and plenty of memories.

With both Abramović and Tylevich on stage, this book release felt a lot more casual and free than I remember A Walk Through Walls launch to be. Abramović seemed relaxed, she made us laugh constantly and her stories and anecdotes were mesmerising. There was something changed in her, possibly with a near death experience recently, A Visual Biography seems more a celebration of who Marina is and less about how her work came to be. While her first memoir featured much about her family, she now tells us more of those moments you remember from your childhood. At the time, many seem like terrifying scenarios but certainly ones to be appreciated and laughed at now.

Abramović is hugely engaging and an hour and half did not seem enough to listen to her. She is captivating in her own right, without her magnificent art, with a life full of unique experiences and humbleness.

Following from this, Abramović and the Abramović Institute have taken over the Queen Elizabeth Hall, from front of house to the backstage and areas likely unseen by most of the public. Using the Abramović method, the artists are encouraged to present long duration work over several hours across a number of spaces, allowing the audience to self-lead their experience. Marina herself is not performing, but there’s enough essence of her in each performance to not feel at all cheated.

This was opening night and therefore, taking into account any problems with this. It seemed that much was delayed, from the opening of the venue itself to some of the works. Once you were in, you could see lots in the foyer but the knowledge there is more behind the scenes that you couldn’t quite yet access yet was tantalising but also confusing at times. Once everything opened up, the freedom to roam felt enjoyable and clear, with signs noting spaces and doors you couldn’t enter. It felt like a little treasure hunt throughout the building.

As time went by, the crowds increased and there were many smaller performances in tiny spaces that developed long queues. All performances are well worth the wait but you need to be prepared that some may need a wait. As they are durational, there are a number that change as time goes on, and so instead of doing a once round, always take the journey around a few times as it is ever changing.

Performances ranged from almost no movement, to abusive and loud anarchy, to continual movement pieces. There was something for everyone, including interaction from potato peeling to unusual yet childlike chats with a group of clones. Each art and artist has created something unique and perpetrating to their lives and what they wanted to convey and each was fascinating on their own and in comparison as you crossed from one to the other.

Audiences are almost forced in close quarters at times with one another, and there’s a almost meta sense of freedom to roam but at the same time, being confined closely with strangers. It is an extraordinary exhibition that we wouldn’t have dreamed of having in 2020 during a pandemic.

The sheer determination and strength of the performers, their bodies and concepts are incredible. Not one looked bored. Not one looked as if they were not fully in their space and performance. And this is what is awe inspiring and incredible. One performer spends the entire performance, melting a block of ice with their own bare body… when you think how you feel holding an ice cube for a short time, this on a larger scale without any break in character is impressive and thought provoking. Abramović notes in her book launch that a fit and almost dancer body is needed for her type of work – to sit still or move slowly/hold a position for a long time is actually painful and an experience little of us ever have or will have. We are used to moving when uncomfortable, but this is often not an option in these scenarios.

Marina Abramović Institute Takeover is an immersive, performance art exhibition and experience unlike any other. It is the height of contemporary art and each piece is unlike anything seen before. You may not be seeing Marina herself perform, but the heart of her influence and method is abundant in each performance, while leaving room for the artist to be their own.

Review, Eun-Me Ahn’s Dragons, Barbican Centre, London by James Ellis

Photo credit: Sukmu Yun

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

In my first dance piece seen at the Barbican Theatre, we had a brief yet envigouring stint. Choreographer Eun-Me Ahn has taken under her wing emerging dancers from all over Asia. It’s very humbling and touching to see her support for artists who are at the starting point of their careers, their talents taken flight both in tour and nationally.

Though the show about halfway through halts to introduce some of the dancers (name, country of origin and why choose dance?), we get to know them a bit better, breaking down assumed barriers. Other dancers on screens appear blurred and compressed, though we would later realise that these were the ones who could not make it, Covid playing it’s part to dampen ambition.

The work itself started off strong, strange and wonderful usage of grey ventilation ducting. These might just be our dragons in question, no? These pipes are treated with a fluid creativity, a total highlight. They adorn costumes, make speakers for a makeshift stereo, they cover the stage from floor to rafters and evoke much rope play. The dances meld somewhere between traditional and the experimental. The humour shone through for many smile evoking moments, usually from Ahn herself or a colourful costume wowing in absurd styling.

The heavy use of screens for the moments without absent dancers had less charm. At times, lucious, in other moments it remained a bit tacky. Some underwater scenes were eye candy and some of the effects fusing live dancer and the imagery on screen could work. The show was a little too long, I think it could have been a solid hour. A queer vain glided through as well, something I lapped up with cross dressing and those glorious, golden shortS which I’ll never forget.

The dances may have been mixed with glides, near performance art, returns to traditional elements of the art and whacky contemporary elements. It might not have always glued together, but it is very sweet to see talented artists flourishing in their prime. Consider me a fan.

Dragons continues to The Lowry, Salford. 

Review ‘Dragons’ Eun-Me Ahn Company, Barbican by Tanica Psalmist

Pioneering South Korean choreographer Eun-Me Ahn, premiere’s the exquisite production Dragons. Witnessing ‘Dragons’ is a fusion of both traditional and modern dance styles, centred around music and non-stop movement infusing culture, rhythm and poetical essence from across Asia, which connects the young with the elders, where they both come to terms with the concepts, changes to embrace the vitality of an inter-connected world that calls for adaption, simplicity and interpersonal growth to with an inevitable changing & circulating universe, world & dimension. 

The feature of holograms throughout Dragons gives this production a special, diverse energy into the captivating space created by the Avantgarde choreographer Eun-Me Ahn’s latest kaleidoscopic production, which exhibited an empowering execution from her extraordinary company of flexibly enchanting dancers, who individually interacted on stage with holograms of five inspiring young performers from Malaysia, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan.

Education, warmth, freedom, water & all the in-between to reflect expression, movement, liberation, originality takes formulation of movement, touch, physicality and sensuality, sprung culture, solidarity and global unification. The vibrancy of colour whether through the clothing, traditional outfits, holograms and or significant lighting cinematic effect; brought the space alive and told a story of beauty, love, passion, progression, soul purpose, magnitude, togetherness, hope, future endeavours, vulnerability & success.

Above-all, Dragons is a fantastic way to absorb the power of Asian past and present culture, whilst bringing about a collective form of magnet impulsivity and grip of focused gratitude and feeling of emotions, service and the ability to feel music, contemporary and hip hop dance, alongside traditional dance movement in a non-unapologetic and self accepting way.

Reciprocal Gestures:A new season of dance and movement at Chapter

Image: Marathon of Intimacies: Jo Fong & Anuishye Yarnell, courtesy the artists.

Chapter is thrilled to announce Reciprocal Gestures: A Season of Movement and Dance, this September to December. The curated programme will celebrate shared moments and explorations of masculinity, queerness, ageing, the after-lives of colonialism, intimacy and community with performances and events from Gareth Chambers, Seke Chimutengwende, Emilyn Claid, Lewys Holt, Good News from the Future, Anushiye Yarnell and Groundwork Collective.

Across this season, performances from some of the most exciting contemporary dance artists come together alongside talks, open classes, scratch nights, screenings and special events, to put artistic sharing at the centre.

Chapter’s performance programme is a space for experimental and interdisciplinary live art practices, where artists are supported to take risks and audiences can find exciting, original, and accessible works. Chapter’s commitment to this work speaks to the rich history of supporting radical live art practices, and it’s unique position in Cardiff as a multi-artform venue with the capacity to support artists to develop their practice and share their work in dynamic ways.

Performance Curator Kit Edwards, shares some of her thoughts on this exciting new programme:

“The dance ecology in Wales is at a particularly exciting moment where artists across disciplines are coming together for creative exchange. A strong community of artists working with dance have made Chapter their home and we’re keen to celebrate what they’ve built and bring it into conversation with some incredible international dance artists who are performing in Wales for the first time.”

Find out more here

Review: Oat Milk & Honey, Mo-Ko Piano & Circus, Ed Fringe, By Hannah Goslin

 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

In a small, circular lecture theatre, we are brought an avant-garde expression of anxiety through the forms of dance, circus, music and .. oh a Llama.

From an Australian duo, Oat Milk & Honey quite effectively use their platform to share how anxiety feels, not only for the person experiencing it but also the impact on others.

There is no narration or vocals bar the occasional breath of the moving performer and pre-recorded voice overs but the silence is filled with beautiful, original compositions which occasionally go off-piste to express the interruption anxiety can create.

It feels relatively slow paced and it would have been interesting if there had been a change of pace. There was a little of this, interrupting the seriousness with an element of comedy when a performer comes in dressed as a Llama, reflecting the fact of serotonin created from watching Llama’s run which we hear at the beginning in a voice over.

There’s no doubt that both of these performers have great talent in their own right; a talented composer and musician and a very flexible and powerful dancer, circus performer. And each part of this performance is really interesting to watch but continues at the same pace which loses attention.

Oat Milk & Honey is transcendental and soothing, with a poke of humour but needed some different speed levels to keep the intrigue.

Review Peaky Blinders – The Redemption of Thomas Shelby,Ballet Rambert, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff by Barbara Michaels

Peaky Blinders – The Redemption of Thomas Shelby

Ballet Rambert, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff

Writer and Creator: Steven Knight, CBE

Choreographer and Director: Benoit Swan Pouffer

Composer and Orchestration: Roman GianArthur

Reviewer: Barbara Michaels

 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

No need to stress if you didn’t watch the TV series.  Ballet Rambert’s Peaky Blinders is in a class of its own, unique both as a production and as a dance form. Although danced in the main in contemporary dance style with more than a touch of street dancing – razors, knives etc – choreographer and director Benoit Swan Pouffer uses classical dance moves too. Not only uses them but dares to improvise, building on to the traditional with innovative use of classical ballet moves – with a dancer even performing a plié in mid-air.

Beginning with a brilliantly depicted scene from the battlefields of World I, the ballet moves through the life of one Tommy Shelby down the years, showing through him the ways in which those who fought in this horrendous war were affected throughout their lives even in they survived – a living death, as it were.  As it moves on through the post-war years, Tommy’s life segues into a violent world full of murders and gang warfare, with knives and razors flashed – the latter hidden in and the raison d’ètre for – the peaked caps that gave the gang its name. This historically accurate production is not for the faint-hearted, but is well worth taking a deep breath and immersing oneself in what it portrays through dance form.

Creator Steven Knight, who wrote the original script for TV and together with Pouffer, adapted it into dance form, uses a live band on stage throughout for gunfire, air raid sirens and a plethora of music and sounds which works well in tandem with ever-changing themes composed and orchestrated by Roman GianArthur. Natasha Chivers’ lighting aids and abets, of particular note being the scene with searchlight beams and in the second half where an opium-fuelled Tommy descends into a living hell.  Benjamin Zephaniah’s voiceover is both necessary and succinct, while set designer Moi Tran’s clever sets lend an authentic and atmospheric touch throughout: a colourful carousel lends a light touch for one scene. Having the dancers on two levels gives additional scope but at this venue means that audiences in stall seats are unable to see the dancers’ legs!  Ben Zephaniah’s voiceover is both necessary and well done but pre-recorded vocals – recordings of different tracks which, despite being relevant, are over-loud for much of the time.  

The love story between Shelby and his long-time sweetheart disappears and resurfaces throughout lending a necessary lightness of touch, as does a great scene in the second half with dancers dressed in costumes by costume designer Richard Gellar reminiscent of photos of Marilyn Monroe in her early days (a la Moulin Rouge or Talk of the Town for those old enough to remember these iconic London night spots!)

Ballet Rambert is justifiably famed for the high standard of its dancers, and this production underlies this with memorable moves executed with skill. Mention must be made here, in addition to the expertise of the dancers – notably Naya Lovell, Simone Damberg Würtz and Caiti Carpenter -of Musa Motha who, despite losing a leg to cancer when he was just ten years old, does not let that factor deter him in any way, resulting in a performance that is a privilege to watch not only for its depiction of the role but its perfection of technique.

Runs until Saturday March 25th at Wales Millennium Centre Cardiff, then touring.

Pioneers, Ballet Black, Barbican Centre by Tanica Psalmist.

Cassa Pancho is the founder & Artistic Director of Ballet Black. Upon her graduation in 2001, she gained a degree in classical ballet where her journey to found Ballet Black began, produced with the aim to provide role models for young, aspiring black and Asian dancers to feel empowered irrespective of the discrimination black ballerinas continue to experience worldwide.

Pioneers by Black Ballet, Co-commissioned & performed at the Barbican Centre is a time travelling storytelling, adventure of dance, poetry, jazz, music, passion, magic and aspiration. Featuring nine breath-taking dancers named: Jose Alves, Sayaka Ichikawa, Isabela Coracy,Mthuthuzeli November, Ebony Thomas, Alexander Fadayiro, Helga Paris-Morales, Taraja Hudson and Rosanna Lindsey.

William Tuckett, choreographer of the first section of the ‘Then Or Now, takes the audience Into an adventure of love, war, connection and human experiences. The work features poetry by Adrienne Rich (1929-2012), directed by Fiona L Bennett, with poetry recordings from Hafsah Bashir, Natasha Gordon & Michael Shaeffer. The costume designer was by Yukiko Tsukamoto. The concept of using poems was distinctive, meaningful and enchanting. The themes explored were attachment, love, hope and the journey of humanity.  During this set, we symbolically see character building, the symbolic passing objects to reflect connection and warmth in an abstract way and expressed through grandiose ballet movements of fluidity, subtle gestures, soft lifts and poetical turns.

The second half features Mthuthuzeli November’s Nina: By Whatever Means. This work embarks on storytelling the life journey of Nina Simone. Each dance piece demonstrates Nina’s zest for life, her influential messages, her spiritual nature and sound – risen from her powerful statements in the past such as; ‘An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times‘. During the beautiful melodic set of her track ‘Sinnerman’ we are exposed to how Nina worked all her life to become a black classical pianist, growing into a beautiful woman with ambition, life and depth. It was evident whilst watching that the aim of retelling Nina Simone was not to play her greatest hits but to show her fight for success, passion and reflect how she set herself for us the right way to be artists. 

It was magnifying to re-live Nina Simone showcasing her talent live in this piece of work, especially due to the impact that was well portrayed choreographically, as it foretold the feel her music had, her breath and attitude, as well as her struggles, battles and turmoil she faced, where the rest of the dancers became her inner demons, as well as her inner powers, which was moving to see.

Starting off with Baby Nina, the aim is clear that her story is to be told choreographically and not show the legacy of her life musically. Telling her story & her life journey from being young and innocent, unexpecting of non-stop worldly attacks for becoming a conscious black musician and soulful artist for humanity. The theme being loss and power, due to how black lives are forced to lose their innocence but restored again by finding and fighting back with power.

The Ballerina ‘Isabela Coracy’ who played Nina Simone quoted ‘Every night is an investigation to play Nina simone to know who she truly was, there are loads of ballets to learn and therefore, she is still discovering how to capture the details of Nina Simone through dance to reflect her sense of power correctly, especially when listening to her song ‘Sinnerman’ what it represents and the incredible burning love she had for humanity. 

Ballet Black is a safe space that evidently reopens eyes to know what it means to be an artist and acknowledge non-discrimination as a top principal, where you can think about being an artist to embark on the notion that aims to continue to normalise freedom, diversity, empowerment and love within society.

NINA: By Whatever Means: Co-commissioned by the Barbican.
Choreography: Mthuthuzeli November
Lighting: David Plater
Costume design: Jessica Cabassa
Composers: Mandisi Dyantyis, Mthuthuzeli November & Nina Simone (1954-2002) Featuring the
voices of the Zolani Youth Choir