Elephant in the Room // Lanre Malaolu

Bouncing across the stage of Camden People’s Theatre, Lanre Malaolu uses the physical to reflect the social. His movement on stage mirrors his movement through life, echoing the way his body as a black man in Britain today is seen, read, and considered by others. Taking on stereotypes but looping them, making them strange by heightening and twisting their dynamics, his athletic investment adds weight to what might otherwise be familiar representations. The characters Malaolu embodies are varied, from the inspirational football coach to someone all cocky young swagger. They are each archetypes of identity consistently played out in television, film and the media, from news reports to Channel 4 drama. He differentiates each through a discrete posture (like a slouch in a Nando’s booth), and/or a series of sparse actions (sedately trimming hair in a barbershop). 

Although distinct, within the show these different characters, both the central ‘Michael’ and the unnamed others, could easily also make sense as a single figure – one person rendered in multiple fragments. Malaolu’s shifting shows how the articulate and inspirational speech given to even younger men in a half-time huddle might itself cloak a deep insecurity, always at risk of fracturing under the pressure. Or how the wisdom of an older man might reflect a lifetime of the same pressures he now gives advice on. In doing so it makes plain how the marginalizing operations of society relies on those it puts under pressure to prop up those it will fall on next. 

As much as each set of movements, postures and different voices delineate characters, Malaolu’s performance adds one more. The body of a trained dancer, the way someone moves who has put in the time to learn his technique, is itself an embodiment of a personality. A way to exist in the world, a way to define your own body, from the mastery of steps to the poise of the stance. It controls the gaze of the audience, the way the body is seen, in a way that those young men represented here are usually denied. 

-      Lewis Church


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Lanre Malaolu

Elephant In the Room – Guardian

‘Up My Streets’ Project – MIND

Perceptions of Young Black Men – Independent

MANDEM– Media platform for young men of colour.

100 Black Men of London 


Every time I see Jamila Johnson Small dancing in Fury I remember how it feels to stand on a dance floor undulating, oscillating, swinging and wavering. 

I used to be a party girl, and as such have often lost track of many things going on around me whilst I was trying to lose myself. 

Every time I see Jamila Johnson Small dancing in Fury I can look for those things, trying to recognise me and the indistinct multitudes that trundle around a dance floor seeking for love. We are all falling, and slouching, and seeking for love.

- Camilla Carè

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Last Yearz Interesting Negro (Jamila Johnson-Small) - Fury1/FuryZ

Art in the Club - Crack Magazine

Dance Memory - Duke University

Clubbing, Dancing, Ecstasy, Vitality - Ben Malbon

Hope Hunt and the Ascension into Lazarus // Oona Doherty

The audience hubbub subsides as a clapped-out old car with a bin bag taped over the front passenger side window revs up to just in front of Vooruit, its shell suited occupants diving out to fall to the floor. From the car blasts out music, lyrics suggesting the Northern Irish origin and Belfast base of the artist. People crane their heads in the drizzle to see over the shoulders of people in front of them, and the two who tumbled from the car continue to dance.

This street scene makes sense as the place where the piece begins. It reminds me of the earlier days of teenage licenses, aimless driving around and the blaring of music on suburban streets. Of brief furtive incursions into the city, from where you live to where it all happens. And then the car drives off, leaving the artist alone in the road with the reedy bass from the car fading off into the distance. This forlorn figure, angry in their loneliness, turns back to the crowd.  

Go inside the theatre! Go inside the theatre!’ they bellow.

Obligingly trudging up endless stairs and taking up seats, the solo movement which follows trips and wallows in the universal visual language of bored and disaffected men. Gender is the subject throughout, a physical and vocal cycling through anger, cockiness and vulnerability in language after language - from German to English to guttural cough. The transition from space to space is as smooth as the invisible seams between dialect shifts, suggesting perhaps a universal European anxiety, an illustration of a free movement of deprivation, forgetfulness and the rejection of empathy that prowls round the backs of our superficial wealth. 

The solo ends in rapturous choral form, before the back doors swing open to reveal the picture of the missing driver, long lost from the car and alone at a cheap folding table. Watching tinny football on a glowing laptop whilst drinking beer. It’s an image that could be snapped in any country in the world of an isolated man and the undocumented experience of small room unhappiness. The audience are invited to share a beer in the space of the stage, a social bond to be formed in the dim half-light from the sad picture behind. The move-down begins and ends in the slow shuffle of feet, with drinks clasped to our breasts like guards against feeling. The football plays on. 

-      Lewis Church

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Oona Doherty - Hope Hunt and the Ascension in Lazarus

Oona Doherty takes on Belfast’s Hardest Men - Irish Times

La danse virulente et poétique d’Oona Doherty - Le Monde (en Français)

The Crisis in Modern Masculinity - Guardian

A Tale of Two Masculinities - The New European

Fury1/FuryZ // Last Yearz Interesting Negro, Rowdy SS and Shelley Parker


Standing in a club space with occasional flashes to illuminate the dancing body and the active DJ. Wielded by the audience, beams of torchlight tracing back the gaze and the slow traverse of the space by a single figure on the floor, watched over by the music. Snatches of text singing out of the audio blur. 


Sitting on a dance floor, staring up at the dancer weaving between the crowd and moving on the high podium. A whispered negotiation of support leading to a step up the back of a kneeling man. Furious dance filled with flashes of neon colour. Transitions across the floor to these stages as much a part of its content as what happens up there.


In both, the music pounding through my chest as it does through the body of the dancer. Involuntary swaying and nodding around the central defiance of the performer, the audience perhaps unsure of their expected role but staring away. Left in the moment, outside but in.

In both, the intricacies of experience traced across the body by the eyes of those watching. An assertion of experience, of difference and sameness marked by race/gender/sex/ability. Each of the pieces unstable in its liveness and immediate in its impact.

Sound as a partner not accompaniment, responsive to the movement of the crowd as much as the journey of the dancer. Blurring the border between ‘dance’ and ‘Dance’, the questions of form and participation that define and insist on integrity to established forms. 

- Lewis Church

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Last Yearz Interesting Negro (Jamila Johnson-Small) - Fury1/FuryZ

Rowdy SS (Soundcloud)

Shelley Parker (Soundcloud)

Different Angles - AQNB

In Conversation with Last Yearz Interesting Negro - Skin Deep

Some Thoughts on Capital-D Dance - Movement Research

21 Pornographies // Mette Ingvartsen

The performance pivots on a body harsh in the light, with power, sex and violence evoked through the calm narration of decadent sexuality. Dukes, kings and magistrates taking part in an orgy of privilege are slowly revealed through a slow drip of context, delivered by the artist in a measured storyteller’s tone. Ingvartsen orients the audience within the geography of the narrative. The room within her description is layered over the top of the one we sit in. Watching quietly becomes participation and culpability, a rehearsal of our own participation in the desiring looks that run under the societies we walk through. It reveals our acceptance of sexualised interactions and of abuse used as a plot point, and the fictionalisation of experiences that are a reality to thousands across the world.  It raises the unequal dynamics of power at play in who gets to see and who gets to be seen as a sexual being.

Part of a series of choreographies (the ‘Red Pieces’) that explore sexuality, Ingvartsen draws those listening into the decadence she narrates. But this storytelling continually contrasts against the fierce and sudden use of movement. Ingvartsen barks like a dog through swift image flashes, unsettling the conventions of interaction with the audience set up moments before. Bare skin glows under naked strip light, and smoke, strobe and dance provide a parallel narrative to the text the artist recites. Occasionally aligning but rarely exact, the significance of the movement is one that builds to question looking itself through the brightness of light. Watching the body spin becomes impossible to sustain, forcing the audience to look away as their eyes involuntarily close against the glare. Noise explodes forth without warning to disrupt the passive listening to stories of sexual atrocity.

The dissonant combination of text and movement requires careful attention to the questions it asks. The piece offers no solution or remedy but stages and makes explicit the tension within the display of the body in a culture of desiring looks.

     Lewis Church

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Mette Ingvartsen - 21 Pornographies

Mette Ingvartsen - Delving into Dance

The Voice of the StorytellerThe New York Times

Sex, Health and Society - The Conversation

The Representation of Women in Advertising - AdAge

Dad Dancing // Rosie Heafford, Alexandrina Hemsley and Helena Webb

Over the past month or so, choreographers Rosie Heafford, Helena Webb and I have been working with a supporting cast of people local to Gloucester on our show Dad Dancing (2012 onwards). It is a show that came about when our three dads would come to see our dance performances at Laban back in 2009, completely befuddled by what we were up to. It has grown into a show that reflects on the role of fatherhood - acknowledging the diversity within these roles and how they are taken up. We work with dads, father-figures and children of any age to tease out tender portraits of what’s at stake between and within these relationships.

It’s a project whose emotional weight strikes me at different points. Composing from the external vantage point of choreographers to sharing the lived experiences and dynamics of our own father-child relationships is very affecting. More and more, I think that the show asks for resilience and vulnerability to be intertwined particularly for the supporting cast. It is an ask that we as a creative team nurture as best we can. Our process spends time dancing altogether with the  simple but dedicated task of listening to the textures found within music and our internal rhythms. Our hope is that engaging in these acts of improvisation reveals the joy of movement, the space dancing offers to process emotion and an ever-changing sense of togetherness that can be evoked as a group. 

On stage, I had a sense of collective building, revealing and witnessing. Resting post-show now, I am reflecting on how important these three actions are when considering relationships between parents and their children, more nuanced understandings of parenting roles that undo gendered inequality and the need for society and governments to better understand the diversity of father roles and re-shape policies that represent and support this. 

- Alexandrina Hemsley


Links Relevant to this diagnosis:

Dad Dancing at Strike A Light 2018 

Putting Dads in the Data - Fatherhood Institute

Paternity Rights - Guardian

YAYAYA AYAYAY // Ultimate Dancer and Robbie Thomson

Entering one by one through dark curtains, the start of this performance feels ritualistic. Inside: darkness. Ushers guide the audience using glow-in-the-dark gloves that gleam like palm pilots. The eye is drawn irresistibly to every scrap of phosphorescent tape and each tiny LED – the depth of the dark is disorientating. But rather than confuse, it seems designed only to gently remove our preoccupation with time and space. Darkness can do that, especially when coupled with isolation, like people who have spent weeks living in unlit caves, or five days in a darkness retreat in Berlin conceiving a show. Our eyes are given time to adapt to the dark, but even though the performance is just an hour, it is still hard to know how fast time is passing, if at all. 

The Greek meaning of ‘theatre’ was ‘the seeing place’. To perform in total darkness may seem counterproductive, yet it has been a rich source of experimentation since at least 1998, when Battersea Arts Centre put on a seminal programme of theatre, music, dinner, comedy and poetry, all consumed in the dark. This season's aim was to unleash the power of the spoken word. In YAYAYA AYAYAY, the few spoken words are slowed, stretched and repeated with the help of digital manipulation amid throbbing tones and waveforms from the mixing desk. The sounds that make up the words are isolated, distorted, reunited; new articulations emerge – mantras and roars – before revealing their original meaning.

Apparently tethered to the sound of the voice, lights encroach fleetingly and then start to dispel the darkness, moving through it, revealing something of the space around. Under the right conditions, the human eye can respond to a single photon of light. For most people, the light continually around us stops us ever seeing that sensitively. In the half-light, the tenth-light, the hundredth-light of this performance, the eye catches and latches on to glimpses, mirages, illusions; a primal body materialising from the shimmering gloom and fading back into darkness. The effect is mind-altering, magical, cathartic.

And whether it was seeing this performance or just the start of spring in the city, the light the following morning had a different, more magical quality.

- Michael Regnier


Links relevant to this diagnosis

YAYAYA AYAYAY - Ultimate Dancer

Ultimate Dancer - Exeunt

Performing Arts' Relationship with Ritual - UNESCO

Why Does It Take So Long for Our Eyes to Adjust to A Darkened Room?  - Scientific American 

The Caves of Forgotten Time – The Atlantic

BAC’s Playing in the Dark Programme,1998

Theatre in the Dark: Shadow, Gloom and Blackout in Contemporary Theatre (2017)

Life In the Dark – Neuroanthropology Blog 

What Are the Limits of Human Vision? - BBC Future

Together Alone // Chen-Wei Lee and Zoltan Vakulya

The space is bare - white dance floor laid down in a black box theatre. Three scribbles of white florescent lights are suspended near the back. Within this abstracted space, the nude figures of choreographers and performers Zoltan Vakulya and Chen-Wei Lee resist static objecthood and make their first contact. This sparse arena hosts two people musing upon one another, gently meeting through touch. 

Our non-verbal communication/haptic communication develops so that we may know ourselves, others and the world through touch. Haptic knowledges are a key source material for dancing and coming to understand the world non-verbally in this way is shared across many species. It can be argued that such touch-led perceptions hold a lower status that our rational, verbal modes of communicating, relating and coming to know our environments. In contrast, this dance of swings, curves and counterbalances prioritises sensorial knowledge. As Vakulya and Lee’s bodies ride the momentum that their bodies conjure up from the ground; catching, sharing and releasing gravity between them, constant touch becomes a driving force. 

In their deft and assured movement, the sculptures ‘We Two’ and ‘Embrace’ by Gaylord Ho come to mind. In these works, contact points between two figures are foregrounded over the rest of the forms. Sometimes parts of the body are absent, further highlighting the sites of connection. There is a similar experience watching Together Alone - flickerings of flesh meeting are highlighted as bodies organise and re-organise themselves around points of contact, orbiting each other's centres. 

A question about pleasure hangs in the air. So too do associations with touch that can heal, support, communicate, trigger sensations of violence, of love and of care. 

A memory comes to me of Nancy Stark-Smith dancing in Fall After Newton, specifically, the lines her body swings through space.

At one point, Vakulya and Lee’s shadows are cast on the floor next to them. These shadows make the contact between their iliac crests blend into one another. The shadows are more porous than their bodies are and my question about pleasure begins to be answered. I think about sweat, temperature, the sensation of how it must feel to be so close to another and swing arms while exhaling warmth into the face of the person opposite you. I think of the places bodies fit together and how this interlocking can fuel movement. Eye to chin, armpit to kneecap, nape to forearm; each link propelling the search for the next. 

Charleston-like steps appear and bodies reveal their buoyancy, laughing and shimmering with abandon. In the closing parts, everything slows. The figures knot and unknot. They return to sculptural forms but their combination is now twin-like, pod-like and into an amorphous biped creature. 

Vakulya and Lee continue, sensitively indulging in their articulations with soft gazes, until they finish, spinning into black.

- Alexandrina Hemsley


Links relevant to this diagnosis:

Taiwan Season: Together Alone

Meet the Artists: Chen-Wei Lee and Zoltan Vakulya

Fall After Newton Clip (1987)

Embrace - Gaylord Ho

We Two - Gaylord Ho

The Power of Touch - Psychology Today

Haptic Communication - Changing Minds

Haptic Perception - WiseGeek

DANCER / Gary Gardiner, Ian Johnston, Adrian Howells

DANCER / Gary Gardiner, Ian Johnston, Adrian Howells

Two dapper gentlemen dance on a stage, tuxedoed and practised and feeling their songs. To pop hits and mirrorball classics, they induct the audience into their friendship and collaboration, with jokes and stories and practised moments of quiet. One has a disability, the other does not, but neither are trained and their movement is open to anyone.

THE ROOSTER AND PARTIAL MEMORY / El-Funoun Palestinian Dance Troupe

THE ROOSTER AND PARTIAL MEMORY / El-Funoun Palestinian Dance Troupe

There is a lot of dick-waving going on in The Rooster, most of it metaphorical, some of it actual. Based on the character of Al-Deek, the Rooster, in traditional Lebanese and Palestinian folk dance, this contemporary piece explores power and chauvinism through the medium of men acting like cocks.