Cindy Claes – Wild Card Dancehall Takeover – London

With storms brewing in the night sky overhead, the streets of Islington were freezing cold on Thursday night. Inside Sadler’s Wells, however, was a feast of warm Jamaican sunshine, served up with fat basslines and lashings of rum punch, at the first Wild Card of 2014. Now in its third year, Wild Card is a platform commissioning young choreographers to make and curate work for the Lilian Baylis studio theatre and its surroundings. With her Dancehall Takeover, Belgian-born dance artist Cindy Claes brings an evening of winding, bogling and willie bouncing to the Baylis stage – and a theatrical take on a popular club dance style.

The event begins, strangely, with a farewell: the swansong of veteran hip hop and dancehall artist Paradigmz. The Dancehall Spirit is an extensive history of the development of dance and music in Jamaica, from its roots in the sugar plantations to the dancehall of today. Swathed in a red cloth, Paradigmz begins his solo with low-slung Africanistic steps, accompanied by the sounds of tribal drumming and song. As the history of the island and its people unfolds – from European colony to independent nation and international diaspora – so the music and dance of Jamaica develops in parallel, absorbing rhythmic influences from American jazz and lyrical influences from spiritual and political leaders.


Paradigmz in The Dancehall Spirit.© Foteini Christofilopoulou. (Click image for larger version)

With help from an occasional costume change (and, at one point, a willing volunteer), Paradigmz illustrates this development with an unfurling of hip-swinging rocksteady, pulsing reggae and pounding ska, finishing with the energetic bounce and wind that we know as dancehall today. With its abundance of information in music clips, recorded soundbites and Paradigmz own physical performance, The Dancehall Spirit has the air of a danced lecture – but one pulled off with such vim and personality that it’s impossible not to be entertained.

The highlight of the evening is Claes’ own piece, Is My Whining Winding You Up? Three female friends – portrayed by Claes, Andrea Queens and Natalie Baylie – meet for coffee and to unburden themselves of a litany of everyday problems. Absent fathers, noncommittal boyfriends, sons getting up to mischief with the girl next door and alarming statistics about the situation of young women in the developing world combine into a whirl of fast-paced fretting that erupts frequently into fits of high-energy stamping and booty-shaking. The performers console one another with compassionate unison, adopting one another’s moods and grievances as they share movement.

The titular whining leads to little in the way of resolution – Claes’ boyfriend isn’t shown coming to his senses, the next-door neighbor is unable to help Queens with her offspring, and Baylie comes to realise that documenting alarming statistics is not the same as making change. Is My Whining Winding You Up? ends by inviting the audience to “big up the girls”call-and-reponse style, but chiefly represents a chat and a chance to share problems between friends rather than an overt political manifesto.

The Dancehall Takeover ends with a collaboration between Jamaica’s Shady Squad and the new Dancehall Theatre Exchange Collective. Life of a Shady starts well, with Conray Richards and Matthew Richards of Shady Squad portraying two elderly Caribbean gentlemen in a codependent frenemy relationship, aggravating one another with infantile tricks and teases. Into their grumpy old man’s world bounce the five recent graduates of DTX Collective, fizzing with youthful bravado. What begins as a colourful collision of older and younger people, newer styles versus the old, drifts into a long and meandering showcase for the Shady pair with the DTX dancers clustered idly to the side. Life of a Shady suffers from the wrong kind of reverence for its subjects; there’s the seed of an uplifting piece of dance theatre here, if only someone could take the time to give the central section a severe edit and restore coherence to the work.

Ably compered by Impact Dance’s Hakeem Onibudo, Claes’ Dancehall Takeover brought a welcome ray of sunshine to the Baylis studio,  left the audience with a smile on its face and a spring in its step, and offered a glimpse of the style’s dance theatre potential. Dutty.

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Adult Playtime: Great Ways For Grown-Ups To Have Fun In London

Building robots at Make Shop Do

Building Lego robots at Drink Shop Do, by Lindsey Clarke

There are lots of great things about being grown-up. Nobody can tell you what time you have to go to bed; you can legally spend your hard-earned income on a wide variety of alcoholic delights; and you’ll never again have to sit through an afternoon of Double Maths. But there are also times when it seems like the kids get all the fingerpainting, frame-climbing, rope-swinging fun, and that strikes us (in the most mature way possible) as so unfair.

Envy the under-12s no more, for we’ve rounded up the capital’s best places for good, clean fun – pigtails and short trousers optional.

Get crafty

Fancy breaking out the crayons, glitter and glue in the company of like-minded persons your own age? Drink Shop Do in King’s Cross offers the chance to do just that and much more, all with a freshly-shaken cocktail in hand. In the next two weeks alone, you can hand-craft a Valentine’s card for that special someone in your life, make a super-scary papier mâché monster, build a Lego robot with a prize for the most ingenious, and screen-print a tea-towel – an ideal gift for Mother’s Day, or just to take pride of place in your own kitchen. Evening events (quaintly known as “dos”) start after work and many are free – take a look at this month’s listings for booking info and timings, or email

If the idea of eating the fruits of your creative labours appeals to you, head on down to Notting Hill’s Biscuiteers where you can spend the afternoon hand-icing a selection of biscuits, and then the evening stuffing them into your face. Or maybe that’s just us. A session at their Icing Cafe costs £15 for three biscuits, and there’s no need to book – just drop in for sweet-toothed fun.

A more permanent memento can be created at one of the three Pottery Cafe branches, where you can paint your own crockery and kitchenware (a jar for those hand-iced biscuits, maybe?) to be glazed and fired by the team. Late-night adult-only sessions take place on Thursdays from 6pm – you’ll need to book as a group – and a pottery-decorating session will set you back £5.99 plus the cost of your chosen items. There are Pottery Cafes in Fulham, Richmond and Battersea.

Fiddle With Knobs, Walk With Dinosaurs


Science Museum Lates, by M@.

While the Science Museum’s holdings are vast and fascinating, it’s the room full of levers, buttons and screens that most of us remember fondly from our formative years.

The museum’s Launchpad gallery remains its most popular, but is normally the preserve of children. One night each month, however, the museum opens late for an adults-only evening of exploration, including that room full of buttons and knobs. The next one, at time of writing, is Wed 26 February.

A similar event takes place monthly at the Natural History Museum, where grown-ups can mingle among the dinosaurs without treading on any nippers. The next one is on Friday 28 February.

Jump around

It’s playtime for all ages at the Wild Kingdom Playspace on Three Mills Green in Newham, with plenty of rugged tree swings, scramble nets and an outdoor trampoline. Head to Bromley-by-Bow for some gentle adventure fun. More adventurous types will enjoy thetreetop assault course at Go Ape in Trent Park, Enfield. Not for the height-averse, Go Ape involves making your way around a forest on rope ladders, jungle bridges, cargo nets and zip lines 40 feet off the ground. The experience costs around £30, depending on party size, and is a great way to get back in touch with nature as kids do best – by climbing up it.

Go wild


A pair of asses, at a recent Zoo Lates, by M@.

Going to the zoo isn’t just a treat for the little ones – Zoo Lates at London Zoo is strictly for over-18s only, and combines evening access to the animal enclosures with pop-up bars, cabaret and comedy. Head down after work and relax with a drink as you enjoy a huge variety of wildlife from butterflies and rainforest mammals to penguins and tigers. There’s even an adult ball-pond. Zoo Lates will return this summer every Friday in June and July – expect tickets to be around a tenner.

Whether you want to copy a dance video like you used to do in front of the bedroom mirror, hit up a fancy dress party, or just dig in the sandpit JCB-style, there are lots of other adult-only experiences in and around London to help you connect with your inner child. Let us know your favourites!

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Dance review: Magic And Loss – Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch, 1980

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in 1980. Image by Ulli Weiss

Other artists may correctly be described as ‘influential’ – choreographers who used their art to bring new steps, new shapes or new subject matter to the stage. Perhaps more than anyone else working in the field of dance, however, Pina Bausch used her art to create imaginative worlds that don’t connect with so much as completely immerse their audiences. This year’s treat for Bausch-lovers is the rarely-revived 1980, a joyfully poignant reflection on love and loss.

As ever with Bausch’s works, there is no narrative as such. Instead, a dazzling array of processions, rituals, childhood games, spoken-word vignettes, bursts of ensemble gesture and occasional song parade across the stage for almost four hours. Those who have not encountered Bausch’s work before may think that four hours sounds like a long time; those who have will know that it passes in a heartbeat.

The first thing you’ll notice is the grass. For 1980 the company has turfed the entirety of the Sadler’s Wells stage, and a definite meadow-scent permeates the auditorium. This turf becomes the site for picnicking, sunbathing, games of chase and hide-and-seek, and a myriad other activities that sometimes belong on grass. The second thing you’ll notice is the sheer mass of performers; unlike Bausch’s solo-heavy later works, 1980 is very much an ensemble piece, with a riot of activity taking place at any moment.

While working together as an ensemble, the cast members remain individuals and are encouraged into a series of gentle confessions by  longtime company member Lutz Förster. What are they afraid of? How many scars do they have? What do they think about dinosaurs? The answers are  illuminating, and reflect back onto ourselves in the audience; there’s the character you wish you could be (the fabulously throaty Mechthild Grossman), and the character you fear you are (the fragile Helena Pikon, or histrionic flake Julie Shanahan). There are loud outbursts of angst, gentle social dances, magic tricks, dignified farewells and a tender solo for Pikon in a sprinkler shower. The total effect is something so absorbing that the interval, 100 minutes in, comes as something of a disappointment.

Bausch fans will need little convincing to pack the Sadler’s auditorium out; if you haven’t yet experienced the work of the great German choreographer then 1980 is an ideal place to start.

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