Small Objects of Desire #95 – Dancing Words

I love poetry, I love dance and I love film so a project like Nathalie Teitler’s Dancing Words could have been made for just me as it combines all three to a very high standard. I say that quite deliberately. This isn’t the first time that poetry has been ‘captured’ on film or the first time it has been ‘danced’. Often times, the attempts are woeful, serving none of the mediums adequately and doing nothing to elucidate the meaning of the poem.

What I like about Dancing Words is how much thought has been put into the choice of poem. Each poem is more than just pleasingly arranged words. Nathalie Teitler has chosen poems that are gut punching rather than coolly intelletualising. In addition, filmmaker Fiona Melville’s contemplation of light in each film is measured and considered….it’s no surprise to find out that she trained as a painter.

There’s a whole lot more I could say but it’s time for the films to do the talking.

T.S Eliot Prize 2016 winner Sarah Howe’s poem, ‘Tame’ interpreted by dancer/choreographer Shelley Maxwell. Taking inspiration from a Chinese
proverb, the poem makes a comment about the one child policy in China.

Forward Prize winner Mona Arshi’s poem, ‘Ballad of the Small-Boned Daughter’ interpreted by dancer/choreographer Ella Mesma and with original music by Tom Szirtes. The poem is based on the true story of an honour killing.

Kayon Chingonyi’s poem Kumukanda is interpreted by the poet himself and dancer/ choreographer Sean Graham. Kumukanda is the name given to the tribal rites of passage that young Zambian boys must undergo before they become men.

Karen McCarthy Woolf’s poem Morbleu is choreographed and danced by Ella Mesma with music by Andrea Allegra. The poem was written as part of an elegy for the poet’s still born son, Otto.

Malika Booker’s poem Sweet Liquor was danced by the poet herself and dancer/ choreographer Leon Rose. It is inspired by the stories of Caribbean soldiers returning from war with PTSD and being redrafted.

Warsan Shire’s poem The Ugly Daughter and danced by Ella Mesma during a performance in The Purcell Room, Southbank Centre inspired the entire Dancing Words project. The title is self-explanatory.


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