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Press Release: Sadler’s Wells celebrates older dancers with inspirational festival

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Sadler’s Wells celebrates older dancers with inspirational festival


Established in 2014, Sadler’s Wells’ Elixir Festival is a unique celebration of lifelong creativity, which returns this year from Friday 23 - Tuesday 27 June


The festival features five days of performances, workshops and events throughout the theatre. It was set up to recognise the contribution that older artists make, challenge assumptions about what older people can and want to do, throw a spotlight on the diversity of dance practice and raise questions about what is next for the art form.


In its inaugural year, Elixir provided 2,500 people with the opportunity to experience older people dancing live and saw 500 older performers grace Sadler’s Wells’ stages. For its return in 2017, the festival presents KnowBody II on the Sadler’s Wells stage, featuring work by William Forsythe and Mats Ek, along with new commissions performed by Dominique and Thusnelda Mercy. It also sees the much anticipated return of the group of former professional dancers who performed The Elders Project at the inaugural festival.


Joce Giles, Director of Learning and Engagement at Sadler’s Wells, said: “The Elixir Festival celebrates the role that dance can play throughout people's whole lives and raises the profile of the high-quality work made and performed by older artists. The KnowBody II programme on the Sadler’s Wells stage will shine a spotlight on the valuable contribution that older choreographers and dancers make to the art-form and the Elixir Extracts performances in the Lilian Baylis Studio will showcase work by older non-professional dancers from across the UK and Europe.”


Alistair Spalding, Artistic Director and Chief Executive, said: “If we are going to be relevant as an art form we must represent all phases of life on our stages and that includes the older performer, it is vital to re-evaluate our perceptions of what our bodies are capable of in later life. Participating in dance can be hugely beneficial to our health and wellbeing at any age and I’m proud that with this festival we can show audiences the simple, infectious joy of dancing, as well as the incredible and inspiring quality of work being made for and performed by older dancers today.”


In KnowBody II on 23 and 24 June, internationally renowned older artists come together to perform new commissions and existing work, on the Sadler’s Wells stage.


William Forsythe’s Catalogue (First Edition) is performed by DANCE ON ENSEMBLE. The richness of the bodily knowledge shared between Jill Johnson and Christopher Roman, both former Forsythe Company dancers, is part of the fabric of the piece. The idea for the duet came from an intention to highlight the special relationship, shared sensibilities and coordinative skill set of Johnson and Roman. 


Also in Knowbody IIMats Ek’s piece, Axe, makes its UK debut performed by Ana Laguna and Yvan Auzely, alongside commissioned work by Big Dance Theater performed by Elixir Ensemble, who featured in the Olivier Award-nominated Elders Project by Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion – Christopher Bannerman, Brian Bertscher, Anne Donnelly, Linda Gibbs, Lizie Saunderson, Betsy Gregory, Namron, Geraldine Morris and Kenneth Tharp.


The programme also includes work by Pascal Merighi, working with father and daughter Dominique Mercy and Thusnelda Mercy - all guest artists with Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch. Five former London Contemporary Dance Theatre dancers work with five alumni from National Youth Dance Company to pass on knowledge and insight in a work directed by Martin Welton with Robert Cohan (choreographer and founding Artist Director of The Place) using choreography and themes from Cohan’s iconic work Forest as a starting point to explore Cohan’s knowledge of dance. Company of Elders, Sadler’s Wells’ resident inspirational over 60s performance company, performs a specially commissioned piece by Shobana Jeyasingh.


The three Elixir Extracts performance programme in the Lilian Baylis Studio on 24 and 25 June features older dancers and companies from across the UK and Europe, reflecting the diversity of approach and breadth of work performed by mature artists, while a series of workshops on 25 June for professional and non-professional dancers are built around themes connected to the festival’s programme. 


The Elixir Conference on 26 June brings together international speakers whose work connects to lifelong creativity and dance to share ideas and provide insight for anyone who is passionate about dance and the role that it can play throughout people’s lives.


Finally, DANCE ON ENSEMBLE performs 7 Dialogues in the Lilian Baylis Studio on 26 and 27 JuneComposer Matteo Fargion reduces Schubert’s Erlkönig to its basic structure and hands this over to six highly skilled dance artists and six renowned choreographers and theatre-makers to engage in a dialogue on stage. Christopher Roman works with Bulgarian performance artist Ivo DimchevAmancio Gonzalez with London-based visual artist Hetain PatelJone San Martin with British director, author and performer Tim EtchellsTy Boomershine with New York-based choreographer Beth GillBrit Rodemund with London-based choreographer and dancer Lucy Suggate and Frédéric Tavernini with French choreographer Noé Soulier.


The Elixir Festival is supported by the Baring Foundation, co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union as part of DANCE ON, PASS ON, DREAM ON


Notes to editors:


Elixir Festival   

KnowBody II Elixir Extracts                                                          


Friday 23 - Tuesday 27 June 2017

Performance times vary, see below for full details

Tickets: £10 - £15

Concessions apply, see below for full details

Ticket Office: 020 7863 8000 / www.sadlerswells.com




Knowbody II – 23 and 24 June, 7.30pm, Sadler’s Wells


Elixir Extracts24 June, 4.30pm and 25 June 3.30pm and 7.30pm, Lilian Baylis Studio (different programme for each performance)


Elixir Workshops – 25 June

The Elixir Festival features workshops for professional and non-professional dancers connected to the festival’s main stage programme. 

11am - 12.30pm

Workshop 1: Pass On, This workshop focuses on passing knowledge from one generation of dancers to the next and explores the reimagining of Robert Cohan’s Forest with dancers from the original work alongside alumni from the National Youth Dance Company. Suitable for professional dance artists.

11am - 12.30pm

Workshop 2: Repertoire workshop, An opportunity to learn choreography from Shobana Jeyasingh’s new work for the Company of Elders created for the Sadler’s Wells stage programme of this year’s festival. Suitable for dancers of all levels aged 60 years and over.

1.15pm - 2.45pm

Workshop 3: Choreography Workshop, An opportunity to learn the methods and creative ways in which artists from Shobana Jeyasingh Company worked with the Company of Elders to create their new piece which premieres as part of KnowBody II. Suitable for dance artists and group leaders working within the over 60s sector. 

1.15pm - 2.45pm

Workshop 4: Company of Elders Experience Workshop, An opportunity to experience a Company of Elders creative class. Suitable for dancers of all levels aged 60 years and over.


7 Dialogues, 26 and 27 June, 8pm, Lilian Baylis Studio 


Elixir Conference, 26 June, 11am-5.30pm, Rosebery Room



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