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Press Release: Project O at Sadler's Wells, Friday 12 May

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Project O

UK Premiere

Lilian Baylis Studio, EC1R 4TN 

Friday 12 May 2017

Performances at 6pm8pm10pm & midnight

Tickets: £17

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



Project Os latest work Voodoo examines how dance can explore, heal and challenge the violence and oppression that haunts our society, at the Lilian Baylis Studio on Friday 12 May.

A thought-provoking piece by cutting-edge artists Jamila Johnson-Small and Alexandrina HemsleyVoodoo is a two hour show performed four consecutive times, mutating over the course of an eight hour night. In a live cleansing ritual, a clash of tongues, colours, continents and histories, two brown women dance out of the desire for assimilation, mapping the gaps in unspoken histories. 

Audiences have the opportunity to experience the work at 6pm8pm10pm or midnight, choosing at which point over the course of the night and the shows evolution they would like to see it.

Jamila Johnson-Small previously took part in Sadlers Wells Summer University and Alexandrina Hemsley is in the current cohort, one of a range of initiatives Sadler's Wells offers to support and develop choreographers and dancers at varying stages of their practice. Both were part of the team of editors of online magazine BELLYFLOP and as Project O, the duo presented work in the Lilian Baylis Studio in 2013 for BELLYFLOPs edition of the inaugural Sadlers Wells Wild Card series -bespoke evenings of work curated by the next generation of dance makers.

Sadlers Wells Artistic Programmer Eva Martinez said: This engagement is an opportunity for Sadlers Wells to deepen our relationship with these great dance artists, having followed their work with attention in the last four years and supported them in different ways. We are excited to be able to present their latest production and to offer audiences a new proposition in terms of sociability, participation and duration.

Jamila Johnson-Small and Alexandrina Hemsley said: We invite you to lose time with us, and enter into a performance that explores bodies as vessels, channels through which we can fall back into unspoken histories, step forward into futures and lean sideways into alternative realities. A ritual for tapping into our individual and collective power and communing with our ancestors. An attempt to never be caught or trapped, to visit and leave behind former selves, to move and to transform. An attempt to celebrate the radical power of dance to explore, heal and challenge the violence of systematic oppression that haunts our society.


The Monument Trust supports co-productions and new commissions at Sadlers Wells

A Sadlers Wells commission, Co-Commissioned by Cambridge Junction and Chelsea Theatre (2015). With support from Arts Council England and Dance Research Studio

Performances at 6pm8pm10pm & midnight



Sadler's Wells is a world-leading dance house, committed to producing, commissioning and presenting new works and to bringing the best international and UK dance to London and worldwide audiences. Under the Artistic Directorship of Alistair Spalding, the theatres acclaimed year-round programme spans dance of every kind, from contemporary to flamenco, Bollywood to ballet, salsa to street dance and tango to tap. Since 2005, it has helped to bring over 130 new dance works to the stage and its award-winning commissions and collaborative productions regularly tour internationally. Sadlers Wells supports 16 Associate Artists, three Resident Companies, an Associate Company and three International Associate Companies. It also nurtures the next generation of talent through research and development, running the National Youth Dance Company and a range of programmes including Wild Card, New Wave Associates, Open Art Surgery and Summer University.
Located in Islington, north London, the current theatre is the sixth to have stood on the site since it was first built by Richard Sadler in 1683. The venue has played an illustrious role in the history of theatre ever since, with The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and English National Opera all having started at Sadlers Wells. Sadlers Wells is an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation and currently receives approximately 9% of its revenue from Arts Council England.  



Project O make dances to dance themselves out of the desire for and expectation of an aesthetic assimilation that upholds a system of white supremacy that is at once subtle, blatant and all pervasive. Project O is the performative fruits of conversations between the London-based duo, who look to the body as a site of politics, considering the tangible yet often ignored impact of a colonial history in the UK today, and the tendency towards fetishisation, exoticisation and fear of the other. The work intends to expose some of the structural workings of racism and misogyny and their impact on bodies, sparking debate and pushing for conversations about how to live with agency - and a sense of a future - amongst these painful and uncomfortable histories. Tearing at the edges of contemporary dance since 2010, Project O have made dances for the stage (O), performative interventions in public spaces (Be Your Black Girlfriend), choreographies for bodies that are not their own (SWAGGA), a performance lecture (Benz Punany), a school (The New Empowering School) and a publication (A Contemporary Struggle). Alongside Voodoo, they are currently working on a series of site-responsive short works, Native Instincts:Psychic Labours. Project O are residents at Somerset House Studios, Associate Artists at Dance Research Studios and were awarded the Artsadmin Artist Bursary in 2014. Project O have presented work at South Bank Centre, Somerset House, British Dance Edition, British Council Edinburgh Showcase 2015, Chisenhale Dance Space, The Yard and Chelsea Theatre, amongst others. https://www.acontemporarystruggle.com



Jamila Johnson-Small makes dances and works to create spaces (on stage, in corners, on screens, in rooms, in bodies) with no single direction and no clear intentions, harbouring no desire to be useful other than to make gestures towards decentralised power and non-hierarchical structures for existing. Her practice looks to disengage with cultural systems of value that direct and inform style and in which she finds no interest or agreement. She is interested in surfaces, structures and the space/tension between things. Looking to expose and discuss, the politics, perversities and movement of power within and around structures of production and the production of being, the information about histories and environments that bodies carry she sees as content that has the potential for talking about the world, or building temporary ways of being otherwise, whilst dealing in fragmentation, genre-disobedience, hybrid forms and attempts to evade capture. Jamila is one half of duos immigrants and animals (currently defunct) and Project O, and works solo as Last Yearz Interesting Negro. She runs DIY event GUSH at home in London, conversation series HOTLINE with Sara Sassanelli and is happy to be collaborating with artists like Fernanda Munoz-Newsome, Shelley Parker, Josh Anio Grigg and Phoebe Collings-James. She is part of the Holding Space project run by Teresa Cisneros and the Showroom.



Alexandrinas background in contemporary dance and choreography informs her continuing interest in embodied, intersecting and multiple narratives. The forms her artistic work takes frequently morph in order to present her concerns within shifting frames and contexts. She makes dances, videos, self-produces and writes a bit too. The work she make aims to reclaim and celebrate her identities as a mixed-race woman and tries to engage with the various cultural frameworks that mark her body on her own terms. Alexandrinas practice is collaborative and interdisciplinary, which she sees as a way of keeping knowledge active and open. Alongside Project O, Alexandrina also works with choreographers Helena Webb and Rosie Heafford on Dad Dancing currently co-produced by Battersea Arts Centre. She has collaborated with artist Katarzyna Perlak on photo series Bounty Bars & Oreo Cookies and is currently making a new Afrofuturist duet with Seke Chimutengwende. As a performer, Alexandrina has worked with a range of artists. Her writing practice finds its home on Feminist ShakedownSince May 2016, she has been an associate at The Yard Theatre and is co-programmer for their festival of new performance NOW17.

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