Owing to generous anonymous donation, the UK’s first professional dance company for performers with learning disabilities, Anjali, was able to re-launch yesterday with a spectacular showcase at The Royal Festival Hall.
Growing out of a small evening class, the remarkable project is now fully established as a pioneering, professional dance company that realises the powerful dance aesthetic which can be born of a unique and distinct group of dancers, with a focus upon creating new dance possibilities and a new attitude towards the dance body.
Presenting a huge spectrum of human emotions and desires and a wide variety of dance techniques and methodologies, the showcase began with The Reflection performed by dancers Hannah and Daisy. The duet, choreographed by Resident Dance Artist Aya Kobayashi, shone with beauty, fluidity and sensuality as the two dancers explored the sound and silence of movement, the concept of action and reaction, and the magnificent power of interaction. The delicate and mesmerising interactions between these two initial dancers gleamed with a natural and poignant gestural intimacy as they navigated their way through the highly theatrical landscape of the intense programme of fluid movements.
The following solo, performed by Nick and choreographed by Nick, Aya and Founder and Artistic Director of Anjali Dance Company Nicole Thompson, continued to impress. Second Skin, an excitingly original visual presentation of the layers of socially imposed gender expectations and the tormenting nature of these limitations, struck a strange and unique balance between confusion and clarity in its progressive consideration of the masculine and the feminine. The deeply engaging piece saw the dancer pulled in multiple directions, fluctuating between the gender polarities in a delightful troubling of gender expectations.
These spectacular performances were followed by a number of sketches, with all of the dancers performing alongside one another in an enchantingly changeable series of movements, deploying a series of powerful and emotional intimate routines conveying an intriguing and novel consideration of the instrumental progressions employed.
The inspiring dance company, Anjali, was established in 1993 at The Mill Arts Centre in Oxfordshire, and has been generating and performing revolutionary and inspiring dance routines such as this one for almost two decades. Through a highly impressive series of dance programmes and collaborations with some of Britain’s most celebrated choreographers, including Claire Russ, Matthew Hawkins, Charlotte Vincent and Peta Lily, the company has been able to perform powerful and boldly innovative pieces which place Anjali at the forefront of disability dance.
Despite its remarkable achievements, Anjali was forced to close in 2011 due to financial difficulties, but recent anonymous donations totalling £70,000 have allowed the company’s inspiring research and developing works to continue, allowing Anjali to re-launch and start dancing again last night.
Artistic Director Nicole Thomson says: “Anjali has been my life for 20 years and I am so proud that it blazed a trail for disability arts and made such a massive impact on so many lives – not just on all the dancers involved and the people who passed through our education and outreach programmes, but also on the audiences whose perceptions were changed after seeing Anjali dance.”
As a result of anonymous generosity and kindness, Anjali is able to continue producing powerful and pioneering work alongside dancers with learning disabilities and deliver more series of beautifully realised performances of passion, theatrical representation and poetic movement.
For the latest information on the Anjali Dance Company, please visit www.anjali.co.uk
To watch a short film of the evening’s highlights, please visit: http://vimeo.com/71567814