Rosie Kay’s Fantasia

Diane Parks caught up with choreographer Rosie Kay ahead of her company’s performance of Fantasia at Salisbury Arts Centre in November.

Choreographer Rosie Kay’s new work Fantasia is just that – a colourful mix of fantasy, magic and surprise.

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Rosie, who is perhaps best known for her works 5 SOLDIERS and the Commonwealth Games Handover to Birmingham, is this time using dance to play with ideas, expectations and reality in the show which comes to Salisbury Art Centre on Saturday 16 November.

Set to music by classical composers including Beethoven, Bach and Vaughan Williams, Fantasia features three female dancers in a piece inspired by concepts of ideals and beauty.

“I had a sense that everything I was going to see, whether it’s dance or theatre or movies, was actually quite miserable and ugly and about how terrible everything is,” says Rosie.

“So I started thinking about beauty and I was reading philosophy and Nietzsche who talks about how beauty is so much more than we think it is now. The Ancient Greeks believed there was a strong relationship between beauty and truth but beauty now is seen as very shallow.

“Today beauty is just about superficial appearance but actually it’s about so much more than that. Beauty has become separated from all the other ideas associated with it. For example, beauty can be terrifying – if you think about nature it can be beautiful yet also awe-inspiring at the same time.

“There are three women dancers in the show and I play with the idea of them looking ‘pretty’ and presenting themselves but there’s a relationship between beauty and philosophy and melancholy.”

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To explore these ideas, Rosie’s choreography sees the dancers performing together and breaking off for solos in a series of different scenes inspired by the idea of a classical fantasia.

“I used to play the piano a lot and I always loved Mozart’s Fantasia in D Minor – I was fascinated because the structure of it is really crazy!” Rosie explains. “I discovered that a fantasia is a piece of musical composition that breaks all the rules.

“I love fantasias that take you on flights of fantasy. The most famous is Disney’s Fantasia film but a fantasia generally is a chance to play and explore. Also, the word is just magical – we’re not in a ‘fantasia’ world at the moment. If we stop in rehearsals to talk about the news of the day we have to stop and remind ourselves we really want to be looking at truth and beauty!”

Rosie was born in Scotland and trained at London Contemporary Dance School. After performing with companies across the world she formed Rosie Kay Dance Company in 2004. Based in Birmingham, her works have included site-specific productions such as The Great Train Dance on Severn Valley Railway and Ballet on the Buses with Birmingham Royal Ballet.

And she has taken on some difficult subjects to explore through dance. Over the past decade Rosie has created and toured a trio of works all looking at the human body and how it is affected by external forces. In 2010 she created 5 SOLDIERS: The Body is the Frontline which examined war and the body, and which earlier this year was expanded into the larger production 10 SOLDIERS. In 2012 she choreographed There is Hope which looked at the body and religion, and last year she toured MK Ultra which focused on the body and politics.

For Rosie, Fantasia is a breath of fresh air after tackling such weighty subjects.

“These have all been really big narrative pieces and, as a choreographer, after creating these works, I need to not make work about ‘stuff’,” she says. “I need to come back to my craft and why I’m a choreographer and not a director. It’s like a physical need in me to make a piece which is just about dance.

“That’s the start point for Fantasia – I really wanted to make really complex dance material. And then it’s a question of ‘what is that about?’ which led me to Fantasia.”

That’s not to say that Fantasia isn’t also packed full of ideas. Rosie has been busy researching sources as diverse as philosophy, composition and art through to neuroscience and theories of modern beauty – then bringing them together into the work.

“We’ve been looking at John Berger’s book Ways of Seeing from the 1970s and how we bring our own perspectives when we look at art. For female dancers, who use their own bodies in their art form, this has been revelatory. We’ve also been talking about the Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi. She was a contemporary of Caravaggio and her work is just as beautiful as Caravaggio’s but from a female perspective.

“Her father was a painter who trained her to paint and his assistant raped her when she was a teenager. She took the man to court but she ended up getting tortured to see if she was telling the truth or not – despite the fact the crime was done to her!

“So in the piece we are finding moments where we can be a picture of beauty but we’re also looking at what’s really going on behind that picture. There is the Baroque beauty but there’s also anger and sentiment and pain and inner monsters – and then back to beauty again.”

Rosie has long been fascinated by the links between our minds and bodies and has worked with neuroscientists to test how people respond to dance emotionally.

“I was part of a big research project in 2009 which was trying to discover whether you have an empathetic connection with the dancer when you watch dance. I choreographed a piece which was then tested with detailed verbal feedback and also with brain scanners.

“The same three-minute dance was danced to Bach, just to breath and to more modern techno music. The research showed humans have a strong reaction to dance to classical music, but we also have a strong reaction to the dance just with the breath – it seemed to fire up a part of the brain which was the body-to-body response.

“So when people say they respond to dance such as 5 SOLDIERS from the gut, they really do – it’s an empathetic response to what they are seeing.”

All of these ideas and the music of composers from Vivaldi to techno have helped Rosie create Fantasia. But although the context is rich, Rosie is clear that audiences will respond to the piece even if they know nothing beyond its name.

“The dance, the performance and the performers will speak for themselves,” she says. “You could just come in and watch the whole thing and it doesn’t matter whether any of this research is in your mind. A lot of it doesn’t matter for the audience – it’s for us, as creators and performers, so we know what we are playing with. The audience doesn’t need to know it – but they should feel it.

“There should be an emotional journey, it should have peaks and troughs and climaxes and quiet valleys. I want people to feel really emotional but also to laugh and find it funny but by the end of an hour it should be like they hear the world and look at the world anew.

“In some ways it’s quite a traditional piece of dance, it’s even got tutus, but it also breaks all the rules so it surprises us. I’ve gone off in my own direction – this piece gives me the liberty to challenge myself as much as possible.”

Rosie’s work has seen her play venues across the country and she is looking forward to returning to Salisbury.

“We have a very strong relationship with Salisbury because of the army and its connection to 5 SOLDIERS,” she says. “We took 5 SOLDIERS there in 2010 and took 5 SOLDIERS there again earlier this year. Now we hope we’ll get some soldiers to come and see tutus! And I love the venue, it’s such a beautiful church – for us it feels like a little home-from-home going there.

“I’ve always wanted to keep challenging myself and Fantasia is just that. It’s like a cornucopia of so much dancing – everyone will be filled to the brim. I don’t think I’ve ever made a piece with so much non-stop technical dancing and yet it’s in this beautiful baroque world – it’s a real Fantasia.”

Rosie Kay’s Fantasia will be performing at Salisbury Arts Centre on Saturday 16 November at 8.00pm.

For tickets see or call 01722 320333.

For more information on Rosie Kay Dance Company, please visit:

Introducing gouache

We caught up with illustrator Francesca McLean ahead of the taster sessions she is offering in working with gouache at Salisbury Arts Centre.

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Please tell us a little bit about yourself…

I’m an artist / illustrator based on the outskirts of Salisbury, near the new forest. I am surrounded by natural inspiration which drives me to create new work based on the beautiful countryside we are lucky to have here in the South West. As an illustrator I create original artworks, pattern designs, and my own products, as well as working for clients such as Tall Tree Theatre to create illustrations for branding.

When was your first experience of painting with gouache?

During my MA in Illustration at Camberwell College of Arts, one of my tutors encouraged me to experiment with gouache, to create bolder colour within my work. I have never looked back! It was a natural progression for me from watercolours, as gouache is mixed with water in the same way, but I fell in love with the beautiful, vibrant colours I could create with this exciting medium, which lends itself so well to illustrating the striking colours within nature I love to portray.

What’s best about gouache?

The aspect of gouache I love is that it allows me to have more freedom than watercolour paints. This is due to the main difference between the two mediums, watercolour is light and transparent, and gouache is bold and opaque. The density of gouache allows you to layer lighter colours on top of darker ones, for example if you wanted to paint a light pink flower on top of a dark green background, the pink would keep its vibrancy. The colours you can create with gouache are excitingly beautiful, and it will spur you on to keep experimenting!

What can participants expect from your Introduction to Gouache taster sessions?

The sessions are designed for beginners, and we will cover various painting and drawing techniques, with the freedom to develop your own style. We will learn about gouache, experimenting with the medium to create different effects, such as layering, reworking dry paint, creating compositions and colour theory. We will create fun compositions, putting what we have learnt into practice to create final pieces which you can cherish at home! The sessions will allow you to build your confidence in this medium.

Using just 3 words, tell us why people should come…

Learn. Grow. Enjoy!

Introduction to Gouache: Taster Sessions run at Salisbury Arts Centre on 6 November and 4 December. For more information visit

Stand up for comedy

We caught up with Kevin Precious, our Barnstormers Comedy booker, to talk about a comedy workshop he has planned.

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Please tell us a little bit about yourself…
I’m a stand-up comedian, promoter and teacher. I’ve performed at many of the top clubs and festivals in the country, and also oversee Barnstormers Comedy promotions, which largely consists of lovely arts centre and theatre shows. I used to be a full time Religious Studies teacher… and prior to that was very involved in music and bands. I dare say, if push came to shove, I could teach a bit of music as well.

When was your first experience of comedy?
It was at a try-out night in Islington. I’d prepared reasonably well material-wise, but was a virtual novice, from the perspective of performing. I got a really big laugh for my opening line, and was so surprised by it, none of the rest lived up to it really. It took about five gigs to have a consistently strong experience throughout, by which time I was hooked.

What’s best about it?
Most of the time, it’s very enjoyable… and on occasions, utterly exhilarating. Ultimately, it represents some form of creative satisfaction… the idea that one can make a living based upon one’s own ideas and creativity.

What can participants expect from your ‘Stand-up Comedy for Beginners’ workshop?
A very thorough, detailed and analytical approach to the business of writing and performing stand-up comedy. As a qualified teacher, with a wider experience of teaching, I can tailor the ideas in response to the individuals within the group. I will be well prepared in terms of teaching materials, but there will also be a level of flexibility in there, that can only come from being an experienced teacher.

Using just 3 words, tell us why people should come.
For life-enhancing fun!

Stand-Up Comedy for Beginners runs at Salisbury Arts Centre at 10am on Saturday 19 October. For more information visit

The Last Full Measure of Devotion Review #2

We’ve been working with two students from Noadswood School and set them the task of reviewing our exhibition, The Last Full Measure of Devotion. Here’s Ellis’ review.

The Last Full Measure of Devotion

Review by Ellis Quinn

The Last Full Measure of Devotion is a commemorative installation by Dr Kate Wilson by the main entrance of the Salisbury Arts Centre; it’s a highly impressionable but honest exhibition. It consists of row after row of hand-made Porcelain cups judiciously complimented by a set of kneeling cushions presented before it.


The exhibition may seem uniform or mundane at first, but Wilson lures you into a false sense of security through the piece’s moving meaning. Wilson crafted each individual mug by hand from the same porcelain material; each item is constructed from the same weight of material (300 grams), which is, by no coincidence, the same weight as the average human heart; each ‘loving cup’ is engraved with a service emblem, a relevant age and the titular phrase: “The Last Full Measure of Devotion”. The cups do, on first glance, appear to be indistinguishable from the other, but upon closer inspection each one is individual in its style and design; every cup has its own imperfections, blemishes and contrasting numbers, the man-made object now feels more natural. Each ‘Loving cup’ represents the British heroes who died as a result of the Afghanistan conflict; the scale of loss is made evidently clear by the vast number of cups. The fact that each mug is individual in its design and age represents the individuality of each and every person who died; the people who fight for the country are seen as faceless fighters, with no personality, they are commonly portrayed as just uniforms, however in reality they are all unique human beings with their own shapes, beauties and imperfections.

The rows of cups are excellently enhanced by the kneelers, hand-stitched cushions with a rivetingly relevant and emotionally powerful poem sewn into the surface. The poem is titled “The Cost” and is written by the World War Two veteran Roy Tuck; the poet thoughtfully discusses the cost of war and the importance of commemorative acts, just like this art installation. The cushions follow a camouflage design, to mirror the idea of conflict, however one pillow is embroidered with the symbolic image of poppies.

The venue at the Salisbury Arts Centre superlatively suited the exhibition. A wide set of shelves stretched from wall to wall, each one was adorned with a large number of ‘Loving cups’; through this style of presentation the scale of loss, something that is usually incomprehensible, could be understood. The image of the cups, each representing a precious, human individual is such a shocking and touching sight; the presentation feels emotionally overwhelming. The installation was accompanied by an entire wall of information, elaboration on the intricate meaning and details. The refurbished church setting of the Arts Centre perfectly matches Wilson’s intention to present the items in a renowned setting.

Wilson’s use of the ordinary to portray such a heart-breaking message is highly memorable and poignant. You can imagine the connection Wilson must feel to her project as she individually moulded each commemorative cup. It seems simple but it’s superbly sorrowful.

The Last Full Measure of Devotion by Kate Wilson runs at Salisbury Arts Centre from 13 September to 16 November 2019. For more information visit 

The Last Measure of Devotion Review #1

We’ve been working with two students from Noadswood School and set them the task of reviewing our current exhibition, The Last Full Measure of Devotion. Here’s Louis’ review.

The Last Full Measure of Devotion Dr Kate Wilson

Review by Louis Manning

This exhibition is located in Salisbury Arts Centre, as you walk into the main entrance, the exhibition is lined on both walls around you as you walk up towards the café area. You will notice the large amount of porcelain cups on shelves on the right hand wall. “The Last Full Measure of Devotion” printed on the inside of every cup, gave the title of the exhibition meaning and memorability.

Each cup had an age painted on the front of the cup, these are the ages of each soldier who sadly lost their lives during the Afghanistan conflict. It was heartbreaking reading ages as young as 18 on the cups. There was information on why this exhibition was made and also, a poem, “The Cost” by Roy Tuck had been stitched into eleven kneeling cushions which were placed in white wooden boxes on the floor in front of the cups. Roy Tuck, being a WW2 veteran, wrote this poem about war intending an emotional impact on the reader or viewer.

The venue suited the exhibition very well, the Arts Centre is inside of a renovated church, this matched the theme of the exhibition perfectly as the Centre was a place of worship and peace. It enhanced the exhibition greatly.

Overall, the exhibition was a calm way to show the subject of conflict, the simplistic manner of the cups on the shelves helped to improve memorability and I know I will remember it.


The Last Full Measure of Devotion by Kate Wilson runs at Salisbury Arts Centre from 13 September to 16 November 2019. For more information visit

Young Reviewers on Fest West

We asked some Young Reviewers to come along and review shows they wanted to see as part of Fest West, our annual celebration of new work from across the South West. On Friday 15 February, Charlie, one of our young reviewers, watched a Triple Bill. Here’s his review.


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A very interesting story shows how teamwork and comedy make the best shows. ‘GROW UP AND JUST LOVE CHOCOLATE’ is a story of a man called Dave with cerebral palsy that means he can’t always control his muscles. This messy story shows how he lives in modern society and how he copes with modern problems using chocolate! The show is centred around his love life and his relationship status on Facebook. We see all of Dave’s most loved objects react to Dave’s actions, like his chair, walker and even his toilet seat! This witty poetic journey is well acted and shows great teamwork and comradeship. It is also a great show for disabled awareness and shows that everyone can act. As funny as this show is, I would definitely recommend this show to ages 14+. Great Show. Great Cast. Loved It.


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This captivating performance demonstrates that you don’t always need big props to create a convincing performance. This show is told through dance and mixes real world with a mystical realm of west Africa. This solo female performance talks of Caribbean folklore and the mystical ‘Spirit world’. The main character is a black female superhero who explains her journey of dance to be with her ancestors in the spirit world. This one-person show is impressive and involves many different cultures. With amazing music and dancing, this performance is definitely one to see. However, the show lacks comedy and the story may be difficult for younger years to understand. Great for those aged 12+ and anyone interested in dance, music and history.


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Strange, Funny, Deep – all words to describe the hilarious show, Kin. This performance is presented as more of a lecture/pitch and talks about a brand-new loneliness preventing gadget called Kin. Kin is a bracelet that bonds two individuals together forever so no one is ever alone. Of course, ideas like this come with consequences so you’d better watch out! This hilarious dystopian comedy actually reflects a lot about modern society and how the future could be not so great if we continue on the road we are on at the moment. With outstanding acting and hilarious props this show is definitely one to watch! However, there is lots of audience participation so if you don’t enjoy being singled out in the audience, this might not be the show for you! Overall, amazing cast, hilarious jokes and a very interesting idea. This show is a complete rollercoaster ride of emotions!

Fest West runs from 14 February – 2 March 2019 at Salisbury Playhouse, Salisbury Arts Centre and at Pound Arts in Corsham and Trowbridge Town Hall Arts. For more information visit



How wonderful?

The author runs Hearing Link in the Essex / Cambridge area and saw Invisible Music in early September

I was away this weekend and had a great time meeting many friends and colleagues. I attended two large group dinners and, despite the size of the groups and the noise of people speaking simultaneously, I managed quite well. I had a very interesting and enjoyable time. Such a relief!

On Monday I saw my grandchildren for the first time in a month and heard about their holiday and their first days back at school. It was such a joy to be able to hear them reasonably well and to have a real conversation with them.

On Monday evening, I went with a friend to see a performance of “Invisible Music”. It was incredible!

Invisible Music new imageThe words of the lip readers group, aptly described the emotions, thoughts and feelings that most of us with hearing loss have had. Their stories could be all our stories. The music reflected the ideas put forward as did the visuals. There were some scripts shown and they too became distorted with the music. Sometimes the music was melodic and beautiful and sometimes discordant. For hearing people, it gave a real insight into the challenges facing those with hearing loss. And it was done through an entertaining medium. It was over too quickly.

There are more performances in the coming months and there may be one near you. If there is, go – I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Wonderful!

Invisible Music will be performed at Salisbury Arts Centre on Friday 5 October at 3.30pm and 8pm. For more information or tickets visit or call 01722 320333.