Rosie Kay’s Fantasia

RKDC Rosie Kay's Fantasia image Brian Slater 6

The Brunton
November 1st, 2019

With each industrious embellishment of her principle themes, Rosie Kay has created a ‘Fantasia’ of delights. I caught her touring production at the Brunton last Friday, & am extremely glad I did so. With November, & thus the drawn-out Scottish Winter just beginning, the sheer quality of colour in Kay’s routines & costumes was a real warming tonic to the wettening, darkening world.

Fantasia is danced by three sharp, superfit young performers; Shanelle Clemenson, Harriet Ellis & Carina Howard. Together they perform Kay’s Bohemian, Baudelairean creation – sometimes together, sometimes alone, & at all times fusing the tapestry with slickness & variety. From the staccato box-ballerinas of the opening piece, to the operatic energies of the garish, Bedlamic finale & its false-endings, we are poked & jabbed & dragged into Kays’ bubbling cauldron. I swear down, when it came to arm posture, I am sure I witness’d the complete gamut of human possibility.


There is more to Fantasia than the dance. The stage is sublime, with a mirrored floor below them like a clear lake, & with shadows fractalising behind, our three dancers are everywhere at once – very clever! Then there is the music, OMG, the music, what a wonder, what a somatic symphony! Each of Annie Mahtani’s compositions (based mainly on Vivaldi, with Telemann & Bach making cameos, among others) is a classic in its own right. When entering into symbiotic fusion with the dancers, when the littlest sonic nuances are absorbed & acted out shimmeringly before us, it is a splendid spectacle indeed. Close your eyes a moment & drift off to the atmospheric 18th century; open them & let the music transport your psyche to a full appreciation of the choreography; or dwell somewhere inbetween – all are just as a good a way to experience Fantasia.

Fantasia lasts for an hour, which is just the right length, everything feels explored & enjoyed to satisfaction. With costumes changing at regular intervals – the tassl’d mummies were amazing – & the aforementioned mixing up of the number of performers, one’s imagination can never settle on any sense of true understanding of the piece, & instead simply relaxes & nibbles on the cornucopia before us. Many complements to the team involved – a fine, fine production.

Damian Beeson Bullen



An Interview with Rosie Kay


On November the 1st the Brunton welcomes
Rosie Kay & her quality dancers, currently
Touring the UK with the wonderful Fantasia

Hello Rosie, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m originally from the Borders of Scotland (from a tiny place called Chirnside), I grew up near London, in Devon and then in Edinburgh. I spent a few years working aboard as a dancer in Poland, France, Germany and the USA and I currently live in Birmingham, where I’ve lived for the past 16 years.

When did you first develop a love of dance?
My parents say I danced before I could talk, and for me dance seemed to be integral to my understanding of myself and the universe. I began ballet at 3 years old, and although I took it incredibly seriously, dancing through my teenage years, I never thought it would or could be my career. I discovered contemporary dance when I was 17 and realised this was what I wanted to do. I feel very lucky to be doing what I love everyday, but it can be tough at times.

How did you get into choreography?
Making dances was always really important to me- I used to do it in my parents living room, and then I started making dances in the school gym after lessons. I loved dance, theatre, art, music and history, and I felt that dance had a special way of saying something to the world. I saw as much dance as I could, particularly growing up in Edinburgh as a teenager there was amazing companies coming to the International Festival each year. I trained at London Contemporary Dance School, where I learnt choreography and loved making dances, although I never got very good grades! Then, throughout my career performing I made small works- solos and duets that I performed at Edinburgh Festival Fringe (often at Dance Base). It was after I moved to Birmingham that I began to really create larger, longer works and get funding support which meant the company could grow. Currently we are Associate Company at Birmingham Hippodrome, one of the biggest theatres in the UK.

RKDC Rosie Kay's Fantasia image Brian Slater 6.jpg

Photo: Brian Slater

You’re currently touring a show around Britain, can you tell us about it?
A ‘Fantasia’ is a composition that breaks all the rules and I wanted to have something that was on the surface purely about music, dance and the experience of live art, but underneath would have more layers, meaning and research. It’s a wonderful way to spend an hour, watching three incredible dancers at the peak of their performing and technical powers, but in another way it’s to think more deeply about beauty, empathy and the world around us. We premiered the show in Birmingham and it’s then been to Liverpool on tour. The response has been incredible- it’s so wonderful to come out of a theatre and everyone is talking and laughing- there is a real sense of joy and exhilaration by the end. After Musselburgh we tour the UK until the end of November.

How do you think Ballet is adapting for the 21st century as an artform in general?
Gosh- that’s a huge question, and it depend which perspective you’re looking at it from. I am a contemporary based choreographer, but I have danced ballet since I was three, and even been a performer in a ballet-theatre company. It is an extremely important dance form to me personally and in Western art. When I was a student, choreographers like William Forsyth were really modernising ballet and taking it to totally new places, which was so inspiring. I thought this would naturally continue, and you can see some elements of this, for example in the way that in the UK Wayne MacGregor is Associate Choreographer to the Royal Ballet. He is a contemporary dance choreographer, but his work translates on to ballet dancers bodies. To be honest, I thought there would be more cross-disciplinary work between ballet and contemporary; it’s such an exciting area of development, but for quite a few years I haven’t seen as much of it as I’d like. Maybe that’s why I decided to attack it myself.

What compelled you to create Fantasia?
I’d finished a huge trilogy of works that explore really big, serious political issues. These were the body and war (5/10 Soldiers), the body and religion (There is Hope) and the body and politics (MK Ultra). I’d had to be very concerned with their meaning, their narrative qualities and the reception from audiences who might confront issues they may know about, but have not seen in such a way before. This has been hugely rewarding and taken me to places I’d never would have expected (particularly with the Army). However, I really wanted to focus my choreographic powers on a purer form, so chose music, dance and emotion as the starting point. Music, dance and emotion are probably always my starting point, but using them alone forces you to think more creatively, and to push yourself choreographically. I wanted to test what I could create, what the dancers could accomplish, and to challenge the audience in what they see and hear. I spent several years working with neuroscientists on a project that examined how people perceive music and dance in the brain, and what effect this has on them. This research has been a strong starting point for me, and I followed up with a visit to the center for Music in the Brain in Denmark. This approach, that is both pure but also deeply researched has been the starting point for Rosie Kay’s Fantasia.

Can you tell us about your research for the piece?
With the Watching Dance Project, I created a 4-minute work of dance that could be performed identically with either Bach, silence (and the dancer’s breath) or to electronic music. We performed it and conducted intense audience research with the viewers. We then repeated the experiment with people watching the dance on video screen while they were in an fMRI scanner to see how their brains reacted. The biggest contrast was between the Bach and the breath/silence dances. When people watched the dance performed with the Bach music, they talked of the pleasure of finding patterns and repetition and putting the music and dance together in their heads. This was backed up by the scanners, which showed that the areas of the brain that lit up were connected to pattern recognition and mathematics. When people watched the breath/silence dance, some people talked of loving it because it felt real, authentic, visceral; they could see the effort of the dancers and they felt connected to them as humans. Other people talked of how much they hated seeing the dance in silence- because it felt raw, visceral and sweaty! This was backed up by the scan results which showed a very different part of the brain that lit up- that which is linked to body-to body connection- what one could call gut response. People love that feeling or hate it- I can’t control that but I can understand that people will take different things from the same piece of dance and music.

Who are your dancers & how are they doing?
My dancers are three female artists, whom I have worked with before and love working with. Carina Howard joined the company last year for MK Ultra, Shanelle Clemenson and I started working together about 4 years ago and she has been in MK Ultra, Modern Warrior and Fantasia. Harriet Ellis joined the company in late 2016 and has performed in MK Ultra, Modern Warrior, 5 Soldiers and 10 Soldiers. It been such a lovely experience for all of us- we all love to work really hard, and somehow this piece has pushed us all way out of our comfort zones- it has been really challenging as each part of the show has had to use different methods to be made and requires different skills from the performers. Working with an all-female cast has been so great- we’ve all laughed a lot and cried a little bit too!

What music have you chosen & why?
The whole structure of the work took several years of listening to music and dancing to the music. I created a playlist of about 200 tracks and then spent time alone dancing to them, seeing what came out of my body and finding the tracks that moved me and stimulated my ear choreographically. I then whittled this down to about 25 tracks and handed it over to the composer Annie Mahtani. She made the final choice of tracks (although I had some rules on what had to be in there and in which order) and then she handed back a playlist in the order she felt gave the right balance to an hour show. It needs thought to have highs and lows over the length of time, so she put it together like an evening’s concert. The show’s bedrock is Baroque music, which encompasses Vivaldi, Bach, Purcell and Telemann. We break this up with some 20th century piano by Hungarian composer Kurtag, and we also have works by Beethoven (Moonlight Sonata) and Vaughan Williams (Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis). There are strong links through the use of piano and Vivaldi, but each piece of music had to move and inspire me individually as well as work as a whole concert.

RKDC Rosie Kay's Fantasia image Brian Slater 2.jpg

Photo: Brian Slater

Has Fantasia changed much in the weeks it has been on the road?
I love seeing the dancers start to play with it. At first you really don’t know what reaction you will get. There is a lot of humour in it, but in dance, you are not too sure if the audience will get the playfulness and humour or not. It was wonderful to hear people laughing and in Liverpool they really got it! I always rehearse the day before and on the day of the show- it is so technically demanding, we have to keep making sure certain sections are getting tighter and tighter and more detailed. The dancers can’t kick back and let go- they need to stay very tight and on it.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell Fantasia to somebody in the street…
Forget all our current troubles- come and watch some beautiful, emotional, clever, intelligent dance. I guarantee that by the time you walk out of the theatre you will feel better about the world and maybe even want to dance yourself!

Rosie Kay’s Fantasia

Friday November 1st

The Brunton, Musselburgh


Collective Endeavors


Glasgow Art Club
September 20th, 2019

A new configuration of Collective Endeavors performed at the iconic Glasgow Art Club on 20th September to coincide with Glasgow Open Doors. This dance/music ensemble consisted of new dancers as their main dancer Aya Kobayashi has recently become a mum and was there to support her fellow collective members. So we were witness to Nerea Gurrugtxaga and Molly Danter who took us on a wordless journey where all sorts of themes and human emotions were enacted to a sold-out captivated audience.


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What a great venue for this throbbing, experimental and haunting experience. Nerea and Molly entered from different sides of the audience dancing solo, interacting together and making moves that held grace in their poise and impossible body flexibility. Both these performers look young but their experience in dance looks far more mature than their years.

Behind their youthful faces lies a plethora of knowledge, experience and control showing wisdom beyond their years. Gurrugtxaga from Basque country in Northern Spain was an artist in residence in Kinning Park Complex three years ago. Her isolation ( movement of one part of the body independently from the rest) is incredible to witness. Molly Danter (ShoreditchYouth Dance Company and London Contemporary Dance School) was phenomenal in her physicality and ability to envision the most complex forms with her body and make it look painless and ethereal.


Full body extension dancing when linked with the barefoot guitarist Reid was a surprise. We saw the two join together in an intense embrace and the juxtaposition of the movement and melody became one. They entwined in a cross-disciplinary marriage that was fleeting yet mesmerizing. The dancers reconnected with each other as we entered the next chapter of the performance. The disjointedness was elegant and surreal. Also meditative like tai chi grounding us in the human experience, making us slow down and savour the moment. Giving in to the performance. A playful atmosphere changes dramatically as the violinist creates a thumping crescendo which in turn heightens the pace of the bass notes of Ried’s guitar. The dancers run, chase and jump on each other and through the crowd. Elea Inei abstractly plays alongside Reid’s experimental guitar. The pulsing rhythms of the extraordinary music pulls the viewer into a sense of comfortability only to be thrown into chaos mirroring life’s rich tapestry.

Clare Crines


Spangled Cabaret


The Blue Arrow Club
March 18th, 2019

It’s always exciting to fetch up at a venue you’ve not been to before and the Blue Arrow in Sauchiehall Street didn’t disappoint. You walk downstairs from the slightly hidden entrance to enter a warm, welcoming and cosy space, home to the famous Spangled Cabaret, billed as being the longest running monthly alternative variety show in Glasgow. “Expect the unexpected” we are told. “No holds barred”. I assure you, the announcer wasn’t kidding.

Anna Secret Poet got the show off to a riotous start with his hilarious music act. He may have been only one man and a guitar, but he played like a whole band as he regaled us with ever crazier lyrics, including one song concerning sausages and another on eyebrows. Hot on his heels came one Derek McLuckie who tore down and burst through all kinds of messy prejudices with the kind of language that would have been deeply shocking if it hadn’t transcended the crass-ness by being totally funny, and somehow poetic and fascinating all at the same time.

And that was only about a half hour into the show, with so much still to look forward to. As the evening progressed the atmosphere developed a perfect rhythm that gave a new meaning to fun and entertainment, and an entirely fresh and different take on the concept of cabaret itself – I guess that’s why it styles itself as “alternative”. Because the venue was so relaxed with its red lighting along walls and glorious sexy stage, taking it in became more and more of a joy, encompassing poetry, drag, burlesque, magic.


As to the performers, all displayed a great sense of open-ness with the audience as they performed their widely different individual variety acts, and yet coalesced with each other to create their part of the artwork. For you realise that cabaret done well IS an art form; it holds you close and then opens you up in all kinds of ways in a glorious display of sensations and emotions. You feel there is sincerity and a genuinely warm welcome throughout, not least in the burlesque acts by Miss Innocence Bliss and Kim Khaos, who graced the stage with outstanding beauty and wonderful strength.

We had been promised an evening where there were no safety nets; where things could become explosive and exposed, and where the performers on stage, with clown-like directness, would not hold back from giving us personal opinions, experiences, gripes, vulnerabilities. This is thundering cabaret at its very best – total, inexplicable lovely. I can only say thank you for a great evening’s entertainment from wonderful and talented people speaking out loud and very proud but also pious and considerate. It’s on every month – you have to seek it out and come!

Daniel Donnolly


Tango Moderno

Edinburgh Playhouse
23-25 November 2017

It was a crisp Winter’s evening as I whisked through the city to be on time for my rendezvous with the very beautiful Minky. My companion and Strictly Come Dancing fan of the night. Luckily Minky was running late too, which gave me plenty of time to collect the tickets before her sparkling arrival. Divine never likes to keep a lady waiting. I had received prior knowledge that Vincent Simone wouldn’t be dancing due to a crook back, injured in rehearsal for tonight’s production. But in his place not one, but two very sensual gentlemen – Pasquale La Rocca and Leonel Di Cocco-  brought their own erotic flavour to the tango, filled Vincent’s shoes extremely well, and Flavia was in her element.  Of the situation, Adam Speigel, producer of Tango Moderno  told the Mumble; ‘Both dancers are sensational, world class performers, having represented their countries in ballroom and tango respectively. They have been working with Flavia and the company to ensure that Tango Moderno remains a terrific dance show.‘ Adam was right, they were brilliant, & they were supported by a cast of amazingly versatile dancers and a live band providing the groove, with lead vocals expertly sung by Tom Parsons and Rebecca Liswski.

Tango Moderno is a contemporary take on Tango, infused with Hip-Hop and Breakdancing. Street arts that had their beginnings in rebellion and passion, choreographed and directed by Karen Bruce. The whole production oozed sex and was packed with eye-candy. From the moment the lights went down the audience were on the edge of their seats, captivated by the athletic flow of the stars of the show and any disappointment from the audience that Strictly’s Vincent was absent dissipated in an instant. The stage set was a street scene complimented by lighting that was equally as sensual as the moves presented. Indeed, Flavia Cacace was mesmerizing. The closing dance was led on violin by Oliver Lewis, who happened to be the Guinness Book Of Records fastest violinist in the world, smashing the previous record on the BBC’s Blue Peter in 2010. This was a show that left everyone wondering why they had missed their calling to be a professional dancer. The standing ovation at the climax and the musky odour was a testament to how hot this show had been.

Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert



An Interview with Kevin Quantum

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This Christmas, the Edinburgh International Magic Festival will be returning for a four-night run. In the lead-up to that wonderful event, The Mumble will be chatting to some of the performers, starting with the irrepressible talent that is Kevin Quantum.

Hello Kevin, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
I’m in Edinburgh, near the Botanic Gardens. Lovely part of the world.

When did you first realise you were, well, magical?
After being on a reality TV show. I was a physicist up until 12 years ago. Then I was plucked from obscurity to go on C4’s Faking It and found I had not just an aptitude but a love for being on stage. So I ceased the PhD and became a magician. Needless to say mummy was surprised.

You are a Guinness World Record Breaker, can you tell us about it?
Sure, like most of my work it was a collaboration, this time between myself and Royal Blind Charity here in Edinburgh. We brought 2000+ people together and I taught them a magic trick. The biggest magic lesson ever! It was so surreal.

You’ve recently gone down well at the Adelaide Fringe. Can you tell us about the experience?
What a blast! I loved Adelaide. A wonderful city. I made friends and won awards and had sell out crowds. Kinda the perfect overseas tour. I’m not really one for the city-city tour circuit. It’s pretty tough moving every day somewhere new, so when a festival opportunity arrises then I’m well up for it. Edinburgh and Adelaide have lots in common, they both come alive during the fringe. I felt right at home.

What does Kevin Quantum like to do when he’s not being, well, magical?
I play in a tennis league, I compose music for guitar and bass, I spend time with my family. My daughter is 4 now and I love spending time with her. I have a huge family (mum is one of 9 kids and dad is one of 7 so lots of cousins, uncles, aunts etc ) and I’m one of 4 kids myself. We’re close and I really take the time to spend time with them. I love them all.

You are coming to Edinburgh this winter to perform at the International Christmas Special. Your show utilises visual magic with modern technology and unique inventions, what’s the backstory?
It comes from the Faking It show. I was a physicist before becoming a magician and recently I’ve realised they have a bit of a cross over. I just try and find some cool science and eek the magic our of it. Or take a cool magic trick and frame it with science.

You know a good show when its happened, what are the special ingredients?
From the performer’s side, there are three things. 1) attention to detail. 2) Rehearsal. 3) Heart.

Will you be catching any other magicians over the festive period?
I don’t know if there are any other magic shows on in Edinburgh over the festive period? Morgan And West were here last year and I spent a bit of time with them. Great guys.

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Kevin Quantum?
I’m doing my first full evening show in London. Can’t wait for that. Off to Alicante, Moscow and a top secret project I can’t talk about. It’s not ‘strictly’ but I wish it was. The rest of the time prep for MagicFest xmas, and my 2018 tour to Australia. It’s two months this time and I’m going to Perth too. Bring it on!

An Interview with Thomas Small

In two weeks time, an internationally-acclaimed piece of physical theatre shall be hitting East Lothian. The Mumble managed to catch a few words with multi-award winning choreographer, Thomas Small.


Hello Thomas, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
I am born and bred in Dundee, a pure Dundonian through and through. At this very moment, I am in Ibiza enjoying my holidays after a very busy Summer term.

When did you first realise you you could dance?
I realised I wanted to direct productions early on when I was about 13 years old and I used to boss my friends around to create shows. Then contemporary dance really got into me and I decided to study it to become a professional. Still, my interest was not in performance but in choreography and direction.

Where did you study the art of dancing & how did it go?
I was very fortunate to receive local support to study in one of the world leading institutions, the London Contemporary Dance School, The Place, where I studied under the tutelage of leading experts from all corners of the world.

What does Thomas Small like to do when he’s not involved in dancing?
I love walking my dog Molly, meeting friends for cocktails and karaoke, and just lately I am getting the exercise bug with my personal trainer.

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Can you tell us about Shaper/Caper?
Shaper/Caper is a charity based in Dundee. The company makes dance-theatre productions that tour nationally and internationally, as well as delivering an impressive creative learning portfolio, with just one of our projects reaching 7,000 primary school children per year in Tayside. We work with people of all ages and abilities, from babies to 101 years old (our oldest dancer, so far!) and are known for our site-specific and mass participation work. We are lucky to have robust and long-lasting partnerships with organisations such as NHS Tayside and the McManus: Dundee’s Art and Gallery Museum. We are also regularly supported by Creative Scotland, CashBack for Creativity, and Leisure and Culture Dundee, through the Dundee Dance Partnership.

Can you describe your creative relationship with Clore Fellow?
Creative Scotland supported my attendance to the full Clore Fellowship programme, where I was able to learn first-hand from world-leading cultural forerunners on governance, cultural policy, and insider tips such as failure, something that we tend not to talk enough about it socially, risking to recognise its transformational power. The experience and knowledge have shaped the way we operate the company and has also provided incredible network opportunities and friendships of the most disparate nature.


Yolanda Aguilar

You guys also organise creative learning projects headed by Yolanda Aguilar. Can you tell us about these?
Yolanda is an experienced professional trained in dance and theatre, with a Masters in cultural management. She has led international creative learning commissions, and her expertise lies in working with vulnerable groups such as older dancers and those with non-traditional abilities and alternative learning pathways.

You are just about to start a Scottish tour of ‘Within This Dust’ can you tell us about it?
We are looking forward to sharing our piece with Scottish audiences after having performed at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York, where the work was informed by the expert Chief curator Jan Seidler Ramirez and by Dr Lindsay Balfour’s profound analysis of the art and its context. Unfortunately, the theme of terrorism and its impact on Western and global societies continue to be relevant, so we want to engage in a dialogue with our audiences with the view to eventually effect change.

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What was it like to perform at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City as part of the museum’s 15-year anniversary programme?
It was the most overwhelming experience, both poignant and beautiful at the same time. We were given several private tours with access to information not shared with the general public that made our presence there just so special. It was sold-out and the museum placed a screen in the foyer so people could join us and it was also live-streamed, so the event became global. New York audiences are very immediate with their reactions and people were happy to fully disclose their emotions, experiences and memories during the post-show discussion. We also met Richard Drew, the photographer that captured the iconic image of the falling man plunging form the World Trade Centre and that was the inspiration for this work. I was very humbled by the generosity of all involved in the event, from cultural partners to audiences, as my work became the catalyst for an honest and moving conversation.

How has the show evolved since its premier to today?
The piece started in 2011 with a research and development period working with one male dancer, as at the time it was envisioned as a single solo piece of work, rather than the triptych that has become. The production now also includes a female dancer, and although this has been the case so far I am not too concerned about the gender of my artists, so who knows? This might change in the future. The show starts with the female solo in a section called Embers, then moves to a duet in S/He, and ends with the Falling Man, the original male solo. The show received Made in Scotland support in 2012 and toured Berlin and Brazil. The production has been informed by different casts over the years and by the political circumstances the world has experienced since, so it now feels like the best existence it never had.

What does the rest of 2017 hold in store for Thomas Small?
We have just finished our Business Plan with the Board, which will take our activities until 2021, so there will be more productions touring the world, and more creative learning projects to reach across Scotland. I am now making a film to support the Dundee 2023 bid for European Capital of Culture, a great project to involve the community and show that Dundee used to be well known in Scotland for its dance halls. I will be starting shortly the production phase of my new show Unwanted, a tongue-in-cheek meets psychotherapy cabaret-like space that explores failure and invites all to share and celebrate its inevitability, accepting it as part of growth.

Within This Dust can be seen at The Brunton Theatre on 21st October at 7:30 pm. Tickets can be booked via The Brunton website or calling 0131 665 2240.  For further information about Within This Dust, visit