December 2009: Hidden Histories CHRISTMAS TEA DANCE

theatre nomad has teamed up with Dragon Hall and The Actors Centre to explore some of the Hidden Histories of Covent Garden. We have been collecting stories about dancing and dance and presented some of those stories in a short piece of theatre followed by a tea dance the Tristan Bates Theatre on Tuesday 15th December.

Performers: Matthew Blacklock, Joanne Macinnes, Lisa Payne, Tim Taylor

Script: Charlotte Thompson

Director: Luke Dixon

We would like to express our deepest appreciation to all those dancers who spoke to us and told us their memories. Some of these stories were included as part of this performance, but we were told many others that were equally fascinating. Particular thanks go to Chris, Herbert, Ken, Louise, Peggy, Rachel and Yolanda for allowing us to use their words and reminiscences. Thanks also to Dragons Hall and Brian Cornes.


 “We've been getting schooled in the Waltz, Quickstep and Rumba as part of theatre nomad's Hidden Histories reminiscence project in London’s Covent Garden, being piloted with dancers attending the local tea dance at Dragon's Hall. Between dances, we collected memories about dancing over the years to be used for a pre-Christmas performance. We heard stories about how the jitterbug came over with the Americans, how Vera Lyn's "Wish me luck as you Wave me Goodbye" was played as young women waved goodbye to the bomber pilots they had been dancing with all night. . . what happened during the blackouts. . . not  to mention a particular boyfriend who looked very much like Elvis Presley. . . .

We were amazed by the honesty of the people we talked to, and their stories provided us with the material for a romantic, poignant and funny show, directed by Luke Dixon for a packed audience at the Tristan Bates Theatre. Keeping to the original words, each story was told by an actor, to shouts of recognition and applause from the audience. Other actors jived, tangoed and waltzed their way through the show, creating a visual landscape for each era re-told. This mirroring worked almost like memory itself; the storyteller watching, and then joining in with the dancers as if this were the memory being described. 

Towards the end of the show, when the actors invited members of the audience to dance, it was only fitting that they happened to choose several of the people whose stories constituted the show. Other members of the audience were only too happy to show us their dancing moves in a Christmas tea dance after the performance, and to partake of a few mince pies. A very fun time was had by all those involved in the project - a great opportunity to remember the delights of times gone by (some of them, at least). There will be more delights to come as we continuing recalling the Hidden Histories of this part of London.”

- Charlotte Thompson, Scribe and Dramaturg


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