The background and narrative to the creative development of Rosie Kay’s Fantasia

Following the completion of her trilogy of works of ‘investigative dance-theatre’ and multiple tours which included 5 Soldiers, There is Hope and MK Ultra, Kay returns to her choreographic roots with a work that explores the relationship between dance, music and emotion.

Kay’s practice has regularly returned to detailed choreographic practice, a method she describes as ‘coming back to her craft’ and ‘remembering why she’s a choreographer and not a theatre director’. Kay loves the challenge of creating a work without huge socio-political context, and finds it flexes her creative muscles to work purely on the body, music and structural form.

Kay has spent several years thinking about music and dance, and working with experts around the world, including top neuroscientists whose speciality is music and the brain and pleasure. Kay also created a work (Double Points:3x) and published on the findings of the research that is still listed in the dance and neuroscience books as a ground-breaking study of how the brain puts together music and dance and the change of brain stimulation when one watches the same dance without music or with breath or simple soundscape. Kay’s work exploring the body and dance with music has included the seminal work, Double Points: K, created in collaboration with Emio Greco |PC and Supernova, a work for 5 female dancers. Both these works pivoted around the central pillars of two Bach concertos, expertly woven together by composers Julian Guillemot (Double Points: K) and regular and now long-term collaborator Annie Mahtani (Supernova, MK Ultra, 5 Soldiers).

Kay has returned again to some of her favourite composers to choreograph to; Vivaldi, Bach, Purcell and Telemann, but also Beethoven, Vaughan Williams and early 20th Century composer Kurtág. Kay has spent several weeks working alone with the scores, improvising freely with emotional meaning, and in the recording studio with Annie Mahtani, who will take over the control and order of the musical score, weaving it with her own atmospheric and highly visceral sound score of original composition. Kay has then experimented with the form of work in her recent commissions, including using Ravel and Corelli in Elliot Smith Dance Company’s solo work for dancer Gemma Pagnelli, Artemis Clown, and YDance’s recent commission for 20 young female dancers, entitled A Baroque Fantasy, where Kay mixed Vivaldi with dance music.

The trick now for Kay is to find the exact language of this work with her three fabulous dancers and translate this expertise and energy into a full one-hour show, with peaks and troughs, climax and crescendo, diminuendo and doloroso. All three female dancers are regular collaborators with Kay, and each dancer brings a unique quality of dancing and form of expression. Shanelle Clemenson first worked with Kay on the IDFB 2016 The Machine Show and soon after joined the cast of MK Ultra. Shanelle is a fierce, versatile dancer, also known for her stunning work in The Head Wrap Dances by Uchenna Dance. A voguer, whacker and experienced street dancer, Shanelle can combine technical vocabulary with attitude and brings real rootedness to the show. Harriet Ellis joined RKDC for MK Ultra and has worked regularly with Kay ever since, being hailed as ‘the one to watch’ by critic Luke Jennings in his Jan 2018 New Year special (‘18 for 2018’). Harriet has clearly shown her maturity and finesse as a performer, taking on the lead role in  5 Soldiers and 10 Soldiers and relishing the challenge of touring to military bases and living in camps. Carina Howard joined RKDC in 2018, taking the lead role in MK Ultra and shining on the UK tour, her dedication and unique performance style meaning that Kay was desperate to work with her again and push her dancing in new ways. Kay will spend a day alone with each dancer, working up individual solo ideas, before embarking on a four-week creation period, using detailed tasks to create new material, music and listening skills and the use of video to create the new work Fantasia.

Kay has also been working closely with designer Louis Price, a regular collaborator since they met in 2006, and he’s worked on shows Double Points: K, Supernova, 5 Soldiers and Sluts of Possession. The design will be simple; a gold floor, surrounded with black curtain, both theatrical and simple, yet the gold with lights can also appear to be a black hole of liquid, reflecting and shimmering with sensitive lighting (by regular collaborator Mike Gunning).

Kay and Price have been exploring extreme design contrasts, playing with African fabrics, traditional balletic tutu designs, baroque curtain and wallpapers, catsuits with a twist and voluminous silk fabrics. They are pleased to be working with experienced costume maker Sasha Keir (Cats, Hamilton, MK Ultra) The costumes should be extravagant; sensual, fun, tongue in cheek, but also playing homage to traditional ideas of dance and performance. costuming Kay has been struck by what she calls the ‘cult of miserableness’ and noticed how each work of contemporary dance or theatre she saw recently was more depressing than the last. Inspired by her heroes Paul Taylor and Mark Morris, Kay wanted to return to her choreographic roots and question how she could make the world a happier and better place through watching dance. Contrasting Baroque virtuosic movement with deeper, darker themes of romanticism with the Beethoven and Vaughan Williams, Kay explores the currently unfashionable aesthetic concept of beauty.

Can Kay move an audience to tears, purely though music and dance alone? She certainly hopes so.


Luke Jennings Article, 18 for 18

Rosie Kay’ academic research on music, dance and neuroscience;

Spectators’ aesthetic experience of sound and movement in dance performance: a transdisciplinary investigation’, Reason, M., Jola, C., Kay, R., Reynolds, D., Kauppi, J.-P., Grobras, M.-H., Tohka, J. and Pollick, F, (2016) 

Some like it hot”: spectators who score high on the personality trait openness enjoy the excitement of hearing dancers breathing without music’, Corinne Jola Frank E. Pollick and Beatriz Calvo-Merino (2014)

Full List of Music still TBC

Group works:

  • Vivaldi: Cessate Omai Cessate, RV 684 – 2. Larghetto E Andante Molto, Ah Ch’Infelische Sempre
  • Concerto for Strings and Continuo in G Major, RV 151, “Concerto alla rustica”: II. Adagio- Vivaldi
  • Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis- Vaughn Williams
  • Gloria- Giovanni Battista Agneletti
  • Suite In A Minor, TWV55:a2: Les Plaisirs- Georg Philipp Telemann
  • Music for a While- Purcell

Solo works:

  • Sonata No. 14 “Moonlight” in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2: I. Adagio Sostenuto- Beethoven
  • Concerto In D Minor, BWV 974: Adagio- Bach 
  • Vivaldi Concerto:
  • Concerto Grosso in G Minor, RV 156: I. Allegro
  • Concerto Grosso in G Minor, RV 156: II. Adagio
  • Concerto Grosso in G Minor, RV 156: III. Allegro
  • Symphony in E-Flat Major, Op. 6 – 2: I. Adagio- Bach
  • Missa in G Minor, BWV 235: II. Gloria- Bach
  • Magnificat In G Minor, RV 610: I. Magnificat- Vivaldi
  • Magnificat In G Minor, RV 610: IV. Fecit Poteniam- Vivaldi
  • Concerto No. 2 g-moll RV 578 I: Adagio e spiccato- Vivaldi
  • Concerto No. 1 D-dur RV 549 II: Largo e spiccato- Vivaldi
  • Corelli: Concerto Grosso #8 – Vivace, Grave
  • Corelli: Concerto Grosso #8 – Allegro


Then I’ve been listening to a lot of Kurtag- and the Bach/Kurtág work

  • Kurtág: Játékok – Bookss 1 – 8
  • György Kurtág, Marta Kurtág, Kurtág: Játékok