LIVE REVIEW: Seacole & Nightingale @ Eliot Smith Dance Online (13.08.20) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Since when did dance companies create documentaries? Since the whole world changed forever with the arrival of COVID-19, that’s when. And since when were these documentaries not about dance, but about heroes in healthcare, past and present? Since a newfound appreciation for the NHS took the UK by storm, one rainbow at a time.

For Eliot Smith Dance, diving deep into research about historical figures and interpreting this through contemporary dance is nothing new. Artistic Director Eliot Smith has always held the belief that contemporary values and issues can be explored and enriched by bringing historical figures to life through dance. In ESD’s stunning interdisciplinary documentary that premiered on 13th August and is available to watch on YouTube, Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale are brought to life through dance, newly-released music by Adam Johnson, original live drawing by Bernadette Koranteng and interviews with NHS medical staff serving us all throughout this pandemic across the UK.

Narrated by Hollye Sangster and George Orchard, the illuminating documentary tracks the very different backgrounds and experiences of Seacole and Nightingale as they seek to serve as medical staff in the Crimean War. ESD company members Bisola Bello and Victoria Winter are Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale. The two dancers don’t just play them; they embody them in every look, gesture, step and dance. Bello channels Seacole’s determined compassion; Winter channels Nightingale’s stern kindness. The carefully thought out settings, costumes and choreography are there to serve the narrative by breathing life into these heroic women.

The vision of British contemporary choreographer Eliot Smith and filmmaker Jason Thomson in creating this multi-media documentary at such a time like this is to be celebrated for the way it combines the arts, history and political issues so seamlessly and beautifully. These two women, and Seacole also a woman of colour, achieved far more than anyone could have believed possible, with the same determination and compassion that we are seeing in healthcare settings across the world today.

Watching this documentary is half an hour well spent.

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