Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The Woman Who Refused To Dance

The story of an unknown woman, whose punishment and death on a boat of trafficked people inspired William Wilberforce to argue for the abolition of the trans-Atlantic trade in Parliament, is the basis for Shirley J Thompson's new opera The Woman Who Refused To Dance. Thompson's new piece is premiered as part of Tête à Tête: The Opera Festival at The Place Theatre, 17 Duke’s Road, London WC1H 9PY on 27 July 2017. The piece is written for female singer, speaker, dancer and instrumental ensemble and the premiere features Nadine Benjamin (soprano) and Tania Dimbelolo (dancer) with instrumental ensemble of Rebeca Omordia, Orphy Robinson, Marsha Skins, and Byron Wallen, directed by Anastasia Belina-Watson with choreography by Monique Jonas.

2017 is the 210th anniversary of the passing of the act abolishing the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the act passed as a result of Wilberforce's advocacy inspired by the unknown woman's story. On a boat headed from Grenada to Calabar, she was beaten and hung by her ankles until she died after refusing to dance for the ship’s captain. Her refusal was read as an act of insubordination and her punishment was meant as an example to the other enslaved persons on board. Thompson's opera not only conveys the drama of the incident, but most profoundly it represents the imagined thoughts of 'The Unknown Woman' as she hangs. Thompson presents her internal monologue, describing her idyllic past and of what her future life might have been. But the opera's narrative also feeds into dialogue about present-day human trafficking.

Full details from the Tête à Tête website.

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