A thrilling new production inspired by the real-life stories of asylum seekers from all over the world is showing in Kent this December. The contemporary dance performance, which features five dancers, a singer, and a live chamber ensemble, is being staged by production company Atelier Armonico, which has collaborated with refugees to create the piece.
Entitled ‘Zaubernacht’, the production is based on German-born American composer Kurt Weill’s 1922 score of the same name, and reflects on Weill’s own escape from Nazi Germany to freedom in France and the United States. Beautifully choreographed by Alice Oakley Jones and Jonny Vieco, the ground-breaking production is the result of a year-long collaboration with Art Refuge, Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network, and Woodpecker Court. It is also part of the wider Living Seams initiative which aims to record, collate, and conserve the memory, hopes, stories and oral histories of refugees in Kent.
It is showing at the Astor Theatre in Deal on 1st December and Folkestone’s Quarterhouse on 2nd December.
“Our interpretation of Weill’s Zaubernacht tells a poignant tale, suspended between dream and reality, of a group of young people who find solace in their imagination to escape the harsh realities of their circumstances,” explains Davide Levi, conductor and lead at Atelier Armonico. “Amidst the challenges they face they embark on a magical journey, using their creativity and fantasy as a source of hope and resilience in the face of adversity.”
Atelier Armonico’s production places the piece in a context where wars continue and the world struggles to recover from another pandemic. But out of this modern-day trauma, despite the terrible pain and hardship, new things can be created.
“Every step of our contemporary dance production is a testament to the real refugee experiences that have ignited this electrifying performance,” continues Levi. “The performance is a journey inspired by the resilience and strength of those who’ve braved unimaginable challenges, where emotions become dance.”
Levi and his team spent time with UK asylum seekers who have fled from persecution, from countries around the world, including Ukraine, Syria, and Iraq, to create the piece.
“I’ve been interested in Weill’s work, his life and his concern for social justice,” says Levi. “Being a part of the process of listening to the experiences of asylum seekers and what they’ve been through, and then creating this version of Zaubernacht has been a moving time for everyone involved and we’re thrilled to now share it with audiences in Kent.
“Bringing a production like this to the stage is part of our commitment to meaningful work through collaborations, pieces that can challenge perceptions and provoke conversation and understanding, and give people who don’t often have a voice, a platform.”
Five dancers will perform the piece: Sophie Chinner, Megan Rose Pay, Sasha Mahfouz Shadid, Ezzy Nzewi, and Dominic Simpson.
Sophie Chinner, who trained in the The Royal Ballet School Associates programme and Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, says: “I’m very glad that our rendition of Zaubernacht is being supported and recognised as such a current, powerful piece that has a need to be made. When I joined the movement workshop with the Asylum Seekers in Folkestone, it was clear to me that the cliche of dance being a ‘universal language’ was ultimately true. There is a lot of imagery; the piece is rich with meaning. I think it’s essential for us to be reminded of the subject matter.”
As Kurt Weill said in a radio interview in 1941: “What the immigrants of today are bringing to this country is not more and not less than what the immigrants from earlier persecutions have brought here. All they ever could bring was the work of their hands and the work of their heads. That’s what they offer to this country and what the people of this country are so ready to accept.
“The greatest danger to the human race is indifference.”
Zaubernacht plays at The Astor in Deal, Kent on 1st December and Quarterhouse Folkestone on 2nd December. To book tickets, visit www.theastor.co.uk the Quarterhouse website at www.creativefolkestone.org.uk