A rare and profound piece of technical brilliance and emotional depths, Fairy Tales by Step Change Studios is a dance production unlike any other. Set up by Rashmi Becker, Step Change Studios is a pioneering dance company working to improve inclusivity in the dance world. The company of Fairy Tales works both with disabled and non-disabled dancers from all over the globe in an extraordinary fusion of styles and forms, covering everything from Tango to Ballet, Contemporary to Kuchipudi. It is a rich feast, moving the audience through tears and laughter to a final well-deserved standing ovation.
This production is a chocolate box of different pieces, each based on a well-known fairy tale or folk story. As is pointed out in the introduction, the stories that people tell across the world all share the same themes. It is this tapping into the river of similarity that makes these pieces so moving and invigorating, each dancer communicating something essential about the human experience. Whether that is the poignancy of nostalgia, the pain of unrequited love or the explosive joy of celebrating with others, each piece examines an aspect of the human condition and shares it wholeheartedly with the audience.
Choreographically inventive and exciting, the differing physicalities and abilities of the dancers open up a whole new vista of possibilities. Wheelchairs are expansive, rather than restrictive, enabling dancers to move with exquisite grace and speed across the space, executing breath-taking pin sharp turns and pirouettes of dizzying velocity. The combination of technicality, power and delicacy is a joy to witness, as performers dance not in spite of but because of their wheelchairs. Pawel Karpinski is a stand-out soloist amongst the wheelchair dancers, performing a deeply moving solo piece to the waltzing melodies of Once Upon a December.
Another stand-out star amongst this constellation of performers is Andrew Self, a dancer with Down’s Syndrome (or as he more appropriately says, Dance Syndrome). He is simply glorious in an ethereal waltz with partner Claire Gleave, based on the theme of guardian angels. Natasha Julien, a professional Deaf dancer, is powerful and expressive as the Little Mermaid in a heart-breaking duet complete with complex, varied choreography and bold lifts. Finally, would not be just to write a review without mentioning the outrageously talented Romano Solano who is stunning in a Tango-inspired piece with Becker and in a moving Contemporary solo exploring beauty and self-worth.
Fairy Tales is a work of essential integrity, bravery and power, premiering at the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells. Follow Step Change studios on Twitter @Step_Change and Instagram @stepchangestudios and keep your eyes peeled for an opportunity to have your life changed.