The Workhouse – A Screendance Film by Sima Gonsai

Date published: 3 Aug 2021

Posted by: Joe Pick

The Workhouse

A new dance film produced in collaboration with dancers aged between 55 and 79. The dance performance was entirely choreographed, rehearsed, filmed and edited remotely, using Zoom. It is directed by Sima Gonsai, working with Tom Dale Company, and with a soundtrack composed by Isabel Jones.

The film’s public premiere is at 5pm on 6 August 2021. Watch it here or on Facebook.

Throughout the pandemic, the 12 older dancers who took part in the project have been using video conferencing to work with choreographer and dancer Tom Dale. Originally brought together to work on a live performance, the project’s artistic team and participants had to adapt to the changing reality brought about by COVID-19. Overcoming the obstacles created by shielding and social distancing, they have produced a film that captures the feelings of isolation older people have experienced during this historic time.

The choreography, performance and soundtrack for the film are inspired by The Workhouse, Southwell, a National Trust property. Built in 1824, it is the most complete Victorian workhouse still in existence. Its architecture was influenced by prison design and its harsh regime became a blueprint for workhouses throughout the country. Around 160 inmates lived and worked in a strictly segregated environment with virtually no contact between the old and infirm and the younger, non-disabled, men, women and children.

Isabel Jones, artistic director of Salamanda Tandem, composed the soundtrack for the film, working closely with Sima Gonsai. It samples atmospheric sound captured at The Workhouse.

Supported by Arts Council England and The Baring Foundation.

‘Dance Me to the End of Lockdown’ – A Seminar

Re-watch our seminar about older people’s dance during the pandemic. We talk to the Creative Team that worked on ‘The Workhouse’ about the process of production, and hear from the project’s participants.

Going live at 5.15pm on 6 August 2021.

We are joined by Moving Memory Dance. The company share how they’ve been able to continue their inspiring work during lockdown.