From Mariah Carey to Jay-Z, A Lyrical Dance Concert brings new twists to songs of stars

Gillie Kleiman

Gillie Kleiman - Credit: Archant

Coming to Shoreditch Town Hall next week, A Lyrical Dance Concert is a contemporary dance performance with DIY glamour.

Put together by Gillie Kleiman, Sara Lindstrom and guest performer Eleanor Sikorski, it takes the lyrics of chart hits by everyone from Mariah Carey to Jay Z and stretches them out of shape to offer to explore questions of value, responsibility, care and reverence. Here, Kleiman reveals what’s in store.

The show seems to span quite a few genres. How would you describe it?

First and foremost it’s a dance performance. That’s the art form we all studied and practise. However, dance is a many-splendoured thing! This show is a kind of cabaret: we do a series of numbers of different kinds, each of which has a different combination of movement, song, speech, interaction and costume changes. Some are odd and surprising, others weirdly touching. And we like to think that they’re all pretty funny!

In the show you bend songs and lyrics out of shape. How do you do this and what are the results?

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The lyrics become a kind of instruction for us to do things. Sometimes that means literally miming words, as in our rendition of Tina Turner’s River Deep, Mountain High; quite often they tell us about how to relate to the people watching, like in Touch My Body by Mariah Carey (my favourite), and occasionally the song acts as a background, supporting the action, as in Jay-Z’s 99 Problems. Dedicating ourselves to this task results in some new interpretations of things that seem so common, and drive us to create unusual social relations through the familiar music.

Underpinning the music and dance, you explore quite a few subjects. What do you hope the audience will come away with (besides a fun time)?

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I would never underestimate the value of having a fun time! This was a really important question for us as we were making it: never assuming for a moment that it should be fun or funny, but realising that it would be the right tone. Besides that, I think that the work is one of reclamation, taking the everyday cultural artefact that is pop music to reshape it and help us reflect on what it might do for us. The show is gently political, through all the giggles, and offers different sorts of sociality to those we’d find elsewhere. It’s nostalgic and future-thinking all at once!

What’s the role of the audience? How are they involved in the show and what should they expect of themselves?

We often talk about choreographing the audience, and I think that that’s one of the things we do: we move around the spectators, ask them for favours to help the show take shape and invite them to take part in some of the numbers. Those eager to join in can make themselves known, and others who’d rather watch from afar do that too. Each audience member can set their participation-thermostat as high as they like!

A Lyrical Dance Concert is on November 13 and 14 at Shoreditch Town Hall, 380 Old Street, London, EC1V 9LT, from 7.30pm. Tickets are £11; visit

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