Young Associates Mixed Bill

Eighty minutes of powerful gesticulations

The Lilian Baylis Studio in London played host to the stage of opportunity for budding Young Associates that are part of the inaugural Sadler’s Wells programme, all of whom desire to have a flourishing career in choreography.

The night’s entertainment consisted of four pieces, each with their own philosophical representation of heart, mind and society:

A quiet hope

This piece illustrates how reacting to forces around us provides both an opportunity to interconnect with each other through embracing a mutual goal, whilst also potentially disconnecting with our fellow human beings through resistance.

Shall we just retire to the lake?

This piece initially had the audience watching over their shoulder, as cleaning spray and cloths were sporadically falling upon chairs and the sidewalls. Such was the spontaneous opening that the audience became synchronised in uncontrollable laughter. Thereafter the words ‘sorry’ and ‘hahahaha’ were repeated in numerous tones and expressions as a scene of male vs. female interaction evolved.

The Three Visions

Here, you witness how light at the end of the tunnel becomes ever distant, as Evelyn experiences dark and lost surroundings in the final heartbeats of her life. Her emotions vary in extremity as the lines become less blurred between hope and reality.


In the Shangani language, Tsutseka means “be free”. Hence, this scene strongly exemplified how compassion and understanding between human beings can lead to a world of less anarchy and bitterness.

Prior to the show, I interviewed three of the Young Associates on the Mixed Bill production and their career ambitions. Here is what they had to say:

Why did you join the Sadler’s Wells Young Associates Programme and has it met your expectations thus far?

Wilhelmina Ojanen: For me, being a Sadler’s Wells Young Associate is an incredible opportunity to develop my choreographic work and artistic voice. The programme has already exceeded my expectations by far, and I continue to be in awe of the amount of support, opportunities and exposure this programme provides us.

Chris Thomas: The programme is a fantastic opportunity to continue my creative journey and have my work shown on the world-renowned stages at Sadler’s Wells. To work and be commissioned by Sadler’s Wells at this stage in my career is a once in a lifetime opportunity: to have the safety and support of a big organisation like Sadler’s means you can relax and just focus on developing the artistry and unique choreographic voice of your work.

It is nice knowing that I have been selected because they believe in me, my work and they are giving all that they can to support my choreographic vision. It’s a very exciting programme and something I feel very honoured to be part of, especially in its first year of development. So far, the process has met my expectations, but there are bound to be hiccups – as with any process there are lots of factors to consider when making work. Sadler’s have been immensely accommodating and helpful with any queries and have been fantastic with sorting out studio space – it’s such a relief turning up to a studio and just being able to get on with creating, not having to worry about logistics and money.

Anthony Matsena: I joined the Young Associates because I felt as a young choreographer who is creating and developing their voice as a maker, I couldn’t dream of a better organisation to help support me.

What is your favourite genre of music and dance? Has the Sadler’s Wells programme enabled you to immerse yourself in the latest trends of choreography?

Wilhelmina Ojanen: I cannot name only one favourite genre of music as I enjoy all styles. When speaking of dance though, I would say that I favour contemporary dance, as it allows a mix different styles to make new, experimental and innovative creations.

Chris Thomas: I have a varied taste in music, from alternative, singer-songwriter to multiple forms of more modern classical music, baroque, romanticism and opera. I emotionally connect to music and feel most inspired when I’m moving to the music without even thinking. I’m generally drawn to music with a darker tone/musical ideas, it is very important to me to know where the musical idea have come from and why the artist/composer has written it. When it comes to songs, I am very interested in the lyrics, their meaning and how I can relate to them. I have albums by various artist that have monumentally affected my mental outlook and got me through situations by providing an escape.

Anthony Matsena: My favourite genre of music constantly changes but I find myself always reverting back to Krump music when I need inspiration. My favourite genre of dance is hip hop.

Has the Sadler’s Wells programme enabled you to immerse yourself in the latest trends of choreography?

Wilhelmina Ojanen: The Young Associates programme has definitely allowed me to immerse myself in the world of dance. I have been lucky to see a large number of shows this year at Sadler’s Wells, and from viewing a variety of dance works I have developed a deeper understanding of different makers’ voices as well as gained knowledge of where my own work sits in the dance world.

Chris Thomas: I really enjoy performing theatrical work, as I also trained as an actor, so feel most comfortable in pieces when I’m taking on a role. I have been developing a choreographic process that incorporates techniques by Lee Strasberg and his idea of ’emotional recall’ in the method acting bracket. I feel best when dancing if I have completely immersed myself emotionally and therefore feel able to give a truly honest performance. I also enjoy performing a more abstract/movement based contemporary dance and get a real adrenaline rush from being on stage.

One of the most valuable perks of the Young Associate programme is being able to see everything that’s going on, as we are offered two tickets to each show at Sadler’s Wells, the Peacock and Lilian Baylis Studio. This means we get to see all the new work and get invited to various galas, workshops or talks that are going on in the building. This is all very insightful and a key part of our personal development as artists, seeing what works and what doesn’t work, finding out our likes and dislikes. Having the opportunity to see so much clears your own head, and you feel more able to focus on your choreographic process and realise your vision.

Anthony Matsena: Sadler’s Wells has allowed me to form my own voice and encouraged not go for what is trendy, but what is it interesting for me and through that, forming your own trend.

What can attendees expect to be wowed with during the Mixed Bill on 9th & 10th October, and what sort of reception are you anticipating?

Wilhelmina Ojanen: The audience of the Young Associates Mixed Bill can expect to be presented four distinct pieces by four very different young dance makers. All four of us have a unique voice and what is amazing about presenting the pieces in a mixed bill is that in one night is that the audience really gets to see a variety of ways of working and approaching choreography.

I do not really know what kind of reception I am anticipating, as it is the first time we are presenting work publicly as the Young Associates. What I do hope for is that the audience comes out of the theatre touched, moved or provoked by any (or all!) of the four distinct pieces.

Chris Thomas: I think the audience is in for a treat! Each Young Associate works in different choreographic styles, the programme will be diverse and provide insight into the choreographer’s process. I feel extremely fortunate to show my work to this volume of people including the press, industry professionals, family, and friends. I hope they enjoy the performance, and I look forward to hearing their feedback.

Anthony Matsena: I think they can be expect to be wowed by the courage and honesty of the work and performers. I don’t know what to expect but i hope the work provokes discussion about the topics within the work.

What would be your dream location to perform choreography at and why?

Wilhelmina Ojanen: I would have to say my dream location to present my work would be in my hometown in Tampere, Finland, because it would mean I could present my work to my community there. My second, slightly ambitious answer to this question would be in Santiago, Chile, where I was raised.

Chris Thomas: My aim when creating work is to produce something as cinematic as possible, I’m heavily inspired by film and capturing beautiful images live on stage. Every piece I make, I have the intention of making it into a film, so I love becoming not only the choreographer but also the visual director. Last year, my company Retrospect Dance Theatre, co-founded with Hannah McGlashon, premiered our first full-length work In Light of Those You Love, as a feature-length film shown at Whirled Cinema, London. One of the most rewarding elements of this project was dancing on location, completely immersing yourself in the world and feeling at home in the surroundings. This aspect really helped with becoming the character. So in answer to your question, my dream location to perform would be wherever the piece sits to make it as real as possible.

For my new commission, The Three Visions, part of the Mixed Bill, the dream location would be Eltham Palace: a beautiful, historical art deco manor house lost in the concrete jungle of the surrounding London landscape and preserved in its own 1920s beauty. When making the piece, I drew influences from the darker gothic side of that era with a sense of Hollywood noir. If I ever have the chance to take The Three Visions from stage to screen, my dream would be to make it there.

To be able to show my work at Sadler’s Wells, the home of contemporary dance and such an important stage both nationally and internationally, is a dream come true. So many amazing artists have had their work shown at Sadler’s, artists that inspire me greatly and have created piece that pushed the art form. I have to pinch myself that my work will be performed on this hallowed ground!

Anthony Matsena: Except for the Sadler’s Wells stage, my dream location would be Jacobs Pillow just because of how many of my idols have shared their work there.

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