Author Archives: Skye Reynolds


About Skye Reynolds

Skye Reynolds is a Scottish-based dance artist, performance–maker and educator, originally from Australia. Her practice is experimental, collaborative and influenced by politics of real life. She has worked across professional and community platforms for over 20 years, including festivals, schools, post-war zones; and once-upon-a-time was a music journalist! Her current work integrates language and movement into ‘Stand Up Dance’ seeking to embody the artist’s voice and exploring the question: how to make art as action? She supports platforms for dialogue and exchange with a curiosity about developing creative resilience in the face of contemporary challenges. @skyereynolds

Catherine Hoffmann: Cyst-er Act

A Pagan ode of sorts (in part to a cyst, in part to a fallopian tube), Cyst-er Act is a’messy live art musical probing into the bloody realms of the womb’. Written and conceived by Catherine Hoffmann in response to her experience of having an ovary removed, she and her poly-cysters, Sarah Jane Grimshaw and Sherrone C, romp through gynaecology, sexuality and ageing to conjure rites of passage that heal and celebrate the female body.

Aptly staged in Summerhall’s Demonstration Room, the show opens with Hoffman lying on a table, her legs spread apart in the vaginal examination position. She’s wearing a pink Grecian robe with orange tights. Her poly-cysters play doctors who ask clinical questions. They rap about public health, waiting lists and ‘not making a fuss.’ In order to discover what’s growing inside her, the patient Hoffman must navigate her reproductive body via an impersonal, mechanistic system.

Turns out that at age 45 she has a phantom pregnancy – it’s an ovarian cyst the size of a 22-week-old baby, which she christens Leonard. But how did he get there? Was it because of the egg and follicle or did Hoffman summon it through underlying emotional causes?

In a slick and hilarious transformation, the ladies morph into Charlie’s Cysters to perform a speculum-wielding choreography which is a highlight of the show. With speculum microphones, speculum weapons and speculums in every orifice, they sing about the myth of the cyst. Farcically serious, the work considers very real questions about women’s health and how to integrate mainstream science with holistic medicine. When our bodies are out of control, what choices do we make?

Leonard-the-cyst is eventually removed, along with one ovary and a fallopian tube, to be symbolically reclaimed as a bowl of pink slime. Post-op, when the ovary blues kick in, ‘Coma Chameleon’ (after Boy George) is sung as Hoffman struggles to heal from invasive surgery, now zombified on heavy-duty medication.

In ‘real life’ how do we recover from a traumatic intervention? The cysters create a cathartic ceremony to purge the pain by converting into shamanic nuns, screaming death metal and banging things (I cover my ears). Then stripping off their habits to become comfortably nude, they incant a Marian prayer with impressive gospel harmonies to revive The Vagina. The resurrection back to life seems to be working!

Hoffman’s ovarian cyst takes her full cycle through pop, prayer and punk to re-empower the feminine through physical and emotional recovery. She has invoked the Goddess and been anointed with petals. It’s been proud anarchy on stage and the ladies emerge resilient and divinely naked from the riot.

A salute to sisters doing it for themselves!


Featured image (top): Catherine Hoffmann: Cyst-er Act. Photo Holly Revell


The Hiccup Project: Lovely Girls

Chess Dillon-Reams and Cristina MacKerron are a Brighton-based comedic dance duo known as The Hiccup Project – and it’s a project worth investing in. Lovely Girls is a piece about imagining and creating a world where women can be – and do – whatever they want. It’s about cracking through a reductive myth which presumes ‘lovely girls’ is a desirable moniker for young women – it’s not!

Zoo Southside’s main space has a very big stage and, as they excitedly point out, they’re on it! There’s a coat rack piled with girls’ stuff and a microphone. Dolled up in white knickers and vests the ladies make a charismatic first impression with friendly intros, flashy dance, and an imaginary smoke machine. Aren’t they lovely! And strong and so much MORE as they demonstrate running back and forth from said coat stand to don feathers, flip flops, handbags, striking endless poses.

They give us a breathlessly hilarious commentary of how to be Sexy, Intelligent Chilled, Assertive and MORE; Glamorous, Adventurous, Healthy and MORE; Organised, Empathetic and MORE. They are domestic goddesses who can manage a jerk-off in one hand with a broom in the other. Impressive! When this cliché is exhausted, we’re left with a sweaty image of Cristina wearing a sanitary pad on her head like an easter bonnet. Lovely.

The Hiccup Project have chemistry! They’re like new wave Ab Fab feministas – go get yourselves a TV show ladies! They’re making business out of being women – and why not? We’re 50% of the pie, let’s see a show about us. Indeed – despite the fact a male promoter told them, ‘nice idea but how can I relate to something I’ve never experienced’. (Yeah mate, that’s how we feel about Moby Dick.) Meanwhile, a friend of mine said her boyfriend learnt more about how it feels to be a woman from watching this show than he’d ever realised. Evidently we need equal programming, especially in dance.

The Lovely Girls are lovable, assertive and badass. They can say no. They pursue dreams without asking permission. They’re ‘two women on stage, naturally’. Beyoncé would be proud. Their show is a timely reminder to be on the alert for gender shackles everywhere, especially when they turn up in your own life.

Coupled with their astute comedic sketches – including a useful lesson in female sexual stimulation via the cleaning of a flute – Chess and Cristina dance a cracking playlist of choreographies that underline their politics, technical training, and most importantly reveal they can dance like nobody’s watching.

During the last part of the show I welcome the emotional gear change as they drop sketches to share personal stories, transforming the space with embodied, confident voices which embrace the heart of their material.

Chess always wanted to learn to play drums, but instead of a a drum kit she was given a flute. Tonight she plays an air drum rendition of ‘One Way or Another’ that rocks Zoo stadium, and would inspire Blondie to shed her shades. It’s a portrait of the artist as a powerful young woman, cracking her own high-hat.

Cristina shares a story of her solo adventure to heal a broken heart. It’s a beautiful, intimate moment as she brings herself to life, dancing with abandon, for herself and for the thrill of it, accompanied by an evocative Tracy Chapman singing ‘Stand By Me’. I’m moved to shed a few tears, and think of my teenage daughter sitting beside me who’s about to leave school and embark on her own life adventure.

When the two come together for their last dance it’s a joy to watch them celebrating friendship. Some of us are handed glasses of wine and we raise a toast to the spirit of The Hiccup Project and their wonderful and totally essential reinvention of what it means to be ‘lovely girls’.

Go get ‘em gals.


Featured image (Top): The Hiccup Project: Lovely Girls. Photo by Molly Hawkins

Ivo Dimchev: Som Faves

It’s Saturday night at Chisenhale Dance Space and we’re here to see Som Faves by Bulgarian choreographer and singer-songwriter Ivo Dimchev. Internationally renowned for his extreme and colourful mixture of live art, music and dance-theatre, Dimchev has authored over 30 performances, exhibitions and concerts in the past 20 years.  I saw him recently on Britain’s Got Talent impressing Simon Cowell with seductive song and sculptural choreography. No wonder Som Faves is sold out – it’s an award-winning solo created in 2009 which has toured to critical acclaim around the world.

We’re in an intimate studio space and Dimchev sits centre-stage playing keyboard. He’s having a conversation about his mother – with himself, or an alter ego: ‘If you want me to be your mother you have to do something. /  If you want me to be your mother you have to go to theatre.’

Behind him, there’s a painting on the wall and a clothes rail. Beside him a wooden cat is decorated with gaffer tape stripes. It’s domestic kitsch. Dimchev is dressed like a schoolboy popstar in shorts and boots with shirt unbuttoned and tied at the waist. Arms and torso are tattooed with painted symbols and his hair is neatly parted with shaved back and sides. He’s an original, yet I get whiffs of Queen, Madonna and – with those cheeks bones and doe eyes – Johnny Depp.

Dimchev has compiled a list of 100 subjects, objects and people close to his heart, and Som Faves is a performance based on this material, rearranged afresh each time. It is presented as a cabaret of seemingly incoherent topics which Dimchev conjures to life through lyrical incantation, tongue-in-cheek provocation and live blood-taking.

He flirts with an invisible friend. They argue. ‘Fuck you/ No fuck you/ Thank you for fucking me!’ He’s coy, he’s cocky.  He talks about art, playfully agitating around its edges: he exhibits a secondhand painting of children’s TV animation Dora the Explorer, upside down. ‘Respect…. Respect… Respect ART!!’ he commands in a crescendo of operatic growling, posing with the picture before tossing it aside.

From charity shop art to self-promotion: Dimchev auctions merchandise, t-shirts he’s designed and an encyclopaedic book documenting his life’s work. He repeatedly upends his own conventions. He gets upset with the cat: ‘Why won’t you eat, what’s wrong with my food?’ he chants with a whining drawl.

Suddenly Dimchev removes his hair – it’s a toupee! Pushing it inside out he sticks it back on his head, perched like the electrocuted comb of a cockerel. Then he begins to sing – jaw open, chest resonant – a song about blood on his face. It’s a vocal highway along which he shudders and keens, growls, shimmers and trills. Thrilling and visceral there are echoes of Anohni from Antony and the Johnsons and Kate Bush. Dimchev’s voice is his transformer, his choreography, a portal to another dimension. He’s a broken lover with his heart upon his sleeve, a shaman – and we’re spellbound. ‘My blood is talking to your blood,’ he sings and mine calls back.

Throughout Som Faves, Dimchev shuffles between form and content, striking a signature balance of formal ambiguity. As he traverses art and death, love and consumerism, irony is a frame through which he invites us into his world.

When he asks if we think his work is ‘choreography’ or ‘song’ it’s a trick question. Whilst he’s referred to previous choreographic styles, we’ve not yet seen him ‘dance.’ Most raise their hands for ‘song,’ but when he counts us up Dimchev decides we’ve voted ‘choreography’.’And why not? His work raises questions about categorising contemporary performance which deconstructs and reasserts itself; meanwhile, Dimchev is defining his own style.

He then quite simply takes a needle and injects it into his arm, drawing blood which he squirts over his face. It’s raw, risky and I wince, excited as he launches into the finale – reprising the song from earlier about blood on his face. Tragic-comic with blood dripping down his cheeks, Dimchev weaves impressions from the night into an operatic lullaby, leaving us with an intimate portrait of the artist as we bid him farewell.

Dimchev is a rare and curious star. I sincerely hope his light will shine on these Brexit shores more often.