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Preview: ESC on Tour


Newbiggin-by-the-Sea Wednesday 26th April 2017
Berwick-upon-Tweed Saturday 29th April 2017
Bamburgh Saturday 6th May 2017
Warkworth Saturday 13th May 2017
Newcastle Dance City Friday 19th May 2017

Photo: Simon Drew
ESC, the Newcastle based contemporary dance company could hardly have expected the public reaction to their latest work, PITMAN. Choreographed by the Company’s Artistic Director, Eliot Smith, it tells the story of the miners through dance interpretations of six of the paintings of the Pitmen Painters that are on permanent exhibition at Woodhorn Museum.

Photo: Simon Drew
Part of the work was previewed at Woodhorn Museum before its première at Newbiggin Maritime Centre in November. It played to a sell-out audience, and the same happened the following evening when the performances moved to the Laing Gallery in Newcastle. What was particularly moving was the reaction of relatives of miners who found the work emotionally charged, and there were tears. The work of the Pitman Painters has been the subject of a successful play by Lee Hall, a definitive academic study by William Feaver, and is featured in Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island, but this is the first time that a dance company has offered their interpretation of the paintings.

Photo: Simon Drew
Pitman is part of a double bill. The other work in the programme is We Got the Beat created especially for the company by the American choreographer Maurice Causey who is now based in Amsterdam. Original, very physical, and abstract, this is contemporary dance at its very best and the perfect foil to Pitman.

Both works are to be seen as part of ESC’s 2017 Spring Tour, funded by Arts Council England. Performances will take place in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea on 26th April (returning by public demand), Berwick-upon-Tweed on 29th April, Bamburgh on 6th May, Warkworth on 13th May, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s Dance City on 19th May. For full details and to book tickets for these performances please check the ESC website at

This looks like being a particularly eventful year for the Company. In January they were invited to Rome to perform, and they will be part of this year’s Northumberland Miners Gala in the summer. Eliot himself has been awarded Associate Artist status for 2017 by Dance City, and he has recently returned back from New York in February, having been awarded an international development grant to research the work of the American choreographer, Martha Graham. Eliot is a powerful advocate of the Graham technique and is determined to keep her name and work alive in this country through his teaching and choreography.

Photo: Simon Drew
At the age of 21 Eliot’s determination to establish and maintain an independent dance company here in the North East and to bring original contemporary dance works to communities throughout the region is, five years later, beginning to pay off in a big way, and he is already planning exciting things for 2018. Another work based on a North East theme, perhaps? The success of Pitman has certainly set Eliot’s mind racing.  We shall just have to wait and see.


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