Prisoner 466 - A New Ballet

A new style of ballet

Over the summer Hinged Dance Co. with support from Arts Council England brought together professional dancers, musicians and theatre practitioners together with new talent from the OC London community in Kings Cross, to create Prisoner 466 a new contemporary dance work about Mandela's 27 year imprisonment and the international anti-apartheid campaign his imprisonment inspired.

Watch our project summary below, together with excerpts from the showcase held on August 21st at the Only Connect Theatre, Kings Cross, London.



More about Prisoner 466 below...


In London's Parliament Square, stand 9 statues - each a hero of Britain's once vast Empire. Once, all were white men... bar one. And that man, was not even British.

His name and face, have become so seared on international consciousness as a symbol of freedom that it is easy to forget he was once considered - a terrorist.

How does a man turn around and forgive those who sent him to jail and threw away the key, for the colour of his skin? How do you you tell a story of a lifetime - the real drama of which was a change in hearts and minds over a generation?

PRISONER 466 is a ballet like no other. The multi-racial cast play both guards and inmates, Apartheid leaders, and ANC bombers - removing the visual prejudice of colour - here only movements will bind.

This is the story of Nelson Mandela's 27 year confinement, told through the eyes of Desomond Tutu the man who would become his closest friend. - it tells the fight of the international campaign, of blacks and whites - who just would not give up.

This is the 9,365 days of prisoner 466/64.

Hinged Co

About Hinged Dance Company

Hinged was founded by choreographer Taira Foo and director Chris Lennon to bring the narrative ballet art-form into the 21st century. Taira Foo is known for her rapid-fire, high-energy choreography, delivering powerful emotional performances whether in moments of weightless stillness or intense physicality. Reviews of her recent work Rainman hailed it as "Gripping", "Intensely moving", "One million miles an hour stuff", "Imaginative and brilliant to watch". Her work draws on strong contemporary and street-dance influences to create her own trademark style.

Chris Lennon is a director and accomplished actor in his own right, with over a decade performing in numerous West End shows, including Billy Elliot, Blood Brothers, Starlight Express, Fame and others. As a performance coach he has developed a new acting method specifically for dancers, drawing on both Stanislavsky and Chekhov methods, enabling naturally physical performers to use their physicality to inhabit and deliver truthful and emotionally powerful characterisations.

They were joined in 2012 by video & animation director Harry Amies. Harry brings extensive experience in music video, animation & drama, and now develops the visual narrative of the works. He creates crossover 3D, animated and visual effects-based sceneography, to blend the fast-cutting, non-linear visual feast of the cinema with the live ballet environment.

Videos of their recent works, Rainman, Soloist, Carly's Exit can be seen below

Taira Foo - Choreographer : Showreel

Hinged Dance Co - Rainman : Trailer

Choreographer: Taira Foo, Director: Chris Lennon, Visuals: Harry Amies, Music: Various
See Trailer Above, Watch a Show Excerpt or Watch the Full Show

Hinged Dance Co - The Soloist : Trailer

Choreographer: Taira Foo, Director: Chris Lennon, Music: Various

Hinged Dance Co - Carly's Exit : Dance Short Film

Director: Harry Amies, Choreographer: Taira Foo, Music: Harry Amies


Why A Ballet?

It is said that actions speak louder. Nowhere is that more true than in Mandela's life. Apartheid was a system based not on what people said, but how they looked, and it's defeat came finally not by words but the actions of a man that spoke louder.

Primal human fear of others is not something that's easy to describe or talk about but we know it when we feel it.

It is said that 93% of human communication is non-verbal, meaning most of our understanding of one another is formed in ways we cannot even begin to describe in words. So by telling stories through movement and body language it's possible to both experience and understand on an incredibly profound but completely non-verbal level.

Hinged Dance Co: In Rehearsal

Choreographer: Taira Foo


This history is one that at times was horrifically violent, heartstoppingly silent, ageingly slow, and epoch-definingly momentous.

So to contain the narrative PRISONER 466 will focus on key turning-points in Mandela's life, and the campaign to end Apartheid, in flash-backs and cut-aways from the temporal ark of his time in prison.

On a conceptual level the setting and style of the performance will deal head-on with perceptions of colour, identity, and the frailty of reason to master our primal allegiances.

The multi-racial cast will perform without regard to race, playing both guards and inmates, Apartheid leaders, and ANC bombers - removing the visual prejudice of colour.

Visually the story will be told in black, white, with highlight colours, from costume, to set, to lighting, deliberately manipulating perception of what is black and what is white.

Hinged Dance Co: Superman Showcase

Choreographer: Taira Foo


New Audiences

Hinged Co. is dedicated to making narrative dance a modern, relvant and accessible artform, that audiences who would never naturally go to a ballet in their life, would actually clamour to go to.

Accessibility involves a number of things: knowing about it, wanting to go, it being affordable, and the venues being ones the audience feels comfortable in. The R&D process will address each of these factors in all aspects of the production.

The production will be developed from the ground up to enable it to play in venues that may have never hosted a ballet before. It will be designed deliberately as an easily tour-able production, able to play for one or two-night bookings in venues that normally only host music shows.

Locally Sourced Chorus

As part of the ongoing engagement it is planned that various crowd scenes of the show will be performed by local groups including schools and colleges. This will enable the touring production not only to engage with local audiences before they arrive, but also leave a legacy behind after it leaves.

Excluded Groups Engaged In Development

The story focusses on Mandela's time in prison, so it is considered key that the R&D will work directly with ex-prisoners during development, for expressions and movements to grow out of direct experiences of incarceration, confinement and exclusion in every gesture.

The chorus of the production is designed to be swelled by non-proffessional performers cast from theatre projects and support communities for at-risk and excluded youngsters in the towns and cities the production visits.

This aspect of the R&D phase is being desinged in collaboration with Only Connect London, one of Britain's leading charities working with ex-offenders and at-risk young people.

To be seen, a dance work needs to meet audiences where they are. But it cannot just be seen where they are, it must take the audience to places they've never been. This is the guiding sentiment of Hinged Co.'s public role.


A Suite of Composers

This story is one which plays out across multiple nations, in two continents over a period of four decades. To reflect the massive change across the period, and the diversity of it's characters, the production will commission not one but a suite of composers to capture different aspects of the story.

As well as increasing the range of the work, this approach has the added benefit of lowering the barrier to engagement for new audiences, enabling each artist to extend engagement with the work to their own diverse audiences.

The R & D phase will focus on building this coalition of composers, devising thematic principles to inspire the compositions, and allocating scenes and sections to the individual artists.

This approach will enable the suite of composers to work closely with each other, not only enabling them to share the compositional load but to compliment each other's sounds, skills and styles, lending the production a vastly extended reach and dramatic range as an audio work.


Powerful Production

In the early 20th Century the ballet artform was credited with transforming the artistic landscape through its drawing together of leading proponents in disparate artistic skills into one focussed production. In the latter part of the 20th Century however, that mantle largely passed on to film. It was its wow factor that pushed both artists and artistic technology forward as artists and technicians burnished each other to greater endeavours.

This production's goal is not to ape the style or production design of the early ballets, but to use the form as a launching off point to push live technologies and environmental production effects to create jaw dropping productions that are more immersive and spine tingling than film.

The R&D phase will involve development and testing of new tools to develop 3D visual technologies that wrap around the live audience.

The visual set is one that is developed also to enable a high production value show to be easily tour-able, to enable access to one or two-night venues normally associated with bands, and also to develop a format that translates with equal power to new 3D simulcast audiences.

The visuals lead Harry Amies has ten years experience in commercials and music video productions and you can see more of his work here.