Still in the City: intimacy and grace through the eyes of dancers, musicians and young children

Still in the City

Sitc exhibition poster image.jpg

Largely the hearts of our towns and cities, have been dis-inhabited.

Replaced by a combination of tourism, poverty, over priced housing, banking and dereliction.

How does this effect our own centres and ways of being? And how we feel as urban dwellers?

Now that we know that the spaces within our bodies structurally mirror the spaces we inhabit. What does this mean for us and our hearts? The spaces within us and our connection to each other?

Still in the City is a space for pre-school children to re-inhabit the centres of our towns and cities in full expression; together with ENSEMBLE dancers and musicians to fill these spaces with freedom, beauty and intimacy. The artists and children build a 45 minute show together. Together they become the the joy, expression, heart-felt, loving curiousness, that is our real and ideal nature; the centre we long for, in self and in city. They replace speed, absence, distraction, isolation, collapse and shut down with connection, action, grace, honesty, intimacy and freedom. And offer the parents this beauty to watch.

Still in the City pre-show workshop

Still in the City is at its best preceded by a number of workshops for parents and pre-school children. These enable the children to feel comfortable in the space in which we later perform, and builds a relationship between them and our dancers and musicians that then really blossoms in a public show.

Or Still in the City takes place in the same space regularly for a time and slowly the beauty opens.

Still in the City can inhabit the theatres, squares, libraries, warehouses and the open spaces of our towns and cities, and breath new life.

It delights the children who take part, their parents and the adults who come to watch. It teaches us to be intimate and free again and reminds us what we can learn from our youngest members of society, and from dancers.

Feedback from Still in the City audiences

 Some comments from our audiences

‘Beautiful. Mesmerising. Intriguing, Moving’

‘Compelling and completely absorbing. It was wonderful to watch the interaction with the children, completely uninhibited’ 

‘Charming funny and beautiful ‘

‘Accessible, challenging, conceptual, engaging, unconventional, exciting, boundary-shifting. The dancers had a great sense of audience and space. Thank you!'

How Still in the City works

Our dancers and musicians go through a rigorous training with Artistic Director, Hayley J S Matthews. Hayley combines her skills and experience as dancer, choreographer and Rolfer (posture, coordination and movement worker). The artists look deeply at their own posture and movement patterns - those that are very often inhabited due to city dwelling - bracing, shutting down, backing away, defending, protecting, not fully breathing, holding our weight up in ourselves instead of putting it on the ground - the patterns we subconsciously hand down to our children. And we re-negotiate different patterns for each artist - patterns where they are able to embrace, have freedom and be the most functional they can be. This creates the intimate space of Still in the City - of creative freedom and wellness that the children come to inhabit with us; where our hearts can freely fill the space and express who we are.

We open to children between 0-4 years because in this moment in our lives we are coming to two feet and learning the posture and expression patterns we will have for a life-time, so we offer this space of wellness, function, beauty and expression at this moment. When children can offer their beauty and their freedom uninhibited and be met by the same. And then we re-inhabit spaces in the centre of the city with it, so others can experience it and learn from it. Those who watch will also be learning, through their mirror neurons, how to be free, functional, expressive and heart-felt, from children and from dancers.

How Still in the City came to be

Intrigued by our contemporary relationship to urban space, and longing to change it Still in the City first re-integrated its dancers and musicians, through deep research in how they move on their own, with others and with their instruments. It put them back in their centre and honed their skills in the delicate reading of others, in giving space and in taking space, in being intimate, free and brave.

Then a friend came into rehearsals with her baby, and a double edged realisation opened - that we need our children to be able to inhabit spaces where they can be freely, intimate and expressive, where they can grow in grace: and that our youngest children are really the best at doing this and showing us the way. And research continued with pre-school children.

Still in the City now exists as a show performed by 3 ENSEMBLE dancers and one of our live musicians, with a pre-show introduction to parents and an open invitation to any pre-school child who attends to take part. The invitation is felt by the children in how we build the space and prepare the parents. The show gently unfolds and rolls between beauty, high energy joy, curiousness and calm.

Still in the City has so far inhabited Tanz Fabrik - Berlin; a shop front in West Ealing, in partnership with OPEN Ealing - London; Norwich Puppet Theatre; 5 Norfolk Libraries; Sheringham Little Theatre - Norfolk, UK; Wells Maltings - Wells-next-to-Sea, UK; Kentish Town Community Centre - London; St Lukes Church - London and Brighton Speigeltent - Brighton, UK.

ENSEMBLE Musician Hej Jones on working on 'Still in the City' 2016 tour

Still in the City, Little Sheringham Theatre 2016, Photo_ Shutter Street Productions.jpg

Being part of the incredibly well conceived and produced ‘Still in the City’ was somewhat of a revelation for me. I have worked with young people for many years (although this was the youngest target age group I have worked with) and have always been motivated by the ethos I picked up whilst living in Brasil - that Art (and specifically music in my case) is not something that one should always enjoy passively, there is huge scope for involvement, participation and genuine inclusion in its presentation and/or performance.

From minute one of the rehearsals, throughout every performance and even post performance Hayley delved deeper into and expanded upon this ethos more than any other Artist with whom I have worked. The overriding fundamental of the rehearsals was to give us (especially the dancers) the tools with which to create an environment in which the audience members felt comfortable to engage… without the need for any persuasion, cajolement or overt invitation. On the face of it, an almost impossible sounding task, to deconstruct (if only for a moment) the invisible wall between audience and performer that seems to have developed over centuries of theatre... almost impossible, and yet through Hayleys' vision and her powerful, perceptive and intelligent direction we achieved exactly that to varying degrees… in every performance. The benefits of encouraging this participation were written all over the faces of those audience members who broke through the wall in the short term and I strongly suspect will have a long term impact upon their appreciation, enjoyment, understanding of and ultimately, future involvement in Art.

As a resident of Norfolk I have worked here for the past 25 years, during those 25 years this is without doubt one of the most unique and inspirational projects to emerge from the county. I very much hope that it will prove to be a catalyst for renewed and continued development of this and similar projects in the region.


Still in the City also has a touring live music and film exhibition, that projects films from the show onto the fabric of inner cities, accompanied by our live musicians.


In 2016 Still in the City brought 85% of children and 59% to see contemporary dance in Norfolk for the first time.

33% children and 23% of adults to see contemporary dance who had never seen contemporary dance before.  

100% said they would come again and recommend the show

“It’s the best performance I have seen for children”

“Compelling and completely absorbing. It was wonderful to watch the interaction with the children, completely uninhibited”