Preview: Elixir Extracts Festival at Sadler's Wells

PUBLISHED: 11:48 10 June 2019 | UPDATED: 12:28 10 June 2019

Sybil Fox is about to perform with Company of Elders at the Elixir Extracts Festival. Picture: Johan Persson.

Sybil Fox is about to perform with Company of Elders at the Elixir Extracts Festival. Picture: Johan Persson.

JOHAN PERSSON

This weekend's Elixir Extracts Festival is a celebration of lifelong creativity taking place at Sadler's Wells: the theatre on Rosebery Avenue devoted to dance in all its forms.

This year's festival features performances and workshops between June 14 and 16. Picture: Ellie Kurttz.This year's festival features performances and workshops between June 14 and 16. Picture: Ellie Kurttz.

It opens on Friday evening, when the theatre's in-house dance group for over 60s - Company of Elders - will perform two pieces at the Lilian Baylis Studio. The venue, which seats around 200, is already sold out for the festival's curtain-raiser.

"It's just wonderful," explains Sybil Fox; the second-oldest member of the Company at 89-years-old.

"I feel that I'm making the most of my old age. It's creative, and it's also a very, very friendly group; (rehearsing) is something to look forward to every week.

"We usually rehearse once a week, but for this performance we've had two weeks where we are rehearsing all day, every day, sometimes until 5pm. On the day itself, the performance is at 8pm. It's a long day, but it's worth it."

The group gives dancers aged 60-90 the chance to rehearse every week. Picture: Johan Persson.The group gives dancers aged 60-90 the chance to rehearse every week. Picture: Johan Persson.

This year's festival is a landmark event, too, as Company of Elders marks 30 years of older adults' arts provision at the theatre. The group will perform a world premiere from choreographer Alesandra Seutin to start with, with Clara Andermatt's Natural to look forward to in the second half.

After Friday's opening salvo, the festival will welcome touring dance groups including Liverpool's Men! Dancing! and London-based group Caribbean Orchid as it looks to showcase older dancers performing lots of different programmes.

Elixir Extracts brings audiences the chance to see older performers expressing their talents, but that's really only half of the story. The festival also features a programme of workshops, each priced at £8 to take part. These are for older dancers from all backgrounds, and no dance experience is necessary to take part.

Across Saturday and Sunday, there are sessions of contemporary dance led by Company of Elders' rehearsal director Simona Scotto, an introduction to South African dance and lessons in Flamenco from renowned teacher Lucia Caruso.

"I just love moving to music, it's a wonderful form of exercise and it really keeps you going," continues Sybil. "When I started I was the baby of the group, and now I'm almost - but not quite - the eldest!

"The other sad thing is that we've lost some people. The oldest member was a man, who was still dancing until he was 93. He was tremendous."

Dancing with the Company of Elders has also given members a chance to play at different venues around the capital - including Guy's Hospital and the National Theatre's outdoor festival, River Stage - and recent overseas trips have seen them perform to audiences in Japan and Sweden.

For Sybil, who has been a part of the group for 25 years, one of the more memorable performances took place a little closer to home, at the Vauxhall Tavern.

"There were just a few of us, and we did this piece in a sauna where we were only dressed in towels. It was just hilarious, I think the audience were all pretty tanked up, and they kept on shouting 'get them off!' - we didn't know if they meant us, or the towels!"

Elixir Extracts takes place at Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, between June 14 and 16. For more details, click here.

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