The Woman Who Refused To Dance

Concept, Words & Music by Shirley J. Thompson


7:00pm – 7:35pm | Thursday 27 July 2017

Robin Howard Dance Theatre, The Place, 17 Duke’s Rd, London, WC1H 9PY


The Woman Who Refused to Dance is one from Shirley J. Thompson’s ground breaking series of operas, HEROINES OF OPERA, where she unearths submerged narratives of overshadowed women in history, creating heroines rather than femme fatales from the operatic convention. In 2006 she was invited to create a piece to open the Parliamentary exhibition, People and Parliament: The Act of the Abolition of the Trade in Enslaved African People 1807. While researching, she discovered a political illustration by Isaac Cruikshank that shook her to the core. It portrayed a young, ‘unknown woman’, being hung by the ankle on a boat filled with enslaved people! In 1792 the ‘unknown woman’ was on a boat heading for the island of Grenada from Calabar, West Africa and had refused to dance, as was the daily order by the ship captain, Captain Kimber. Her refusal led to an accusation of insubordination and she was beaten and hung as punishment for her act of defiance, and most importantly, as an example to the other enslaved persons. The ‘unknown woman’ died three days later, but the incident was widely reported. William Wilberforce employed the case to argue for the abolition of the Trans-Atlantic trade in Parliament. This was eventually passed in 1807 and 2017 is the 210th anniversary of the Act.


The opera conveys the drama of the incident on the boat but most profoundly the opera also represents the transcendence of The (unknown) Woman as she hangs on the boat. Thoughts of her idyllic past and of what her future life might have been, are paramount. The Woman Who Refused to Dance brings to the fore a significant period in our shared histories and feeds into the dialogue about present-day human trafficking, the second most lucrative trade in the world.





The Woman Who Refused To Dance


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Also on Thursday 27 July 2017…


7:55pm – 8:55pm : Deeply

9:15pm – 10:05pm : The Moot Virginity of Catherine of Aragon

Listen Now: Road Memoir: The Podcast Opera

The Woman Who Refused to Dance
Shirley Thompson Music Productions


Concept, Music and Words: Shirley J. Thompson

Director: Anastasia Belina-Johnson

Choreographer: Monique Jonas

Artistic Producer: Shirley Thompson Music Productions


Pianist: Rebeca Omordia

Drums/Percussion: Orphy Robinson

Violin: Marsha Skinns

Cello: Joseph Spooner

Trumpet/Conch Shells: Byron Wallen

Performed by: Nadine Benjamin and Tania Dimbelolo


Shirley J. Thompson is a multi-award-winning and internationally renowned composer who has composed a vast number of works for stage and screen. She is the first woman in Europe to have composed and conducted a symphony – New Nation Rising, A 21st Century Symphony – within the last 40 years. Her co-score for the Sadler’s Well’s produced contemporary dance production, PUSH, toured to over 40 countries worldwide.


Anastasia Belina-Johnson is an Opera Director, writer and deputy head of Undergraduate studies at the Royal College of Music. She has published and presented on opera, including research on Wagner and his influences on Russian composers. Her current research project focuses on adaptations and performances of German operetta in Warsaw in 1906-1939.


Monique Jonas was born in Jamaica and began her training at the Arts Educational School, London in Musical Theatre and Jazz Dance, before completing her training at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in July 2016. Monique joined the Richard Alston Dance Company in 2016.


Rebeca Ormordia was born in Romania and after studies at the National Music University in Bucharest, Birmingham Conservatoire and Trinity College of Music, Rebeca has performed extensively as a soloist and with orchestras in prestigious venues across Europe and the US. She’s also toured widely with Julian Lloyd Webber and has received many live broadcasts including BBC Radio 3.


Orphy Robinson is a British vibraphonist and multi-instrumentalist who also plays the saxophone, trumpet, drums, piano, marimba and steel pans. He has written music for television, film, theatre, opera and contemporary classical concerts. Robinson works across a variety of eclectic musical forms. He is Co-Director of Warriors International.


Marsha Skinns is a classical and electric violinist as well as a viola player. Her interest and taste in music has always been very eclectic and she is able to turn her hand to many musical genres, including improvisation. After study at the Royal Northern College of Music she has free-lanced with various orchestras including the Northern Sinfonia.


Byron Wallen is a renowned performer, winning the Innovation in Jazz Award in 2003 amongst several others. He performs worldwide, composes for major venues and teaches extensively. Byron has made a number of solo and ensemble albums and his next solo album Planet Shell is much anticipated.


Tania Dimbelolo has just completed her final year at Rambert School and has already performed on many major stages. She is now embarking on her professional career.


Nadine Benjamin is a charismatic and versatile artist who is in increasing demand on both the operatic stage and the concert platform. She is also developing great renown as an exponent of song, in particular Verdi, Strauss, Berg and contemporary American song.Hailed by Opera Now magazine as one of their favourite top ten sopranos in a new generation of sopranos who are destined to have impressive careers, Nadine won the inaugural Fulham Opera Robert Presley Memorial Verdi Prize in 2015.


The World Is Now Richer Meets The Woman Who Refused to Dance. Conceived by Sokari Douglas Camp and Shirley J. Thompson and produced by Sokari Douglas Camp and the International Curators Forum, Diaspora Pavilion, 13 May – 26 November 2017, Palazzo Pisani, S.Marina, Venice with kind support of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation.


Many thanks to:

Grace Nicholls and Olusola Oyeleye for additional words.



The University of Westminster, The Place, Rambert, Tête-à-Tête – The Opera Festival, Michael Ohajuru, Patrick Vernon OBE, Ila Brugal, Mrs H E Thompson & Mr S A Thompson, Mrs C & Dr J St John, Simon Albury; and many persons not listed!


CDs available


Copyright: Shirley Thompson Music Productions, July 2017