“F***ing brilliant. Very moving” Audience Member: Offbeat Festival, The Old Firestation,  Oxford

Inspired by the #metoo & #timesup movement, Ladylike is a ceremonious undressing of universal and timeless (her)stories. Using Afro-Cuban dance and Rocking from the USA, Ladylike explores the masks that we wear and the roles that we play, becoming a protest against stereotypes and gender violence. Absurd, funny and provocative, this piece is a powerful celebration of (wo)men.
*contains scenes of a sexual nature. 


Ladylike at Dance City, Newcastle

Thu 12 Jul 2018 7:30pm

TICKET PRICE £9.50 / £8.00 students & under 18s

Age: 16 +

Book Tickets:



A unique movement language at the crossroads of theatre, Latin and Hip hop, together with a punchy feminist approach” Eva Martinez: Artistic Programmer & Artist Development, Sadler’s Wells

“Completely engaged- Enthralling, emotional, grounding work” Stuart Carter- Audience member and CEO, The Tabernacle- London

“A powerful display of timeless and current issues that women continue to face everyday” Audience member and choreographer Louiseanne Wong

“You performed your hearts out with honesty and generosity! Thank you” Audience member, Sadlers Wells


2015: Research began in Cuba, Brazil and New York with the Winston Churchill Travelling Scholarship (2015) and The Lisa Ullman Trust, and public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Yorkshire Dance through its Sketch programme for dance makers with a commitment to working in Yorkshire and the North of England and mentoring and additional Direction from Charlotte Vincent through the Bench Program and ADAD, with a preview at Richmix in London.

2016-2017: The production went into a production phase with support from crowd funding, residencies at Dance City, Richmix and with support from Sadler’s Wells and public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Ella Mesma and Company would like to thank all who have participated towards the research and the love, dedication, hard work and in kind support of company members, supporters and production team. The piece premiered at Sadler’s Wells as part of a Wild Card. The piece also toured to WOW Bradford, Chester University, Pleasance Theatre, Harambee Pasadia.

2018: The final part of the tour, including Women In Dance Leadership in NYC, Trinity Centre Bristol and VAULT Festival in London, and finishing at Dance City in Newcastle with one new member to the cast, as well as development for a Sex Education Project, plus a nomination for the Latino Life LUKAS Awards as “Best Production Of The Year”.

About the work:

Copy: In the wake of #MeToo comes a funny and furious new show from Ella Mesma Company

Fusing dynamic hip hop with the tempestuous and sexually charged Rumba, LADYLIKE is a new piece of dance theatre which takes a fierce, frank and funny look at the potential and the limitations of gender roles in today’s society. Based on interviews with young women and  female hip hop and latin dancers, Ella Mesma Company have created a new ritual for women to explore pleasure, consent, and gender roles – purging cliches and celebrating sisterhood.

One Sheet Tour Pack:

Duration: 1 hour with an entrance ‘installation’

Wraparound Activity:

DJ: (In the foyer) providing a mixture of Latin and Hip Hop tracks as well as inspiring songs with a powerful message about what it is to be a woman.

Chicken Charades: (In the Foyer) for all to play (includes a squeezy chicken)

Installation: (In the theatre) Four performers dressed all in black morph between a sequence of emotionally charged gestures to an Urban Reggaeton beat. 

Sex Education Workshop: (Outreach) We are currently creating a girls sex education workshop, which covers Sexuality, Pleasure and Consent.

Jars: (In the foyer) Jars full of various theme based treats for the audience.

Orixás: (In the foyer) Art work display by Hugo Canuto (

Post Show talk: 20 minutes

Touring availability: Ready for touring

Minimum performance space: 8 x 8 metres

Tech Spec: Ladylike Lighting plan online Ladylike Lighting Plan Downloadable

Ladylike Lighting Plan Version 3

Technical Rider:


Concept and Direction: Ella Mesma

Dancers: Anna Alvarez, Patrick Ziza (Azara Meghie, Emma Houston), Hsing Ya Wu (Rita Vilhena, Lianett Rodrigues), Ella Mesma.

Choreography: Ella Mesma and Dancers with the opening scene by Yersin Guillen Rivas 

Costume: Jodie-Simone Howe, Dream Sewing, Ila Leila Samba Costumes, Melissa Rolas and Ella Mesma

Lighting: Ciaran Cunningham

Music: Composed by Sabio Janiak

Photography: Nicola Hunter, Camilla Greenwell, Suzie Howell, Tom Bowles.

Additional Direction: Charlotte Vincent through The Bench (2015), Lea Anderson (2017)

Dramaturgical Support: Peggy Olislaegers through Yorkshire Dance’s Sketch programme (2015)

Programme Notes

‘Todo nace de la Rumba (Everything is born from Rumba)’ Christian Liebich. As Oba sets her trap, Chango and Ochun dance a flirtatious Rumba.

The wolves are runnings. Are they wild, free, amazonian? Or a figment of his imagination?

Why do you keep putting off writing about me?” It is the voice of a chicken that asks this.’ Alice Walker (1988). Young and trusting, Oba realises too late it was a trap

‘The Western obsession with women as “parts” (breasts, thighs, butts) is inextricably linked to our culture’s tendency to value animals the same way.’ Carol Adams. Home alone, she struts with a pinch of salt. ‘I want you to restrain me, devour me. Tie my ankles with twine, press my wing tips under my body and wrap around my breasts. I am delicious drizzled in oil and seasoned.’

Are gender differences learned and cultural, or inherent to the fertilization of the egg? The Alpha, Chango reigns the roost. But Ochun fights back at the body she is born into.

‘Some women smile unnaturally so often that they start to suppress their natural emotions.’ Makoto Natsume. A dance between a cock and a hen, Ochun and Chango fight to take centre stage. She blocks his ‘Vacunaos’ in a dangerous game of flirtation, but her dress is not a yes.

Guerreras A ceremonious reclaiming of what it means to be ‘Ladylike’

About the dance styles in Ladylike:

Nearly 1 million Africans from West and Central Africa were captured and brought to Cuba during the 16th through 19th centuries, and Afro-Cuban dances reflect the traditions and dances of four main groups of Africans that were enslaved. The majority of enslaved Africans in Cuba were Yoruba, and thus the Yoruba religion is so strong in Cuba still today, and as the religion includes drumming and dancing, these feature in Afro Cuban folkloric dances:

Rumba: Originally, the term rumba was used as a synonym for party in northern Cuba. Traditionally, the three main styles of rumba are yambú, columbia and guaguanco, each of which has a characteristic dance, rhythm and singing. Guaguancó is a couple dance of sexual competition between the male and female. The male tries to “catch” his partner with a single thrust of his pelvis. This erotic movement is called the vacunao (‘vaccination’ or more specifically ‘injection’), a gesture symbolizing sexual penetration. The vacunao can also be expressed with a sudden gesture made by the hand or foot. The drummer often accents the vacunao. Holding onto the ends of her skirt while seductively moving her upper and lower body in contrary motion, the female “opens” and “closes” her skirt. The male attempts to distract the female with fancy steps, until he is in position to “inject” her. The female reacts by quickly turning away, bringing the ends of her skirts together, or covering her groin area with her hand (botao), symbolically blocking the “injection.” Most of the time the male dancer does not succeed in “catching” his partner. The dance is performed with “good-natured humor” David Peñalosa

Orishas: Spelled Òrìṣà in Yoruba, Orishas are gods that reflect the manifestations of the Supreme God/ the All Father Olodumare or Olofi. Orisha may have a preferred color, foods, saints and objects as well as their own characteristics, stories, dances and rhythms. The Orishas focused on in this story are:

Changó (Shangó) is the owner of fire, lightening, thunder, and war, but he is also the patron of music, drumming, and dancing. He represents male beauty and virility, passion and power. His colors are red and white, and his eleke (sacred necklace) is made of alternating red and white beads. He had three wives, namely Oshun, Oba, and Oya. Oya is the favorite wife of Shango.

Oshun, also spelled Osun, an orisha (deity) of the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria. Oshun is commonly called the river orisha, or goddess, in the Yoruba religion and is typically associated with water, purity, fertility, love, and sensuality. Like other gods, she possesses human attributes such as vanity, jealousy, and spite. Oshun soon gave birth to not one but two children with Shango. When Shango heard the news that Oshun had given birth to the Ibeyi (twins), afraid of what Oya might do to these children, (since she had bore him no child), he decided to take these children from Oshun and leave them with his mother Yemaya. Without a word  to Oshun, he took the children. Oshun upon return found her children gone and knowing that Shango would help her find them, left to find her babies.

Oya (Yoruba: Ọya, also known as Oyá or Oiá; Yansá or Yansã; and Iansá or Iansã in Latin America) is an Orisha of winds, lightning, and violent storms, death and rebirth. She is similar to the Haitian god Maman Brigitte, who is syncretised with the Catholic Saint Brigit. In Candomblé, Oya is known as Oiá, lyá Mésàn, or most commonly, Iansã, from the Yoruba Yánsán. Iansã, as in Yoruba religion, commands winds, storms, and lightning. In Yoruba, the name Oya literally means “She Tore”. She is known as Ọya-Iyansan – the “mother of nine.” This is due to the Niger River (known to the Yoruba as the Odo-Ọya) traditionally being known for having nine tributaries.

Oba (known as Obá in Latin America) is the Orisha of the River Oba, whose source lays near Igbon, where her worship originates. She is traditionally identified as the first wife of Shango (the third king of the Oyo Empire and an Orisha). Oba was tricked by Oya or Oshun into cutting off her ear and trying to feed it to Shango.

Rocking: Rocking came prior to Breaking and is also known as Rock Dance or the Brooklyn Rock. It is a street dance formed in New York in the early 1970’s often with influences of Salsa as well as references to gang culture which was prevalent at the time.