Nathalie Teitler is the producer and creative director for Dancing Words, “a project designed to explore what happens when you bring together the art forms of dance and poetry”, and invited Ella Mesma to collaborate on three of the 7 poems which have been created:


Dancing Words presents poet Mimi Khalvati’s ‘Afterwardness’ with dancer/choreographer Ella Mesma, filmmaker Fiona Melville and costume designer Sabrina Henry. Filmed at the Siobhan Davies Studio in London, the piece deals with loss, displacement and memories.

The Ugly Daughter

Dancing Words presents ‘The Ugly Daughter’ by Warsan Shire- a feminist version of the poem exploring the power plays around the female body and the way many women can no longer call their bodies home. Dancer/choreographer Ella Mesma, filmmaker Fiona Melville. Creative Director, Nathalie Teitler.


Ballad of a small boned daughter

Nathalie Teitler’s Dancing Words film of Forward Prize winner Mona Arshi’s poem, ‘Ballad of the Small-Boned Daughter’ interpreted by dancer/choreographer Ella Mesma and with original music by Tom Szirtes. The poem is based on the true story of an honour killing and had its premiere at the BFI, London on January 30th, 2018. (funded by ACE)

Mor Bleu

Dancer and choreographer Ella Mesma collaborated with poet Karen McCarthy Woolf for this dance-poetry film. Fiona Melville shot and directed the film and Andrea Allegra wrote the music. Nathalie Teitler was the producer and creative director for Dancing Words, “a project designed to explore what happens when you bring together the art forms of dance and poetry” (something I’ve been interested in here at Moving Poems for quite some time). The project website includes interviews with Woolf and Mesma about the making of the film. Here are three snippets from Woolf:

I’ve experimented with poetry film before, working with Morbleu director Fiona Melville, but I’d not thought about dance and choreography. What’s amazing to me is how suited it is to lyric poetry – the dancer’s movement is a visual shadow of the white space, the silence and the emotional arc of the poem. […]

For me a film or a collaboration is a way for a poem to take shape in a more three-dimensional format than the page offers – although of course the reader’s imagination is capable of projecting anything onto the screen of the mind! In this sense I see poetry film as an extension of form…

The film is not illustrative of the poem, it’s a new interpretation and that’s exciting. A new collaborative authorship has come to into existence. That to me is the transformative quality of art. Seeing a dancer interpret the words and movement of the piece that in turn responds to the text and soundtrack. Fiona also trained as a painter/fine artist, and I think that she brings that aesthetic to the work. Everyone has a level of expertise to bring to the table. In a sense a collaboration is also a visual ‘reading’ of a poem — you get to experience an audience’s understanding of the work and help shape a communal reinterpretation.