Ella Mesma Company


Are you a hero? Or feeling a bit chicken?

Our stories, our gender and even the labels others give us do not have to define us.

Ladylike is a reclaiming of the word (Ladylike) and a journey of four humans undoing the repressions  and binaries of their past to create their own futures.

In a ceremonious un-dressing, they unite using hip hop theatre and sexually charged Rumba to take a fierce, frank and funny look at gender roles and transform their deepest fears, pains and desires.

“Ladylike should be compulsory watching for the world”
Chris Megginson
Yorkshire Dance
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About the piece: 

The choreographers & dancers acknowledge with gratitude that this dance piece is informed by Rumba, Salsa, Afro Cuban, Breaking (breakdance) and Bachata. We acknowledge the painful history of colonialism and enslaved people that has led to the creation of these diasporic dances and commit to honoring and respecting them and their history, also acknowledging all the unrecognised cultural lineages and stories that are untold.

It is said that in a fire, the Mother Hen will protect (and burn) herself to protect and cover her chicks.

Often women historically have been defined as a type of animal (and mostly not in a good way). This piece used the words ‘chick’, ‘bird’, ‘hen’ to explore how women have historically been boxed in and stereotyped in a patriarchal world.

In Cuba, there is a dance called Yuka: a sensual dance between a chicken and cock to make love. 

Inspired by the chicken, we use breaking, rumba and Yuka to explore four very different stories and like the Mother Hen, to help one another break free from our past & the definition of what it is to be ‘Ladylike’.

About the journey: Ladylike began its journey at Casa Festival in 2015 and premiered at Sadler’s Wells in 2017. The show has also been performed at Richmix, London (2017),Trinity Centre, Bristol (2018), The Women’s Leadership Conference, New York City, (2018), VAULT Festival London (2018), IETM, Hull (2019), Offbeat Festival, Oxford (2019), Dance City, Newcastle (2019), and was runner up in the Lukas awards  for Best Production (2018). The show was most recently performed at Casa Latin American Festival in July 2019.

THEMES: Gender, Gender roles, Stereotypes, Gender Abuse, Me Too, Identity, Sex, Power, Fear, Love, Self Love, Sisterhood, Transformation, Herstory, Orixás, Mythology, Healing, Shamanism, Chickens, Breaking, Afro Cuban, Circles, Rituals

Programme Notes

  1. Todo nace de la Rumba (Everything is born from Rumba), 2. Women who run with wolves, 3. Little Anna, 4. 50 shades of chicken, 5. The Maverick reigns her roost, 6. My dress is not yes, 7. Guerreras (Warriors)

WATCH NOW: Watch the show using a fully immersive 360° VR experience via our collaboration with technology experts LIVR at their virtual reality content platform here

For more images click on the foto below or here


Our Partners and Supporters:

Concept and Direction: Ella Mesma

Dancers: Anna Alvarez, Azara Meghie, Hsing Ya Wu, Lucia Afonso (and we honour Lianett Rodrigues, Rita Vilhena & Emma Houston who were involved in the first draft of the work),

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

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

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

Thank you:

This work began in 2015 and has been a profound research into the dance styles, with the content and creation spanning 4 continents. A huge thank you to everyone who has been a part of this work, in particular:

Arts Council of England, Crowdfunder donaters, Casa Latin American Festival, Peggy Olislaegers and Yorkshire Dance’s Sketch programme (2015), WCMT, Lisa Ullman Trust, Wieke Eringa, Dance City, Patricia Stead, Jeff Dean, James Froment, Sadler’s Wells, Richmix, ADAP Sar, Dance City, Trinity Centre, Yorkshire Dance, Dance Studio Leeds, ADAD, The Bench (2Faced Dance), Kala Sangam, Eclipse Theatre, Absolutely Cultured, IETM, Harambee Pasadia, Lukas Awards, Artists4Artists and all the team, Big Feast, Sh! Erotic Shop, Fergus Evans, Nicola Hunter, Camilla Greenwell, Tom Bowles, Suzie Howell, Lea Anderson, Charlotte Vincent, Miguel Gonzalez, Yersin Rivas, Luanda Pau, Lianett Rodrigues, Emma Houston, Rita Vilhena, Gabriela Montgomery Solano, Jo Leahy, Hugo Canuto, Mum, Family and Friends.

Accompanying workshops:
  • Gender Roles Talk
  • Post Show talk discussing the issues raised in the show
  • Rumba Dance Workshop
  • Uprock Dance Workshop
  • Contemporary Dance Workshop