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New Work
Dolls' House
Limina flyer
20th-anniversary photo exhibition
Ana Barbour — untitled film
'Lost Garden'

'Surviving Lunar'

'Live Forms'
'28° — 6°'

'Bona Dea'


liminal /ˈlɪmɪn(ə)l/ (adj.)
Relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process.
Occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

This show is dedicated to Ana Barbour
11 October 1966 — 6 November 2017

At the winter solstice, as the earth tilts fractionally once more towards the sun, in the glimmering pre-dawn stillness, at the moment before waking when the dream dissolves, or just before sleep as the moorings of consciousness are let slip, or as the last breath leaves the body and the soul drifts away, or at the point when the old order is left behind and the new is all ahead — these liminal states and the possibilities they suggest were explored in our newest, part-improvised show Limina.

With this theme of beginnings and endings, transition, and duality, we looked back over our past and forward to our future, with an eclectic mix of reimagined early work and fresh choreography from our newer members — a dreamlike series of short butoh-inspired pieces, combined with live music and video.

For this climax of our 20th anniversary programme, and preceded by an exhibition of archive images, film, and costumes, we returned to our first-ever venue, the iconic Freud café-bar on Walton Street, with its unique architecture and atmosphere, for a creative and celebratory (and as it turned out, very snowy) evening.

Performers were Michelle Azdajic, Cath Blackfeather, Alex Donaghy, Jeannie Donald-McKim, Karen Goonewardene, Ayala Kingsley, Anne L Ryan, and Fabrizia Verrecchia. Long-term collaborators Malcolm Atkins (keyboard, violin, voice), Bruno Guastalla (cello, bandoneon), Pete McPhail (flute, saxophone), and Malcolm Smith (percussion) provided an exciting and original musical interpretation.


• Untitled — film of work-in-progress (Ana Barbour, 2017; video Chris Atkins)

• Doorway (Cath Blackfeather — concept and door — & Café Reason, 2017).

• Hearing (Anne L. Ryan, from The Heart's Desire, 2014, Old Fire Station).

• Lost Garden (Ayala Kingsley & Fabrizia Verrecchia; choreography Jeannie Donald-McKim & Fabrizia Verrecchia, from Erosion, 1999, Pegasus Theatre)

• Live Forms (Karen Goonewardene — concept, video, and soundtrack — & Café Reason; from Diamond Night #16 and at Modern Art Oxford, 2016)

• Surviving Lunar (Michelle Azdajic — concept and choreography — & Café Reason, 2017)

• Egg (Michelle Azdajic; concept and sculpture, Karen Goonewardene, 2017)

• 28° — 6° (Alex Donaghy, 2017)

• Bona Dea (Café Reason; choreography Jeannie Donald-McKim, from Jelizma's Bona Dea 1997, Freud Café)

• Don't Worry — film (Ana Barbour, from Matrix 2011, Pegasus Theatre; video Peter Jones)


Artistic direction: Michelle Azdajic, Jeannie Donald-McKim & Karen Goonewardene
Project development: Ana Barbour, Cath Blackfeather, Karen Goonewardene & Ayala Kingsley
Administration: Ayala Kingsley
Production and marketing management: Joanna Matthews
Sound & light: Dominic Hargreaves
Costume: Fabrizia Verrecchia
Stage management: Fiona Sinclair
Exhibition (images): Ayala Kingsley, with Jonathan K. Ross
Exhibition (costumes): Cath Blackfeather, Karen Goonewardene & Fabrizia Verrecchia
Graphic design: Ayala Kingsley
Video recording and editing: Peter Jones
Photography: Paul Freestone

With thanks to Russell Anderson and Oxford Brookes University, Marston Village Hall and East Oxford Community Association for rehearsal space.

Café Reason gratefully acknowledge the financial support of Arts Council England and Oxford City Council.
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Oxford City Council funding logo


Limina: A beginner butoh dancer’s impression

It was if the hushed, snow-stilled streets and fresh page of a snow-blanketed world, prompting us to feel the white within, worked perfectly to unsettle daily routines of thought and feeling in readiness for Limina, Café Reason's 20th-anniversary performance. Entering into Freud’s, an old church in Jericho, now part café-bar, part exhibition and performance venue, we were welcomed by a warm, intimate space under the high vaulted ceilings, occupied by a magical encampment of artists readying to perform for those who had braved the weather conditions. A few people stood at the bar, others chatted around candlelit tables, musicians had set up camp to the right of the stage, and dancers were using the temporary exhibition space of archive costumes and images as a dressing room. The enchantment and lived liminality of the evening began here.

Dedicated to a recently lost founding member of the group, Ana Barbour, the programme opened with a short video, Untitled, showing Ana experimenting with a work-in-progress, which honoured both the dancer, and the sense of loss and sadness reverberating among those present.

Doorway, a new piece, opened with a bride walking in slow, measured butoh steps down the aisle, dressed in white and pulling in her wake a ‘veil’, not of lace, but of long ropes hefting stones. A retinue of characters evoking cabaret and old themes of history followed dancing behind: two in high-ranking military uniform and bare feet, one in a red, skimpy, Pierrot-style outfit, another in a homespun, ragged, leaf-strewn garment, and finally one in a loose mini-dress, curly purple wig, torn lace tights, and primary coloured stilettos on which she teetered tipsily. Arrived at the altar-stage, and using the main prop of a doorway on wheels, each character in this motley tribe distilled different moves and facial expressions to create an impassioned troupe, stilled and jostling by turns, centred resolutely on the theme of crossing thresholds. Plot was avoided as their compelling movements modulated between comedy, gravitas, chaos, control, and curiosity to suggest elements of humanity’s past and its possible futures.

The next vignette of the evening, Hearing, moved from the silent body to the solo, a cappella voice of Anne Ryan. A voice both deeply human, yet transcendent, singing suggestively the beauty of hidden things, singing for the quiet ones who need a voice, gently filling the acoustics of the old church.

Following this was Lost Garden, both the title and sensual, feral, at times foetal dancing, evocative of the rupture and loss produced when knowledge warped the innocent, infinite simplicity of humanity in the Garden of Eden. The private longing for merging into the other yet being separate, and testing of how much we are joined, was embodied and enabled by the white lycra cloth binding the two molten dancers together as they delicately formed one, or tested the ultimate limit of their freedom imposed by gods.

A later piece, Surviving Lunar, headed spacewards. Like all the other pieces it was aided and abetted by the haunting, mystical, music and sounds produced by the cello, percussion, saxophone, keyboard, violin, flute and bandoneon, playing at the frontiers between consonance and dissonance. Round white ‘moon’ balloons bounced up and down, and in between, this small company of astronauts, dressed in stylised, silver, space(wo)man overalls, feeling mischievously or inquiringly for shapes in a limbo land of no gravity, then modulating into more coordinated moves aligning with its pull. Equipped with large, shiny metal spoons, the astronauts used these as headsets, eyepatches, mirrors, bright circles reflecting spotlights back at the audience, to caress and soothe faces, and to bring solid, inanimate matter into play with its opposite, the soft and fluid.

The rest of the evening’s performances gave further opportunities for the honest, refreshing skills of the dancers to dance the world as it is, torsos, limbs, and faces and breath committed to unfolding existence in its essence, individual energy signatures seeking and spelling out expression and movement that brought us home to our inner worlds. As this joyful and heartrending closing and flinging open of the gateway between what we know and do not yet know came to a close, I knew I would hold each moment in my memory for a long time.

Juliet Henderson