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works: 1990 - 1995

Court By The Tail / Photo: Chris Nash

No Respite / Photo: Chris Nash

No Respite / Photo: Chris Nash

Diction / Photo: Chris Nash

Diction / Photo: Chris Nash

Court By The Tail (1990 )

Doors open on enclosed spaces where we experience a disturbing confusion of time and place. The future infests the past, the past invades the future. In a world composed of fragments of text, objects, and film, games and rituals leave the performers precariously caught in-between conflicting times.

“If we take away from the present, moment that is just gone by and the moment that is next to come, the solid basis of sense and reality, will reduce itself to a pin’s point, a hairline, on which we will have some difficulty to maintain our footing without falling over on either side.” William Hazlitt, Victorian essayist

Where am I? What time is it? Who are they? Many audience members were convinced that “The Glass Bead Game”, by Hermann Hesse, had inspired me. I had never read it, so I had to read it, and when I read it I wondered if I would have made ‘Court By The Tail” if I had read it.

Court By The Tail was funded by the Arts Council of England and a Digital Dance Award and featured in the Dance Umbrella Festival. The work toured throughout the UK as well as performances is France and Belgium between 1990 and 1992, with support from the British Council.


Here she has found a vocabulary which merges the athletics of physical theatre with dancing of purity and precision, producing strikingly dramatic forms” The Scotsman

The invented worlds of Yolande Snaith are rich with plunderings from fairy tale, history, philosophy and art. They are worlds, too, that rarely obey daytime logic. Her dancers enact rituals that are bound by strange commands, topsy-turvy motives, magic or dreams.”The Independent, London

“Yolande Snaith makes work that is baffling, wry, complex, haunting and deeply British. (Though I’d rather call her as Americans would, a performance artist.) She creates dream worlds packed with symbolic images. I often feel lost in a maze, happily so” Financial Times, London


“The work isn’t constrained by current trends, rather it is a reflection of what has caught her imagination by the tail, what amalgam of discovered snippets- musical, textual, historical, fanciful – have permeated together in her own delightfully questing mind…….The whole piece is resonant with a sense of time-honored intellectual status quo being challenged by new ideas, even as the past is challenged by the now and what might be”Mary Brennan, The Glasgow Herald

“Snaith brings together an erudition, the context of history, sly satire and sassy showmanship under the umbrella of her own remarkable talent – and the result is an original fusion of music, film, movement, text, and design that opens much needed vistas within dance” Mary Brennan, the Glasgow Herald

‘I’m hooked from the first image’ Financial Times, London

No Respite (1991-92)

No Respite is an ancient game of courtship and battle with no winner. The three players are hurled back and forth between two states of being: at one pole of the playing field, a solitary struggle to hold onto the distorted throne of self sufficiency and power; at the opposite pole, two players are caught n a claustrophobic confrontation with each other, locked into repetitive rhythms and gestures of fraught communication, perpetuating cyclic patterns of mistrust, jealousy and possession, only to be broken by the intrusion of the third player. Frozen moments of suspicion are stretched to an almost unbearable tension as the players test each other’s endurance, until a furious explosion erupts, a frantic jive with risk ensues, or the players plunge into the dangerous waters of the gulf between the two poles.

A game of endurance and desire set in a fantasy medieval courtyard. A surrealist, contemporary fairytale with clacking shoes, Chinese robes, backwards furniture and mad, anti-acrobats.

No Respite was funded by the arts council of England, and selected for the 1992 Biennale Rencontres Choreographiques Internationales de Bagnolet 1992. The piece premiered in Dance Umbrella 1991, and toured in the UK, Vienna, Italy, Hungary, France, and Germany in 1992, with support from The British Council.


“Yolande Snaith creates dance works which transport the viewer back in time. She builds ultra-contemporary dance theatre pieces around the rituals, manners and essential look and feel of the chosen period …….No respite is full of strikingly painterly images and disparate but physically charged episodes.” Sophie Constanti, The Guardian

There’s a dark and powerful sense of fairytale at work in this piece . . . glances speak eloquently of complicity and despair while the rhythms of the choreography – clogs clacking against floor, cards slapping on wood, bodies thudding against bodies – cue the work’s shift from watchful flippancy to dangerous anger. No Respite is an impeccably controlled and executed piece’ The Independent, London.

“Yolande Snaith has the ability to assimilate the essence of different art forms without laboring their presence. Unlike much of what is labeled ‘dance-theatre’, she produces work that is genuinely informed by an understanding of many practices, from design to fine art and cultural history”Dance Theatre Journal

Tension is Rife, in the subtleties of movement, echoed by the soundtrack, reinforced by the design – just like a good wine, from first sniff to aftertaste, a glorious experience and one to be savored” Mary Brennon, The herald, Scotland

Dction (1992 - 1994)


Diction invents an imaginary encyclopedia of physical behavior. It delights in disturbing traditional logic and constructing new expressions for the familiar world, creating a unique rhetoric of theatredance.

Diction is set in a crumbling old sports pavilion. Informed by a set of banal theatrical references, the eight performers enact matches, rounds and sets from the Book Of Diction, in an attempt to unravel the riddles of their actions. Perched precariously high on the umpire’s towers are the timekeepers whose babbling commentary rules the game. The players are all caught by back-to-front logic and ghostly presences, ending up in a world of new meanings for old words, strange combat encounters and dancing which is always tipping over into thin air.

“A giant chessboard became the playground for a marathon of physical tongue twisters, ritualized rhythmic riddles, battles of willfulness, muddles of languages, juggles with gestures, dictations of rules, breaking of bodies, a physical theater of games with obscure goals.”

Diction was funded by the Arts Council Of England, North West Arts, funding from the Coneil Generale de la Seine-Saint-Denise, France, and a Barclays new Stages Award. The piece featured in the spring loaded Festival, London, and toured throughout the UK and Germany, with support from the British Council.


the invented worlds of Yolande Snaith are rich with plunderings from fairy tale, history, philosophy and art. They are worlds, too, that rarely obey daytime logic. Her dancers enact rituals that are bound by strange commands, topsy-turvy motives, magic or dreams” Judith Mackrell, The Independent

“We see the silliness, the deadliness, the sublimity of people obsessed by competition and the treacherous power of those, like the umpires, who divide their victims and rule. We glimpse, in passing, the ruthless arbitrariness of fate and the universal predicament of the blind leading the blind. It’s also typically paradoxical of Snaith that these base rules of human experience should be so lucidly present in a work whose greatest pleasures lie in its riddles, its absurdities and its vagrant imagination”

Judith Mackrell, The Independent

Swinger (1995)

Enter the turbulent mind and emotions of the lover. ‘A Lover’s Discourse’ by the French writer Roland Barthes, is dissected and animated through a fusion of dance, text and visual design. A huge pendulum hangs in the center of a distorted room, the furniture slanting at the angle of the pendulum’s swing. This setting provides the playground for the writer’s analysis of his own obsessions, desires, fantasies, loves and losses.Passionate dances between strangers accompany fragments of the writer’s thoughts. The players swing too and fro between transitory states of being, from ecstasy to melancholy, lust to repulsion, from and embrace to solitude. The pendulum swings dangerously though their world of instability and chance, governing their fate. The lovers dive, lurch, fall, tumble and turn to escape the massive blow of its weighted base.The swing of emotions from ecstasy to despair drives the weight of the mind’s pendulum. Love, obsession, infatuation, jealousy, lust, longing, loss – the lover analyses the distortions of his own mind in relation to “the Other” in Roland Bathes’ “A Lovers Discourse”, the inspiration and central text for Swinger”

Swinger was funded by the Arts Council of England, and commissioned by the Nottdance Festival, Nottingham, where it premiered. Swinger toured throughout the UK in 1995; including a feature in London’s spring Loaded Festival. In 1996 the piece was adapted for film, in collaboration with director Ross MacGibbon, commissioned by the BBC and the Arts Council of England and broadcast on BBC television and TV companies overseas.


“It’s a sophisticated, unpredictable and magical world and Snaith has lived up to her tag as the choreographic equivalent of Lewis Caroll and his looking glass vision” The Big Issue

“A piece which achieves the near impossible in adding new and vivid images to the already crowded dance vocabulary of love” 
Judith Mackrell, The Guardian

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