Let’s Get Critical with Dorothy Max Prior

With less than a month until Brighton bursts into festival frenzy, many of us are busy scouring brochures trying to decipher what’s hot and what’s not to see in this year’s Brighton Festival and Festival Fringe. Choosing from the multitude of shows on offer can be overwhelming, or at best a lucky dip – and unfortunately you won’t know if you’ve picked a dud until the curtain falls.

Hearing other people’s opinions, be it on personal blogs, entertainment websites, or in the columns of the critics, can be good a way to help us make more informed decisions about what we see and ensure we don’t throw our precious pennies and free time down the entertainment drain.

This is why we’re thrilled to have Dorothy Max Prior here to give us her pick of the festivals, and to talk about her course Critical Writing and Creative Non Fiction starting at Evolution Arts on Wednesday 25th April.

What are you most looking forward to seeing in this year’s Brighton Festival and Fringe?

D/ There are two excellent circus-theatre companies in the Brighton Festival, NoFit State and Fauna. I saw Fauna at the Edinburgh Fringe, where it won a Total Theatre Award, so can recommend that. I’ve also seen Kneehigh’s The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk and would urge everyone to go! I’m looking forward to guest director David Shrigley’s contributions, especially Life Model 2 at Fabrica, and to the site-specific and outdoor work in the Festival, including IOU”s Rear View, Pivot, and the Without Walls commissions.

Are you excited about running your course with us again this year?

D/ Most definitely! Last year, we had a great mix of people with different experiences. Some were novice writers, some published writers, some ran their own blogs. There were academics who wanted to develop a more journalistic style; and journalists who wanted to develop their writing and extend it into a new direction.

In each session, we looked at examples of good non-fiction writing of all sorts: newspaper and magazine articles (mainstream and specialist press); blogs and websites; books such as Nick Hornby’s 33 Songs, Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem, Gary Younge’s Another Day in the Death of America, Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital, the essays of Angela Carter.

Everyone had the opportunity to bring some of their own writing in to read the group each week. Additionally, everyone was set ‘go and see’ tasks each week – taking advantage of the festival month of May to go and see exhibitions and shows and write reviews or reflections, which we then all talked about in the following session. See, for example, Keith Stewart’s piece on http://evolutionartsreview.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/human-being-they-us-you-me-by-keith.html

Some participants wrote articles or reviews for the Evolution Arts Review blog we set up, and some (such as Karen Dobres) also got accepted by Broadway Baby on to their reviewing team – I should say, though, that this option is very much only for those who feel they want an additional challenge! See Karen’s review of Enter the Dragons, here:

Who is this course for?

D/ It is for everybody who is interested in non-fiction writing of all sorts, regardless of their level of experience. Everyone welcome! I recently ran a similar course in Guadalajara Mexico, and it attracted hardened hacks, novice writers, circus/theatre artists interested in writing about the artforms they love, poets, songwriters, short fiction writers interested in exploring creative non-fiction… A mixed group makes for exciting sessions! See http://totaltheatre.org.uk/textear-el-circo/

You can sign up for Dorothy’s course by visiting our website here. Dorothy will also be running her Dance Yourself Stupid workshop at Evolution Arts on 5th May.

Dorothy Max Prior specialises in theatre, performance and art. She is currently doing readings from, and promoting, a book she contributed to, called Punk is Dead: Modernity Killed Every Night: http://www.zero-books.net/books/punk-dead. She edits Total Theatre Magazine WWW.totaltheatre.org.uk, which was set up by and for theatre/performance artists. She prefers long-form writing to the usual short ‘review’ format – see here, for example http://totaltheatre.org.uk/nigel-barrett-louise-mari-with-abigail-conway-party-skills-for-the-end-of-the-world/ – although she believes there’s a place for both.



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2018 – The Story So Far

March already! How’s that even possible? So much has been happening at Evo headquarters this year, we hardly noticed it’s almost Spring – yes, weather, you heard correctly, Spring!

We cracked open 2018 with a cheese and wine soirée for our tutors to celebrate the Centre’s anniversary – Brighton & Hove’s longest-standing Arts & Wellbeing centre has reached the ripe old age of 25 (even Justin Beiber wasn’t born when we first opened).

The main purpose of the evening was to introduce our new Arts Centre Manager, David Weisz, who will be at the helm to help steer Evolution Arts into calmer and more exciting waters over the coming months. It was also an opportunity for our tutors to mingle and exchange more than the usual passing hello on the stairwell. Dancers chatted to weavers, musicians to yogis, photographers to artists – before long the main studio was fizzing with creative camaraderie.

A quiz about Brighton revealed how ofay everybody is or isn’t with our city. Although most people knew that Brighton was originally called Brighthelmstone, nobody could say what year Brighton Railway Station was built (call themselves Brightonians), and some people – not a lot – thought Paul Daniels was the star of the Brighton based film Quadrophenia. Creative writing tutor Gary Mepsted, the Centre’s longest-standing tutor who started putting quill to paper here over twenty years ago, did the honours of cutting the birthday cake, which even nutrition tutor Kirsten Chick couldn’t refuse a slice of.

January saw the Arts Centre in its wintery element, with swaths of people signing up to our courses and workshops on the back of their New Year’s resolutions and intentions: be healthier, try something new, learn a new skill, meet new people, have more fun. Oldtime faves like Acrylic Painting, Paiting in Oils and The Artist’s Way sold out as usual, but even newcomers like Experimental Weaving and the Live Again Singing Project pulled in the punters.

Students work: Painting in Oils course.

February was all hands on deck as we worked around the clock to get the new Evolution Arts Charity Shop ready for business. The charity shop has replaced the old Evolution shop on 89 Western Road. Here you’ll find an exciting mixture of second hand goodies – clothes, shoes, accessories, toys, furniture, bric-a-brac – as well as a range of new wellbeing products including essential oils, crystals and incense. All funds raised by the shop will be fed back into the Arts Centre helping us to give our community an even more enjoyable experience. Plans for 2018 include a new high-street entrance for the Arts Centre, and a ground-floor reception area and café.

Which brings us to March and the release of our sizzling summer programme. Courses and workshops are up and ready to book on our website and our new brochure will soon be coming to a library or café near you.

But unfortunately it’s not all thrills and spills. This month we wave goodbye to our office manager Ewan who has done a sterling job of keeping Evolution’s administration ticking like clockwork for over two years. Ewan’s calm and diligent presence will be greatly missed and we wish him the very best of luck in his new ventures in Norfolk. The office is also minus our charismatic creative captain Charles who recently took the plunge into fulltime teaching. Charles’ design wizardry has given our marketing a fresh lease of life of late and his legacy will live on in our newsletters and brochures.

But as old doors close new ones open, and in through ours walk two new Arts Centre staff: experienced general manager David Weisz and tech-savvy office manager Visarada. From herein both David and Visarada will be working hard alongside yours truly to ensure Evolution Arts keeps evolving and enhancing people’s lives through the arts, wellbeing and creativity for many more years to come.

At this exciting juncture in Evolution Arts’ history, we’d like to thank all Evolutionaires past and present: tutors, students, employees, volunteers, trustees, and anybody else who has helped our centre over the last 25 years. We look forward to growing even older together.

Til next month

Sarah x

P.S. Brighton station first opened in 1840.


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Yoga Yoga Yoga! Om Om Om!

 They say in London you’re never more than six feet from a rat. In Brighton you’re never more than six feet from a downward dog. Yoga is to Brighton & Hove as fake-tan is to Essex, and yoga classes in the city come in all shapes and stretches.

When Evolution Arts opened in 1993 it was one of the first places to offer yoga classes in Brighton. During these halcyon days, when Iyengar was the yoga du-jour, it was usual to find up to 30 people in a class. So great was the demand, that before long Evolution’s keen yogis started spilling over and filling the large upstairs space of the Old Market.

The yoga boom continued and by the end of the Noughties yoga was no longer the preserve of spiritual Buddhists and hippies seeking a way to stretch their minds and bodies towards enlightenment. With celebrities such as Madonna and Sting flaunting their toned, bendy bods and championing the benefits of the faster and more furious Astanga yoga, soon the hip and trendy wanted a slice of the yogic-pie.

Yoga centres started springing up on every other Brighton street corner, and more and more people from all walks of life started turning to yoga as an antidote to life in the stress lane.

Today it is estimated that up to a million people practise yoga in the UK, and according to BYW figures the number of teachers is growing by at least 10 per cent a year. As well as the more traditional schools of yoga, new and more commercial styles are emerging, with teachers tapping into the zeitgeist in a bid to attract more people their classes. In Brighton alone, you can practise a different style of yoga every day of the week: Kundalini,  Vinyassa, Scaravelli, Vajrasati, Dynamic Hot Yoga, Restorative, Yin Yang, the list goes on – there’s even Naked Yoga classes for those looking, quite literally, to free up their down dog. With the recent addition of Berlin’s Beer Yoga – where a bottle of beer is incorporated into and drunk during the session – to the international yoga scene, and the Buti yoga craze, which is all about shaking your bootie, yoga’s popularity is far from peeking and sun (or beer) salutations could soon be hitting the mats of the masses.      

Evolution Arts offers a selection of yoga courses and drop-ins with some of Brighton’s most renowned and experienced instructors. Whether you’re after the invigorating and rejuvenating experience of Scaravelli, the slow-paced stretches and simple breathing exercises of Hatha or the slow-moving strap, block and chair using Iyengar, when it comes to yoga in Brighton, Evolution Arts is still where it’s at. Namaste.

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It’s All About Butoh

I first stumbled across Butoh at the Edinburgh Festival seven years ago. A show called Zeitgiest by Brisbane-based Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre was receiving rave reviews, and although it didn’t sound like something I’d normally choose to see, I put my faith in the critics. And, boy, am I glad I did. My friend and I left the theatre in stunned silence: Did that just happen? What just happened? Can we go back and see it again, please? Just a few of the questions whizzing around our seisimically-stimulated neurons.

Butoh is an avant garde Japanese performance art founded by Tatsumi Hijikata and Kazuo Ohno in the early 1960s in rejection of western dance and rigid Japanese dance traditions. Over the years Butoh has drawn on and fused together elements of different historical periods and influences, including expressionism, the rebellion of the 1960s, surrealism, Flamenco and mime. The result is a kind of ritualistic, primal earth-dance where the internal is externalised and the external internalised by the performer. Butoh’s unconscious improvised movements, which rely on strength, flexibility and balance, allow the body to move authentically, free of social constraints. In Butoh it is often said that ‘the dancer should not dance, but be danced’.

” Butoh is a hybrid form of art, incorporating elements of theatre, dance, mime, Noh, Kabuki and at times the Chinese arts of Chi kung and Tai chi. It is up to the individual artist to find their own dance. But it should be a “dance” of discovery, rather than a calculated series of movements meant to manipulate the audience into a desired response.” – Don McLeod

Today Butoh is an ever-developing art form which is practiced and performed across the globe.

Zen Zen Zo’s Zeitgeist is an example of Butoh at its most raw, erotic and nightmarish. Think Dali meets David Lynch with a side order of Tarantino. The show, directed by Lynne Bradley, perfectly embodied the philosophy of Butoh dance to its core: naked bodies painted white, writhing, stretching, contracting and contorting: from their eyelids to their little toes it seemed every part of each performer’s anatomy was involved in this wild, visceral fantasy. At one point they cracked raw eggs into their mouths and spewed yolk up over each other and the front row of audience. It sounds grotesque. It was. But in no way was it gratuitous – in a strange way, it was beautiful.


I got back from Edinburgh, wanting to know more about this fascinating dance form. I Googled Butoh and discovered there was a Butoh workshop taking place in Brighton the following month. That’s one of the things I love about this city: you name it, there’s a workshop for it. And more often that not, it’s here at Evolution Arts, winky face. On this occasion, however, the workshop was run by Butoh Brighton. 

Eight years on, Yael Karavan, an award winning performer, dancer and director, and one of the three founding members of Butoh Brighton, came to Evolution Arts to deliver her Butoh Dance Workshop, and I was lucky enough to be among its participants.

Israeli born Yael has trained with several Butoh Masters including Kazuo Ohno and Tadashi Endo and her passion for this dance tradition was evident from the off.

Over the course of the two days Yael took us through a series of exercises that allowed us to discover and experiment with the basic elements of Butoh. The power and intensity of Butoh became clear early on, and proved both physically and emotionally challenging, especially for those in the group with no previous dance experience. But this didn’t stop any of us from taking part and exploring the art form in the safe, encouraging and fun space Yael had created.

At times, we were separate entities growing from inside each individual cell of our body, at others we were working in pairs, responding intuitively to our partners movements and creating a spontaneous conversation with our bodies. At times, we became one large connected being, changing form and shape like the starlings over Brighton Pier.

In the very last exercise Yael put little white paper hats on our heads and transformed us into Warriors of Peace. We walked up and down the studio in the slow crouched Butoh walk – our synchronised bodies pulled along by an invisible external and internal force -, an exhausted but joyful united front calling for: ‘Peace, Health, Love, Kindness, Empathy and Justice.’ A perfect end to a unifying and powerful workshop. And, not an eggy face in sight.

Another dance workshop, CREATIVE LAND, is happening at Evolution Arts on 25 & 26 March. Run by Marcos Rangel and Rodrigo Carinhana (pictured above), this workshop welcomes any adventurous spirit, be they performer, actor, dancer or anyone in the mood for discovery. The work will focus on the quest that nourishes us, and its motivation. Using elements of Afro-Brazilian tradition (songs, rhythms and dances – see below), you’ll be encouraged to open your imagination and discover true – rather than mechanical – action and seek creative answers to the deepest demands of our being. On the way, you will discover how to listen, stay aware, react, imagine, and be entirely present in yourself. Physical training, awareness of the space, voice work and song will help create a structure of individual and collective action – a Creative Land. Book your place here.

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Try Jan

So here we are in January, when the fairy lights of Christmastime dwindle and Western Road, Brighton & Hove no longer greets us with tidings of Peace, Love and Winkle (sorry, I meant Twinkle, I was too close to spot the T). But do not fear, this month might signal the end of bright baubles, mince pies for breakfast, and Dad’s eggnog fuelled dancing to Slade, but it’s also the perfect month for trying new things. Forget Dry Jan. Welcome to Try Jan!

Trying something new may feel scary, but it has a number of invaluable benefits: it can boost your confidence, increase your knowledge of yourself and the world around you, and you may discover new talents, interests and friends to boot. In the words of Carrie Fisher, god rest her cinnamon buns – “Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.”

To help you through Try Jan we’ve compiled a list of ten new things that you can give a go in and around Brighton & Hove, or even from the comfort of your hopefully now pine-needle-free home.

  1. Improvised Comedy Course  – Get your creative cogs and confidence spinning with the award-winning improvised comedy troupe The Maydays.
  2. Butoh Dance Workshop – Set your body free with this avant-garde dance philosophy/method which emerged in post-war Japan.
  3. Laughter Yoga – really is the best medicine, and  by combining it with deep yogic breathing you will energise, relax, calm and connect, without the effort of a downward dog.
  4. Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy  –This course will help you shake off those January blues and equip you with tools to help you lead a more stress-free and enriched life in each moment.
  5. Nutrition Course – After all those sugar-coated festive indulgences, discover the key elements of nutrition and how to eat your way to a healthy mind and body.
  1. Brighton Table Tennis Club –This award-winning tennis club offers group and 1:1 sessions for people of all ages & backgrounds to improve health, celebrate diversity and build a strong community. There are also sessions for people recovering from cancer and those with dementia.
  2. Collage and Mixed Media  – Wondering what to do with your old Christmas cards and decorations? Why not turn them and any found items and embellishments into beautiful new pieces on a course which covers techniques from collage to printing.
  3. Acting Classes  –Release your inner thespian in a very friendly and supportive environment.
  4. Life Drawing – Pick up your pencil and pop along to the Marwood Cafe for some cosy laid-back life drawing.
  5. Rosen Method Body Work – Treat yourself to some hands on healing through body and breath work that tackles chronic muscle tension and unconscious emotion (contact Brighton-based practitioner Georgia Aspion: georgia.aspion@gmail.com / 07973269155).

For those of you who have consigned yourself to an alcohol free Dry January, here are a few ideas for making your month merry in other ways.

  1. As We Are Series – check out this brand new Brighton based web series, which is already reaping recognition and awards across the globe.
  2. Indulge in some sausage-shaped shenanigans ‘My Sausage and I’ courtesy of Brighton’s funniest non-Batman comedian and organiser of the legendary Got Ham comedy night at the Joker on the first Wednesday of the month (oh, and for this month only, tonight!) and the talented Nikki Fishpool.
  3. It’s a laugh a nano-second at Brighton’s now-not-so-secret comedy night ‘The Secret Comedy Club’ A friendly and cosy night with established and up-and-coming comedians from Brighton and beyond at the dinky ‘n delightful Artista Studio.
  4. Are you sitting comfortably? Then pick up your pen or pencil and click here to enjoy a free 20 minute mindful drawing meditation with our renowned creative mindfulness tutor Wendy Ann Greenhalgh. If you sign up for her newsletter you will get free meditations or podcasts, book news, featured blogs and insights into her own creative mindfulness practice straight to your inbox every other month. Wendy Ann’s popular Mindfulness and the art of Creativity course starts again at Evolution Arts this February, you can book your place here.


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