Q&A with Patricia Okenwa

Patricia Okenwa is a contemporary choreographer with over 14 years of performance and choreographic experience working with some of dance’s most prolific names including Rafael Bonachela, Andile Sitoya, Kim Bandstrup’s Ark Dance Company. Resident at Rambert for over a decade she is also a founding member of the boundary-pushing, cross disciplinary New Movement Collective.

In collaboration with visual artists Mária Júdová and Andrej Boleslavsky and commissioned by Renaud Wiser Dance Company, Patricia’s R&D for the work Camouflage will feature as part of Brighton Digital Festival and will be performed at The Lighthouse on Thursday 5 October and at Werks Central on Friday 6 October.

We asked Patricia to take a break and reveal a bit about what drives her.

You’re known for combining extreme physical choreography with emotional themes.  Can you tell us how this form evolved?

When I started to make work myself I was attracted to pushing dancers beyond the usual as a way to be fully present in the performance.

I guess I love to see people attempt something, but let go of the end result, so something new can emerge in the moment. This is always emotional, because the dancers have to be very committed and are entering a vulnerable state, where they give up some control.

Was there a particular gap in the creative arts scene that you wanted the New Movement Collective (NMC) to address?

NMC evolved as a response to our collective need to create beyond what we could access at the time and our common interests in architecture, design, technology and to a point, fiction. Most of us where working for large established companies and it was not possible to make work that was site or space specific and collaborative with other creative disciplines so we started to create those opportunities ourselves. The dancers in the collective had been performing at a distance on big theatre stages and were now up close in immersive work. This was exciting and new to many audience members.

Which piece of work are you most proud of?

I'm pretty proud of Hydrargyrum, the work I did for Rambert last year. I made a huge step forward in my way of working in this process and the work is very me. I also had a particularly wonderful time with my collaborators, composer Aleksandra Vrebalov, designer Jon Bausor and lighting designer Charles Balfour. It felt like such an organic process of developing the concept, structure and design, but I feel our unique voices are very present.

You’ve written about how becoming a mother has become a catalyst for creating new work - could you tell us a bit more about this and whether this has affected the themes you wish to explore in your work?

Becoming a mum has changed me personally. I recently gave birth to my second son and again I found the experience of birth itself transformative. My physical, emotional and mental power all played together to bring him to the world and at the same time I had to fully let go and flow. Having experienced it again is making me want to dig in and work from that place or know that place.

I also recently started a project called a Stabat Mater, researching mothering with a small group of dancers and a singer as well as in workshops with non-professional dancers and mothers of different ages.

We’re fascinated by the utilization of digital technology including virtual reality headsets and movement recognition sensors in the Camouflage project. Are you positive about the advancement of digital technology or concerned?

I feel both. I think technology as well as human behaviour is complex and unpredictable in its effects, so sometimes the most light and playful scene could make us reflect on something sinister or dangerous. I guess Camouflage includes the option of testing moral boundaries. What do we feel comfortable with, how does wearing a mask or giving into a virtual world change how we act or feel

What is particular about our set up is that live dancers interact with the participant as well as the virtual reality they are immersed in allowing interesting behaviour to emerge between dancers, participants and the space.

What are your ambitions for Camouflage and your work with Renaud Wiser Dance Company?

Our ambition is to create three works that relate to digital imaging where two are more traditional stage works by Renaud Wiser and myself plus the VR installation.  My work will take the experience of Camouflage Installation as a starting point and give the audience the opportunity to try out part of the creative process. I hope this will allow the audience to relate and interpret the work in a new way, bringing their own VR experience to their theatre viewing experience and vice versa. I think this will spark new conversations and a level of co-ownership.  Stage works will be created next spring and will premiere and tour from May.

Urban or rural?

Dreaming of rural

East or West?


Where does the future lie? 

Play, flow, presence

Back to view all


22/02/18 South East Dance presents: undisciplined

A micro-festival celebrating contemporary performance with a choreographic edge, by artists and imaginative thinkers who are not bound by a specific genre. View all events

14/02/18 New job vacancy - Head of Communications - 12 months fixed term

Our Head of Communications is going on a 12-month career break so we are looking for an experienced professional to lead our team through an exciting period for South East Dance. More information

16/01/18 Read our latest newsletter - The New Beginnings Issue

Featuring Interviews, updates, news, reflections and more. Read the Newsletter here.

11/10/17 U.Dance 2018 South East Regional Selection Showcase

Is your Youth Dance group looking for opportunities to perform to regional and national audiences? Look no further than U.Dance 2018

07/08/17 Green light signals all systems go on The Dance Space

South East Dance, Brighton and Hove City Council and U+I are delighted to have completed on agreements and announce the start of construction at the Circus Street. Read More

06/07/17 NPO Funding Success

South East Dance is extremely pleased to be awarded renewed funding as an Arts Council, England National Portfolio Organisation. Read More


Cloud Dance Festival @clouddancefest
As if we didn't need further proof that people don't deserve nice things: @Stopgapdance's van and set have been sto……
Retweeted by South East Dance

South East Dance @southeastdance
Apply now: We are looking for an experienced professional to join our team as Head of Communications for 12 months……

Attenborough Centre @AttenboroughCtr
The @guardian reviews @candocodance and praises the company's attitude that challenge and broaden perceptions of ar……
Retweeted by South East Dance

Christopher Matthews @cmatthewschoreo
Excited to announce I have been selected for the Collaborate scheme with @southeastdance @JerwoodCF…
Retweeted by South East Dance

KDE Dance @KatieDEdance
Thank you @southeastdance for supporting my development through the Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary! I had an amazing……
Retweeted by South East Dance

South East Dance @southeastdance
What Next? is looking for 20 pairs of individuals from across the country who want to develop resilience and discov……

South East Dance @southeastdance
Call for participants! Choreographer Robert Clark @dance_clark is looking for participants to perform in his new wo……

South East Dance @southeastdance
We’re looking forward to seeing @AnjaliDance at U.Dance Lift Off Dance Festival 2018…


Join our mailing list here

Tick here if you DO NOT give us permission to share your personal data with our carefully selected partners (artists, companies, promoters, venues and funders with whom we work). Click here to read our full Privacy Policy.


Follow us on your favourite
Social Media channels...

Identity and website design by de Ville | Website build by TOR Creative