Creatives Commentary: Movement Director Mel Knott on Roald Dahl's The Witches

Mon 24 Aug 2020

Roald Dahl, Mission Impossible and Wicca Ballrooms: in this creative commentary, Curve Associate Artist and leader of our Curve Young Dance Companies Mel Knott writes about the inspiration and legacy of her work as movement director on the 2015 Made at Curve and Rose Theatre Kingston co-production of Roald Dahl’s The Witches.

‘When we get out into the corridor,’ I said, ‘we’re going to run like mad.  Stick close to the wall all the way and follow me.  Do not talk and do not let anyone see you…’.   I snatched the sandwich out of his paw and threw it away.  ‘Here goes,’ I said. ‘Keep behind me.’

(Roald Dahl, The Witches)

This photo captures my memory of the wonderful time I had in the  rehearsal room working on The Witches in 2015.  I had choreographed with Nikolai for the first time on a project earlier in the year, and he then asked me to movement direct this classic Roald Dahl story for a family audience.  It was my first professional production as a movement director, and it was a significant moment in my own career to realise how I could translate my many years of choreographic practice with children, young people and communities to enhance this story on stage.

This particular moment when Boy and Bruno shift along the hallway to find Grandma’s room allowed us to capture a ‘mission impossible’ style chase through exaggerated body postures and actions and the playful relationship between the boy-mice, all beautifully layered with Dougal Irvine’s sound score.  The photo reminds me of the fun and laughter in the room at every rehearsal, and each time I watched the hugely talented company of actors in the performances at Curve and The Rose Theatre, Kingston.  To express a story through the language of the body has no barriers and reminds me of why I work in this fantastic art form.

In the same year, our Curve Young Dance company took The Witches as our starting point for a new choreography which we titled The Wicca Ballroom.  It is one of our most favourite pieces, which we also revived for Curve’s 10th anniversary.  In a contemporary dance interpretation, we explored an obscure tango representing the witches secretly meeting in the ballroom of the hotel, throwing off their gloves to reveal clawed fingers which then took the piece into more sinister worlds of witchcraft, disguise and the pack ensemble.

Roald Dahl’s writing is so rich in imagery that it became such engaging source material for me in both my professional and teaching roles at Curve.  One memory of fantastic times spent in the company of many inspiring creatives in the rehearsal rooms at Curve.

The Wicca Ballroom – CYC Dance April 2016, backstage at the Midlands UDance Festival
The Wicca Ballroom – CYC Dance 2018 restaged
for Curve’s 10th anniversary. Photography by Pamela Raith


Lead image credit: Fox Jackson-Keen (Boy) and Kieran Urquhart (Bruno) in The Witches – photography by Catherine Ashmore.