Athletic choreography: James Wilton Dance: ‘Lore puts audiences in touch with nature’

Using an exciting range of experiences and physicality including martial arts, athletics and folklore, this company of dancers are constantly in pursuit of finding new things to do with the body. Their energetic feats of movement keep audiences’ jaws dropping. 

Much like the artform they impressively present, James Wilton Dance are always active. Having created five full productions since 2014, amassing over 300 shows in 15 different countries, 2024 will continue to be a busy year for the multi-award-winning dance company. This is thanks to a hectic performance schedule comprised of two touring shows: Lore and The Four Seasons as well as a new large-scale show in production planned for 2025.

James Wilton, who alongside Sarah Taylor serve as the directors, choreographers and main dancers of the company, spoke about the strain involved in such a heavy workload. “It’s difficult touring two shows at the same time – The Four Seasons is cardiovascular, and light and Lore is very heavy and muscular.”

But it is in this realm where the ideas for their work flourishes.  Keen to recreate the physicality of sport within choreography, Wilton and Taylor set up the company in 2010 with the aim of exploring new territory in the possibilities of movement. Through this partnership, the duo has become adept in knowing the possibilities and limitations of each other’s bodies.  Wilton shares his artistic vision: “The work we create combines the physicality and intensity of the sport-like quality of the way I like to move with the more lyrical, expansive, and articulate way that Sarah moves. We try and find that middle point between those spaces where it is really driving and really physical but at the same time with a sensitivity to form.”

Through demonstrating the physicality and wider influences present in their work, the company has reached wider audiences beyond those who normally engage with contemporary dance, including sports entertainment fans.

“I’m influenced by the luchadores in Mexican wrestling. In our show – Lore, there is a move that that is like a Hurricanrana- where Sarah jumps up on to my shoulders” explains Wilton who feels the parallels with professional wrestling extend beyond his adaptation of body flipping moves like the Hurricanrana (popularised by WWE pro wrestler – Scott Steiner). “There’s storytelling,” enthuses the company’s artistic director. “But it’s done in a particular way…there’s a kind of contract between the audience and the performers. When people watch wrestling, they know it’s not real but somehow, they play along like it is and I think you have a similar thing in dance, people invest into it…there’s a magic in both art forms.” 

But it is not just these big powerful displays of movement that have appealed to audiences. James Wilton Dance pride themselves on their contrast in dexterity. In their most recent production: Lore, which is influenced by the mythology of Celtic and European folklore, Sarah Taylor plays various incarnations of Goddesses of nature who can shapeshift into stags and butterflies. In one of the many mesmerising parts of the show, Taylor delicately swirls her fingers around on the ground, sprinkling flower petals, making magical gestures, embodying the spirit of an animal.  It’s moments like this that the company are able to bring a mystical quality to their craft, transporting audiences and leaving them feeling like they are sat in the woods watching the performance. “We hope that Lore will put audiences in touch with nature as it’s a very visceral and grounding experience. We hope they connect with their primitive primordial selves that we’ve lost contact with in this world of TikTok and Facebook.”

The Four Seasons is similarly impressive in its concept. Using Max Richter’s recomposed version of Vivaldi’s seminal work, the show blends capoeira, acrobatics, martial arts and classical dance, alongside stunning stage and costume designs to create a kaleidoscopic visual feast for audiences, celebrating the beauty of the four stages of the universe. 

Both show’s focus on nature is not coincidental. During lockdown, Wilton and Taylor spent a lot of time exploring their local rural surroundings in Cornwall, “As we were restricted on travel, we often got lost in the woods and used the time to create work that was earthy.” 

Lore and The Four Seasons are touring across the UK  from January 30th – April 30th. For more information check