The Fat Dance Sessions

The Fat Dance Sessions

The Fat Dance Sessions - Newcastle upon Tyne, 2023-4

The Fat Dance Sessions are an opportunity for people in larger bodies to dance together in Newcastle upon Tyne. In studios in the city centre, fat dancer and choreographer Gillie Kleiman will lead a series of sessions of creative, exploratory movement for fat people, for us to reclaim our dancing for ourselves, get to know each other, and simply have fun moving.

The sessions are open to anyone who experiences themselves as fat. Other words that are often used are plus-sized, or living in larger bodies. If you're interested but not sure how to think about fatness, this might be a helpful resource, but it's only a starting point.

Fat people are routinely and systemically the objects of discrimination. As such, it's really important that we keep ourselves safe, so we won't be sharing publicly the exact dates and times of the sessions. The first season took place weekly throughout autumn 2023 on Friday evenings. Season Two will be fortnightly on Wednesday evenings. If you'd like to come, please email Gillie:

Fat Contact - Portland, Oregon, 2024

Fat Contact is an artistic research project that explores the ways in which the bodies of fat people come into contact with each other. Inspired by early versions of the American dance form Contact Improvisation, the Japanese wrestling practice Sumo, and the sculptures of Eva Fàbregas, the sessions will be exploratory workshops creating choreographic structures in a playing field informed by and curious about our own fat embodiments and their capacity to create meaning. We will fall, fold and falter, spoon and smush and spread; we will push and prang and ping. All fat people welcome, at all levels of experience, for as much of it as you like.

Fat Contact is supported by Body Home Fat Dance with monies from Another Route including a seed commission from Jerwood Arts.

Illustrations by Benji Spence.


Supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England's Developing Your Creative Practice, and by Dance City and Northumbria University.
Supported using public funding by Arts Council England



friend is a performance for a non-professional dancer to present in their home to an audience of only their friends. The fixed score, made up of distinct components, comes together into a 30-minute choreography which playfully folds the performer and their performance into cultural history. Rather than asking the performers to talk about their lives, friend is a form of portraiture that allows the audience to see their dear one completely anew, invoking the strange potentialities of contemporary dance to tenderly invite the friends to see and be seen in a novel way. It involves iconic post-modern American dance performance Trio A, two versions of I Will Always Love You, karaoke, and a small but effective smoke machine. It gestures to existing practices of domestic performance (beatnik poetry recitals, children’s pop concerts) whilst creating the context for introducing performers and audience alike to the skill and joy of watching contemporary dance through a series of carefully-designed discussion prompts over a shared post-show meal. It is craftful, ridiculous, and very very friendly.

friend has been supported by Arts Council England to undertake a further eighteen performances in 2023-4 in Crawley, Gateshead, Hastings and across the Midlands.


Supported by Arts Council England through Project Grants as well as residency, financial, and producing support from Dance4 and Yorkshire Dance.

Choreographer Gillie Kleiman

Performers (pilot) Cathy Brady, Tony Ross, Myra Rowland

Producer Beckie Darlington


A pilot of friend took place in August 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, Leeds, and Nottingham (UK).

Documentation available on request.



‘There cannot be just one companion species; there have to be at least two to make one. It is in the syntax; it is in the flesh.’

Donna Haraway, The Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People and Significant Otherness

Familiar is a twinset of performances on significant otherness. One authored by Kleiman and performed by Wohead, the other authored by Wohead and performed by Kleiman, the two are twisted together with the help of story, song and spit.

Springboarding from a question of companionship, Kleiman and Wohead reach for something altogether more mysterious: a shaggy dog story danced by Twin Peaks’ legendary Log Lady, speaking from the beyond to enable the pair to become others of significance then and there in the theatre.

Set amongst an original design by celebrated artist Tim Spooner, the works in Familiar play out what it means to be companions, where we think we know everything about each other whilst facing the fact that we can’t.

Commissioned by Dance City and Fierce Festival. Supported by ARC Stockton, Wainsgate Chapel, Shoreditch Town Hall, Northern Stage, Northumbria University and Roehampton University.

Concept, direction, choreography, performance  Gillie Kleiman and Greg Wohead
Design  Tim Spooner
Lighting Design  Nao Nagai
Original Music  Sammy Metcalfe
Producer  Beckie Darlington
Outside Eye  Wendy Houstoun
Production Manager  Simon Henderson

17-19 October 2019 - Birmingham Repertory Theatre as part of Fierce Festival
12 March 2020 - Dance City, Newcastle upon Tyne

Familiar can be made available for touring. Promoters should contact Beckie Darlington.

Familiar featured as part of a five-star review of Fierce Festival.

The Rocking Show

The Rocking Show

The Rocking Show is an ongoing collaboration between Hannah Buckley and Gillie Kleiman. The starting point is the physical action of rocking, but this action is both a proxy and method for considering their common experience of profound grief. As their individual grieving - they each lost their mothers in their 30s - has been both subsumed and amplified by a grieving planet they continued to rock as a way to cope, to begin to understand, because it feels good and because it is possible to do it in a bedroom, a living room, a kitchen. 

The action of rocking is associated with the therapeutic - it can be a way to alleviate both physical and psychical pain. It has connections with and to the maternal and to labouring, both in terms of work and in terms of giving birth, as well as to spiritual practices in many traditions. Rocking activates kinaesthetic empathy; watching someone rock can make you feel like you’re rocking. 

The Rocking Show is a way to share what is a deeply useful and healing practice. It brings together spiritual, intellectual and cultural notions of rocking, the physical act of rocking and the act of choreography.

To date, Hannah and Gillie have produced a four-part radio series for the Star and Shadow Radio. It was part choreography, part research document, part engagement strategy, part continuation of a close friendship.


Fat Performance DIY

Fat Performance DIY

In late 2020 Gillie ran a workshop, under the auspices of Live Art Development Agency’s DIY scheme, called Fat Performance. Originally conceived as an in-person event, COVID restrictions demanded an online version, which also made space for more people from around the world, including Argentina, the United States, Australia, Germany, Brazil and the United Kingdom. The workshop spawned the Fat Performance Network, with which Gillie continues to be involved. 

Aspects of the workshop were turned into a workbook by Gillie and some of the workshop participants:

We can’t promise anything: advice with Marian (and Gillie)

We can’t promise anything: advice with Marian (and Gillie)

This isn’t really one of Gillie’s artworks – it was a hobby project, about which she writes here:

It is a radio series with her friend Marian, where they respond to people’s problems as the very amateur agony aunts that they are. Listen here:


Grief Dances

Grief Dances

Grief Dances is a project in development. Gillie talks about its unfinishedness in the podcast Unfinished/Unpublished with host Em Anderson here.

Gillie’s mother died in April 2016. For almost two years before that, Gillie took part in her care as her health deteriorated. Gillie’s grief began the moment she heard of the terminal diagnosis, and continues, though the acute pain, the last blow after so many exhausting months witnessing and supporting a very sick loved one, has passed.

During this time, Gillie danced. She toured two performances in which she danced by herself and with others. She danced in her back garden. She forced a reluctant boyfriend to slow dance; later, on the day of her mother’s death, he would do a small twirl for her while walking the dog. She wept on a dance floor, surrounded by friends. She jumped and jumped and jumped, holding a friend, on the uneven earth at a festival, lungs heaving and ankles twisting. A few days before her mother’s death, she got stuck in her hallway listening to a podcast about a different mother’s cancer, and the only way to move was to move, to really move, to dance.

Grief Dances is a book, maybe an experimental novel, maybe a series of short stories, a collection of poems. More than any of that, it’s an account of dances, an account of grief through dances. It is a choreography rendered through words.

Initial research supported by a Developing Your Creative Practice Grant from Arts Council England.

Writer  Gillie Kleiman
Outside eye  Deborah Pearson
Producer  Beckie Darlington



In 2019, Gillie completed her PhD project, ‘Recreation and Significant Others: seeking post-work possibilities in contemporary choreography’ under the supervision of Dr Simon Bayly and Dr Sara Houston. Examiners Professor Emilyn Claid and Professor Nicholas Ridout passed the work with no corrections.

The thesis is available via the University of Roehampton repository.



Highly visual, unabashedly experimental and underscored by generous humour, Recreation is a choreography about work. Rather, it's about the things that we do that aren't work, or that aren't quite work. It's a show about caring, about cooking, about sex, about gardening and meditating and singing in the kitchen and playing 5-a-side, and, of course, about dancing.

Performed by professional, not-quite-professional and non-professional dancers – including guest performers local to each venue - Recreation is a lamentation for leisure, a choreographed question of labour, a danced demand for seeing our value beyond our work.

Commissioned by ARC Stockton, Shoreditch Town Hall, and Yorkshire Dance. Supported by Arts Council England, Rajni Shah Projects, Dance4, and via South East Dance and Jerwood Charitable Foundation Dramaturg in Residence programme. With special thanks to Dance City and Northumbria University.

Choreography Gillie Kleiman
Performers Amanda Drago, Victoria Guy and Kit Haigh plus guests
Design and illustration Emer Tumilty
Lighting Designer George Leigh
Producer Beckie Darlington
Artistic Advisor (dramaturgy) Roberta Jean
Artistic Advisor (sound) Nicola Singh
Photography Camilla Greenwell

Generous crowdfunding donors:

Charlie Ashwell
Christopher Brett Bailey
Katy Baird
Hetty Blades
Hannah Buckley
Sara Burges Houston
Paul Burns
Ramsay Burt
Lydia Catterall
Iris Chan
Hugo Chapman
Seke Chimutengwende
Francis Christeller
Rachael Clerke
Theo Clinkard
Jo Cork
Jennifer Curry
John Darlington
Sue Davies
Wieke Eringa
Kitty Fedorec
Andy Field
Rachel Fullegar
Anna Goodman
Miriam Gould
Susie Green
Camilla Greenwell
Chantal Guevara

Alison Hargreaves
Christie Hill
Katherine Hollinson
R Justin Hunt
Ruth Johnson
Carole Jones
Lloyd & Wilson
Avner Kleiman
Tal Kleiman
Lizzie Klotz
Alice Mackenzie
Leah Marojevic
Steph McMann
James Morgan
Jon Opie
Gary Pritchard
Annie Rigby
Rosalie Schweiker
Ellie Sikorski
Lucy Suggate
Louise Tanoto
Alicia Jane Turner
Robert Vesty
Helena Webb
Sophie Williams Brown
Aaron Wright
Michal Yeshanov
Adam Young

9 June 2017 – Yorkshire Dance, Leeds (Preview performance)

22 June 2017 – ARC, Stockton (Premiere)

24 October 2017 - Shoreditch Town Hall, London

19 November 2017 - BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead

…neither use nor ornament

neither use nor ornament

...neither use nor ornament was a research project in 2013-4. It was a solo project, obsessed with ornament, wherein I invited three independent choreographers to come and be the guest director. I was working with myself as a performer and as a director, how I could pass on information, and how I could develop my skills. The invited choreographers were Gaby Agis, Theo Clinkard and Roberta Jean.

Photography Gillie Kleiman / Susie Green
Invited choreographers Gaby Agis / Theo Clinkard / Roberta Jean 

Supported by Artsadmin