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Rising again through the power of dance

Fallen angels square Friday 20 November 2015

Dance theatre company Fallen Angels will perform Upon Awakening at the Cornerstone Arts Festival this weekend. Phil Ashby, Liverpool Hope University dance student and performer with the company, discusses how dance helped him move forward with his life, and his experience of producing the piece.   

Upon Awakening explores a real life story of adversity, the pivotal moment that propelled the performers into recovery from addiction. It has been created using Fallen Angels' unique process-led practice with recovering addicts whose testimonies are integral. Fallen Angels was set up by set up by former Scottish Ballet principal dancer Paul Bayes Kitcher during his own recovery from addiction.  Dr Zoe Zontou, lecturer in drama at Liverpool Hope, is a board member and also wrote about the work of Fallen Angels in her book Performance and Addiction

Phil Ashby began work with Fallen Angels as part of his recovery, and he is now studying for a BA (Hons) in dance with Dr Zoe Zontou at Liverpool Hope University, whilst continuing to perform and teach with Risen. In his time with Fallen Angels, Phil performed Upon Awakening at the Lowry in Manchester and the Royal Opera House and he is due to return there to perform on November 27th. 

Phil said: “In 2011, as part of a rehab programme through Addaction in Liverpool, I went to see a show by Fallen Angels. It was a hard, beautiful story called The Battle for the Soul part 1. It really surprised me that I had an instant connection to it. I’d never been involved with dance in my life. In 2012 I officially entered rehab and really started to take dance seriously. I attended Fallen Angels workshops in Chester and with Wirral Youth Theatre. It was very difficult – very intense, and I knew I had to face these fears.  The focus of the workshops was simply to create movements. There was no pressure to become a trained dancer. The emphasis was on creating a very authentic, physical movement. We brought in photos to help us contextualise and think about our own journeys.    

“We were given questions such as “what does fear look like to you?” and there was a focus on devising and working as a group. It was really emotional seeing those movements being performed. When you are an addict, you supress any creativity you have. I had lived in self-pity and doubt for twenty years but it felt like dance had lit my soul.”

Phil performed with Fallen Angels, went on to study ballet, contemporary dance and improvisation at Liverpool Community College and undertook a one year HNC course in dance – receiving a distinction.

He then started to think about university. “I had worked with Dr Zoe Zontou through Fallen Angels, and speaking to her gave me a good insight into what to expect at university. I knew that there was a strong focus on community arts at Liverpool Hope which appealed to me. The course is definitely challenging – as well as looking at technique we also have to analyse dance. 

“I’m really interested in performance art and the work of Pina Balche who came up with the “dance theatre” term. Her work asks questions about what dance can be. She’s interested in more than just the technical skills. I want to continue with Risen and my studies and learn new skills. I have watched some of the original members and I want to take this chance and inspire others.” 

Phil says: “We are all advocates for recovery. We are using the arts to help us get there. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would end up at university. It has changed my life. It’s been a path of self-discovery. I support others within the group and they support me. I want to help break down the stigma associated with addiction and show that people can change. I have changed through dance. It has challenged me, and it still challenges me all the time. I still doubt myself regularly. But then I will go to a workshop and dance. It is hard and it is painful at times, but I am buzzing when I dance. I’d love to reach just one other person and say ‘look where I was and now look where I am going.”

 Upon Awakening at the Cornerstone Festival - Saturday 21st November 2015 Free Admission - to reserve tickets please email or call 0151 291 2096.

Watch an interview with Phil as he talks about Upon Awakening: 



Department of Dance, Drama and Performance Studies at Liverpool Hope

Dr Zoe Zontou -  full profile

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