Millennium Gallery

The Machinery – 19th century machine-inspired dance

Millennium Gallery Arundel Gate, Sheffield, S1 2PP, UK


7:00 PM


Algomech is a new festival of algorithmic and mechanical movement, taking place in Sheffield, UK. As part of a weekend of events, Caroline Radcliffe and I are presenting our own take on nineteenth-century dance ‘The Machinery’. Caroline is a musician, theatre historian and Lancashire heel-and-toe clog dancer, based at the University of Birmingham.

To anyone interested in the relationship between music and automation, ‘The Machinery’ is a fascinating work. Devised by women working in the Lancashire mills, the steps of this nineteenth-century ‘heel and toe’ clog dance directly mimic the repetitive sounds and movements of cotton mill machines. In the twentieth century, ‘The Machinery’ survived as it was passed on by Pat Tracey and other dancers with family associations with the mill. Here, Caroline Radcliffe and I take it back to its industrial context, as we juxtapose it with found sounds and video fragments from a working cotton mill and a telephone call centre.

You can hear more about the history of this fascinating dance in this TEDx talk from 2011.
Thanks to Alex McLean, Algomech co-curator, for inviting us along to perform. Thansk too to staff at Quarry Bank Mill, Styal, Cheshire for giving us access to their working mill machines.

Please check the Algomech website for exact performance time