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Karen da Silva is a Portuguese/British independent dance artist.   She has performed in dance, theatre and film and has choreographed a variety of works since 1994 with a focus on making site specific work. Her perfomance journey began at Annie Fratellini Circus Academy in Paris, following which she completed a professional contemporary dance training at the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance (now Trinity Laban). After performing as a dancer, an urge to find more specificity & autonomy lead to an interest in theatre and she went on to study  Stanislavki and Meisner techniques and work in more acting based contexts. Following on from this, a desire to deepen and develop her own practice lead her to academic study and practice based research at the University of Surrey where she was also Performance Studies coordinator for the BA Dance Studies programme.  In 2016 she completed her Ph.D. which looked at the problem of stereotypical female characterisation in UK dance theatre and developed a choreographic practice which intersects choreographic craft, Stanislavskian acting techniques and phenomenological approaches to truth. The aim of this process is to allow for  more unique and nuanced female characterisations. A key area in her work as an associate artist with the Map Consortium is the ongoing development of pioneering applied arts practices.   She has works between the UK and Portugal performing, directing, choreographing, teaching and facilitating. 


Key works include:

  • THE BIG SEXY SHOW, 2018, a big, sexy show-off dance performance celebrating age, created for Duckie, an Olivier Award winning LGBTQ club and production organisation. UK tour with dancers aged 55 to 76

  • MAR AZUL; Teatro das Figuras, Faro, 2018. Performance devised and choreographed with adults with special needs from AAPACDM - A Associação Algarvia de Pais e Amigos de Crianças Diminuídas Mentais (day centre for adults with special needs in Faro).

  • TEATRO MARIA FLAMINGA at Todos Festival Lisbon, 2018. Performed solo hand dance Take 5 & directed a range of performance artists and a group of Batukadeiras (a traditional female percussion form from Cape Verde) to create a performance in a small ´luxury´ travelling theatre that seats six, in collaboration with designer and creator of the theatre Helen Ainsworth

  • SATO'S RAIN; Live site specific performance, 2017 with Centro Ambiental e  Cultural de Bela Mandil, Portugal. A live performance piece performed in a disused, agricultural water tank in rural Portugal,. Created through a collaboration of choreographic methods with Yuko Kominami

  • LAUNDERETTE solo, vintage, 60s dance performance in a launderette, Guildford International Music Festival, 2013. Published in Creative Review  

  • ABIGAIL HURLEY’S 7.47 performed in and directed short film on inertia filled desire for death. Shown at Dancing Bodies, Moving Images Film Festival, 2012.

  • LISA NAERWELL’S HEN NIGHT  solo performance of drunken hen-night escapee, Woking town square,Woking Dance Festival’s Summer Shorts, 2011.

  • THE UNBUILT LIFE OF CECILIA GREY created for and performed in Guildford Cathedral, solo performance of a ghost shadow, stuck in a time-loop of guilt. Guildford International Music Festival 2009.

  • BETTY’S DAY OUT a sexually stifled tea ritual solo dance, performed in Woking Shopping Centre, 2007.

  • GO GIRLS  a cabaret camp lesbian extravaganza, commissioned for Gay Pride in collaboration with Kate Lawrence and choreographers Sally Doughty and Michelle Durtnell:The Green Room, Manchester, & National Tour 1998.

  • NO MEANS NO, 1997, Performer and co director, dance performance exploring the experience and politics of sexual violence towards women. National UK tour.

  • THE HAND, 1998, Performer, Gay Sweat Shop, lesbian horror show directed by Lois Weaver and Emlyn Claid, UK tour.

The Un-Built Life of Cecilia Grey

Photographed by Paul Stead


As a dramaturgeKaren works with dance and performance artists specifically looking at ways into choreographing character.  She has worked with Florence Peake on Duckie Goes To The Gateways for Duckie’s biannual Gay Shame event, 2013;  Dr. Jean Johnson-Jones on Negro Spirituals, 2012, national tour and was choreographic assistant for choreographer Joe Moran for music video Hold On Me with  Marlon Roudette, 2012 and Paul Smith Fashion shows Paris and London 2013, 2014.

Training & Qualifications

  • Dance Theatre Diploma: Laban Centre for Movement and Dance (now Trinity Laban) 1992

  • M.A (dist): Dance Cultures: Histories and Practices – University of Surrey 2007

  • Ph.D.: Unconcealing Experience: Heidegger, Stanislavski and the creation of ‘truthful’ characterisations in dance. University of Surrey 2016

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