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SW Voices Gigi Giannella

June 6, 2019

Lorea Burge Badiola, Takeshi Matsumoto and Jasmine Khalia for 'Usher Project' © Gigi Giannella

In this instalment of Sadler’s Wells Voices, we shine a light on Duty House Manager Gigi Giannella. Gigi joined us back in 1999 working in Housekeeping. He later moved to Front of House and became Duty House Manager for the Lilian Baylis Studio.

Alongside this, Gigi dedicates his time and stellar photography skills capturing the many faces and lives of our Front of House team – curated in a heart-warming collection entitled the ‘Usher Project’. We asked about his experience working in Front of House and took a closer look into his creative ventures at Sadler’s Wells and the inspiration behind them.

A portrait of Gigi Giannella. He is semi-bald and has a long bushy beard,
Gigi Giannella

Jasmine Khalia

Jasmine, a young Black woman dressed all in black, leans with her back to the rails on the first circle of Sadler's Wells Theatre. Beside her is a pink ukulele.
Jasmine Khalia, ‘Usher Project’ © Gigi Giannella

I am Jasmine. From lots of places – London, Jamaica, Tottenham, Somalia, Barcelona, but I feel at home working at Sadler’s Wells after many years of being unsettled.

I always try and be happy as the theatre is a place of entertainment and leisure.

I’d like many people to know I am a multiskilled artist in many mediums, curating three of my own live exhibitions and can speak around four languages (five with practice) and work in audio visual tech freelance as having a cute face working front of house.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I moved to London from Italy in 1999, with the aim of learning the language. To support myself, I started working at Sadler’s Wells – first in the Housekeeping department, then with the Front of House team. This gave me the opportunity to get interested in contemporary dance. At the same time, I was studying photography, so I naturally started combining dance in my photography practice. This led to me getting commissioned to document numerous community dance projects and various companies, including a number of projects for the Learning and Engagement team and National Youth Dance Company.

Amy Bentley Klein

I have worked at Sadler’s Wells since December 2015.

Actress and Communications: alongside performing I am a remote English Language teacher, where I use video conferencing to teach classes of 10-15 students in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

I started coming to Sadler’s Wells aged 8, where I attended a yearly summer school programme with Green Candle Dance Company for D/deaf children and their siblings. Through the universal language of dance I developed skills that would not only serve me in later life, but have equipped me with a broader understanding of how we use our bodies to communicate, and how beautiful that can me.

I think this project is an excellent way of illustrating how diverse and complex individuals are. I’m proud to share this space with all my wonderful colleagues who play an integral role in my further development.

Amy, a young white woman wearing glasses, a grey cardigan and black three-quarter length trousers. She sits on a chair by a table, on the first floor circle of Sadler's Wells Theatre. The whole floor is full of empty chairs and tables. She holds a small object delicately between the palms of her hands.
Amy Bentley, ‘Usher Project’ © Gigi Giannella
Tell us about the “Usher Project”. What it is, and what was the inspiration behind it?

Having worked as a Front of House Assistant and Deputy House Manager for quite some time, I have always found the diverse mixture of people that I worked with fascinating. Most of the ushers have different kinds of lives, different jobs and many skills that are unknown to most. It felt like, once the usher uniform is worn, you lose your ‘identity’. I thought that this project would be a good way to celebrate the different energies that are part of the makeup of Sadler’s Wells.

At the same time, I have enjoyed engaging with audiences, especially patrons that felt like Sadler’s Wells was almost a second home for them. Many patrons had grown to know me (and some of my long-term colleagues) in this environment. They enjoyed being welcomed by recognisable faces for sure, but at the same time I always felt it was very surface level, as they didn’t really know who the ushers were.

Often I would bump into the same people around town or at other venues and they seemed surprised to see me out of the Sadler’s Wells context. There is a view that we work full-time for the theatre, but in reality, holding even a few part-time jobs nowadays is very common, especially in the arts sector.

Joel O’Donoghue

Sitting on the handrails of some steps at Sadler's Wells Theatre is a young man, Joel. He wears black jeans and a dark blue shirt.
Joel O'Donoghue, ‘Usher Project’ © Gigi Giannella

Worked at Sadler’s Wells since January 2013.

I work as a dancer, choreographer and dance teacher outside of Sadler’s Wells.

At Sadler’s Wells I can see both the shows I like and dislike, and this has refined my taste. When I’m bored I often ask myself why I dislike particular shows, and what it is I would change about them if I was given the opportunity.

Working at Sadler’s Wells has also enabled me to see and understand the intricacies there are in putting on a performance. This has been handy for me when creating and producing my own work. I have performed at Sadler’s Wells as part of Sampled Big Dance 2016 and as an extra for two different Pina Bausch performances (which was awesome!)

Were there any surprises or valuable insights that this project brought about?

I really enjoyed working on this project as I approached it with an open mind, not believing it to be just my project, but a collaboration between myself and the subjects.

My only brief to the guys was that we were going to shoot inside or around the theatre (the only area I didn’t want to shoot was the stage and I made that clear to everyone) and that everyone should choose the part of the building they preferred most. It was interesting to see how everyone has a different location where they like to work.

Another important factor was for everyone to bring something that represented themselves or their day-to-day life and with this, I tried telling their stories. Collaborating together was a nice way to work on this project. In a way, it is like how a choreographer works with their dancers – a dialogue where everyone puts forward their skills and knowledge to achieve a final result.

Jane Chan

I have worked at Sadler’s Wells since October 2010.

A freelance choreographer, dance artist and teacher. My practice includes Kathak, contemporary dance and Wing Chun. I recently started self-producing.

Sadler’s Wells has given me opportunities to observe the beauty and brutality of humans, to watch performances that I would not be able to afford otherwise and some incredibly lifelong friendships. I have given my commitment, loyalty, time and effort to the theatre for the past years!

When I was proposed the project my answer was: HELL YES!!! Every human has a story to tell, give it time and make the effort, the stories will gradually unfold… and trust me, more often than not, the stories are beautiful.

Outside the entrance to Stage Door and Lilian Baylis Studio. Jane Chan, a young woman, stands wearing a long black trench coat. Beside her on the wall are posters for current productions that are taking place in the theatre.
Jane Chan, ‘Usher Project’ © Gigi Giannella

Jairo Zaldua

The cloakroom of Sadler's Wells Theatre, leaning on the desk is Jairo. He wears a black blazer and dark blue jeans. Placed around him and hanging from the coat hangers are examples of his screen printing.
Jairo Zaldua, ‘Usher Project’ © Gigi Giannella

Front of house since November 2002 (Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker).

Freelance artist/collaborator/workshop facilitator, specialise in printmaking, collage, digital and installation.

Sadler’s Wells has expanded my knowledge of contemporary dance, developed my social skills, opened up new avenues in collaboration with other front of house staff and interesting projects have emerged as a consequence. I’ve had the opportunity to utilise my creative skills, like screen printing, for workshops at Family Weekend.

My initial reaction to this project was and still is something that could go in many directions depending on the intention of the organiser. I felt it was very open ended and relies on the circumstances and honesty of the participants.

I also want to add that prior to working at Sadler’s Wells, I came out of a long spell of unemployment, so having to work with a team and within a professional organisation seemed (initially) quite daunting.


Takeshia Matsumoto

I have worked at Sadler’s Wells since 2008 with a three years break in between.

I dance, teach dance, choreography, give Thai massage, play violin in the street and meditate.

Sadler’s Wells gives me a chance to enjoy a wide range of dance styles from the corner of the auditorium. I also think I give Sadler’s Wells calm, attentive and smiley services with my sense of Japaneseness.

When I was proposed to take part in the project, I thought it was a spotlight on me.

Leaning against the doors of the lift is a young Japanese man, Takeshi. He wears black trousers and a black sweatshirt with white lines resembling the tracings on a map. He looks at himself in the mirror. Beside him, placed on a stool, is a Viking helmet.
Takeshi Matsumoto, ‘Usher Project’ © Gigi Giannella
What are you currently working on/ what is next for you?

I would try to explore this project further, whether it’s with other departments at Sadler’s Wells, or even trying to expand it to other theatres. I have a few things in my mind, but it’s still early days. I am working out an idea about runners and running (another passion I have) and I am slowly getting around how to approach it.

Ewa Lamond

The foyer of Sadler's Wells Theatre. To the right side of the image stands Ewa Lamond, she has short brown hair and wears sport attire suitable for riding a bike outdoors. In the centre of the floor is a bicycle placed upside-down.
Ewa Lamond, ‘Usher Project’ © Gigi Giannella

I have been at Sadler’s Wells since December 2011.

I am training and working as an actress, I do sign language, work as a sports massage therapist and I love to cycle. Also I have a dance background.

Sadler’s Wells has given me lots of training opportunities that I haven’t had before but also refreshed some I have had. It’s given me the opportunity to see that I’d love to work in access and help develop a better access department. I guess my skills in sign language and knowledge of the access world is the prime example of what I give to Sadler’s Wells.

I felt the idea of this project was really good as we are individual people who do different things with our lives. It was interesting to see what everyone brought to the project to show their individuality. Looking back I wish I had done something different but I do see that that’s me. As I love cycling and my hands are showing movements in them to show sign language. It was hard to choose what to show as I do many things but I guess it does show me!

What advice would you give to other aspiring photographers or, more broadly, to people looking to make their way into the creative industries?

Mainly that it’s not an easy industry, but it can give you great rewards. It’s a great place to test your capabilities and to experience lots of various things and meet a different spectrum of people.

Lorea Burge Badiola

I am half Spanish and half English and I have worked at Sadler’s Wells for six years.

Being an usher is part of my job as a freelance dance artist. Alongside dance, one of my biggest passions is seeing live music. These two things give me a feeling of of fulfilment.

As a freelancer my place of work and schedule is always changing. Sadler’s Wells provides a base and a sense of stability in my unstable life.

In this building we are constantly surrounded by strangers and often cross paths with the same people over and over. My imagination always takes me on journeys through strangers lives.

This project could give a little factual insight to the lives of strangers, or perhaps give a more vivid picture to the imagined.

Lorea, a young woman with long mousy hair, stands in the centre of Sadler's Wells foyer. Falling and floating around her are evening performance programmes.
Lorea Burge Badiola, ‘Usher Project’ © Gigi Giannella