Helen Lewis:
Shadows Behind The Dance by Maddy Tongue



Maddy Tongue’s heartfelt portrait of the dancer and teacher Helen Lewis, who survived Auschwitz to teach dance in Belfast.

Helen’s acclaimed memoir, A Time to Speak (Blackstaff Press, 1997), tells the story of the first thirty years of her life in Czechoslovakia, from childhood to her professional training as a choreographer and dancer. It also contains her devastating account of Nazi persecution, of loss and suffering in the Holocaust: Helen came very close to death. Maddy Tongue now completes the story of this extraordinary woman who overcame unimaginable suffering to become a creative force in Ireland.

The author’s friendship with Helen lasted for more than fifty years. As a dancer she performed in many of Helen’s significant works. Helen Lewis: Shadows Behind the Dance describes Helen’s creative approach, her struggle to overcome an Irish indifference to modern dance, her pursuit of perfection and her unshakeable belief in humanity. In Ireland today the presence of modern dance owes much to her innovative teaching and practice.

Helen Lewis: Shadows Behind the Dance is supplemented with Chris Agee’s 2002 interview with Helen, “An Irish Epilogue”, and a folio of Holocaust poems and drawings by Michael Longley and Sarah Longley (who was a pupil of Helen’s). Helen’s sons, Robin and Michael, have written a Foreword.


Maddy Tongue was born and raised in Northern Ireland, and trained as a physiotherapist before taking a BA and an MA in Literature and Creative Writing in 2011, both from the University of East Anglia. She has had a lifelong involvement in dance. Following early ballet classes, she trained in modern dance with the Czech dancer Helen Lewis in Belfast and appeared in many dance, drama and opera productions with Cambridge Modern Ballet and The Belfast Modern Dance Group, including Helen’s early innovative work Phases. From 2005, she worked for many years as Movement Director with Sam McCready on a number of Yeats dramas for the Yeats International Summer School in Sligo. She writes about dance and is currently living and teaching dance in Cambridge, England.

ISBN: 978-1-8382018-9-0