In late 2023 The Irish Pages Press published 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.