Personal, provocative and fundamentally free

Danny Smith expresses himself through emotionally honest dance, a defiant naked portrait and a drag alter ego. Simon Jarrett views a trio of events

Danny Smith on stage

Danny Smith is something of a one-person performing arts phenomenon, dancing the story of his life as a young man with Down syndrome through his drag alter ego Trixie Pixie Lox, posing provocatively and defiantly naked for a portrait and creating a spectacular dance for the camera about the complex layers of his very buoyant and captivating personality.

Danny Smith – This is Me
Wellcome Collection, London

Danny Smith
Deborah Kelly and collaborators
Being Human
Wellcome Collection, London

The Shadowlight Artists: Journeys
Old Fire Station, Oxford

In This is Me, he performed his life story through live dance. During his energetic and emotionally honest performance. Smith, all in white and with bleached hair, moved expertly to show he is whoever he wants to be, backed by a terrific group of dancers.

It was a mesmerising 15 minutes, and always very much Smith’s show – uncompromising, truthful and hard hitting. It was very fitting that the key number in the performance was Queen’s I Want To Break Free.

In an adjacent room hung a large portrait of Smith by Deborah Kelly and collaborators, who included Smith himself. Their photo collage reflects Smith’s identity, dreams and life story. It is a taboo-breaking naked portrait, with Smith’s characteristic joyfulness and don’t-give-a-damn, full-on commitment to his art shining like a unashamedly in a dark age of anxiety about learning disabled bodies and minds. View it at

Asked in a Q&A after his show by one of his dancers why he had chosen to pose naked, Smith simply replied: “It’s very important to me.” To which I can only reply, hats off to you, Danny Smith. Being able to express his body in the way he sees fit is, for him, a fundamental freedom.

Smith has also been involved in a great exhibition by the Shadowlands Artist Collective, which creates new work championing learning-disabled and autistic artists.

On display were three fine video pieces. Wendy Belcher’s digital collage on her experience as an autistic person of the loss of her dog is intensely moving and beautifully made.

So is Tom Breach’s animation about life as an autistic adult, which skilfully manages to be very honest, funny, sad and hopeful all at the same time.

He has a fine track record in animated shorts behind him, and appears to be, deservedly, going places.

Fantastic world

Artist Richard Hunt is an excellent colourist, employing exquisite shading, who creates intriguing, not-quite-abstract, not-quite-representational pieces – his work can make you stop and reflect as you peek into his world of fantastical ideas.

Colourful collage by Richard Hunt
Colourful collage by Richard Hunt. Photo: Richard Hunt

Finally, Smith cropped up here too, in his home city, with a dance-for-camera video where we see Trixie Pixie Lox joyfully giving it her all and celebrated by Smith’s family and friends.