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UK Research Project

Our Member Services Coordinator Hilary Maxwell and dance artist Vanessa Goodman are in the UK this week on a research trip organized in collaboration with DanceEast, where they will meet and network with artists and organizations. They will be sharing their experiences on this blog as well as on Instagram: check back regularly for updates!

Day 1 – Monday, October 28: Trinity Laban, London

We woke up to a beautiful, sunny day in London, England – a welcome treat to our morning jet lag! After a complimentary traditional English breakfast at The Judd Hotel, just a stone’s throw away from The Place, we set off to Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

Our first stop was the department of music, where we met up with Vanessa’s colleague, bassist and teacher at the conservatoire, Valentina Ciardelli. Nic Pendlebury, Head of String Department, also joined us. We engaged in an exciting dialogue about dance and music collaborations, and how the two departments at Trinity Laban intersect through their CoLab Project.

Next, we toured the dance department’s spectacular building, designed by Herzog & de Meuron. We were fortunate to meet the Head of Dance Programmes, Colin Bourne Collins, who shared how they are integrating Laban into their contemporary physical and critical practices.

As we walked through its corridors, we were reminded of our own inspiring facility in Vancouver, Scotiabank Dance Centre. Both buildings parallel in their modern aesthetics using concrete and glass to house multiple studios and an in-house theatre.

We were thrilled to come across some familiar faces in their brochure: Alumni Henry Daniels and Sarah Kenny. This visit made us reflect further on Vancouver’s Laban experts, including Helen Walkley, Cheryl Prophet, and Donna Redlick. We are fortunate as a community to have these artists who have contributed to the knowledge and appreciation of Laban’s methodologies and principles.

We had just enough time, afterwards, for a quick visit to the Tate Modern before running to catch the train to Ipswich, our destination for the next four days. Our lovely host, DanceEast‘s Lucy Bayliss, Head of Creative Programmes, greeted us with a warm welcome.

We are looking forward to learning more about the organization and this creative exchange over the next week. Signing off for today.

Day 2 – Tuesday, October 29: DanceEast/Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich

Another day, another incredible organization and dance centre. DanceEast was first established in 1983, under the name Suffolk Dance until it took its current name in 2000. In 2009, it obtained its own building, the Jerwood DanceHouse, comprised of first-class studios, an in-house 200 seat theatre, public gathering spaces, a cafe, and a large open-concept office space. Once an old mill, the DanceHouse was custom designed to meet the needs of the organization. This contemporary structure, using natural materials of concrete, glass and wood (similar to Scotiabank Dance Centre and Trinity Laban) adds an aesthetic layer to the existing beauty of its surrounding environment of uninhabited historical buildings.

DanceEast runs three streams of activity with a remit to serve the eastern region of England: Professional Artistic Development (including a diverse programme of world-class performances, artist retreats, artistic collaborations, and residencies); Centre for Advance Training – CAT (nurturing gifted and talented 10-18 year-olds, providing subsidized training); Community Participation & Engagement (delivering workshops and education opportunities through in-house dance classes and outreach to diverse communities in local, rural and urban locations).

We had the opportunity to receive a comprehensive overview of each stream by their leads: Lucy Bayliss – Head of Creative Programmes; Sophie Lander – Producer (Participation & Engagement); Tom Bowes – Centre for Advanced Training Manager.

We’re thrilled to continue learning more about this multi-faceted organization and its responsive mandate as it addresses the needs and fabric of its community.

Day 3 – Wednesday, October 30: DanceEast/Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich

The day started out with an inspiring meeting with Chrissie Moore, Creative Team Coordinator. She laid out an impressive picture of DanceEast’s work connecting with the school systems. We were struck by their ambitious drive and implementation of programmes and initiatives that cater to babies to university students.

The range of engagement consists of tailor-made programmes and activities. These include ad hoc workshops (sending affiliated artists into schools); Continuing Professional Development (skill-building for primary & elementary teachers); courses, offering weekly classes that may be addressing curriculum objectives or themes such as social & cultural issues; and a digital research project bringing artists to classrooms via live streaming. 

One unique partnership we learned about, a National Project, is Little Big Dance: Artist Commission, spearheaded by South East Dance. This project supports choreographers to work with under five-year-olds and their families, with little or no access to the arts. The choreographers are commissioned to create original dance works that go into production with the possible opportunity to tour nationally.

DanceEast has a remarkable partnership with University of Suffolk and was integral in revamping the university’s dance programme. Launched in 2018, it offers a two-year practice-based BA dance degree, directed towards community and education. Jerwood DanceHouse is a base for its studio courses and DanceEast is a resource for coordinating internships that provide real workforce experience. This is just another way we see DanceEast responding to its community’s needs and development.

We also had the privilege of meeting with Michelle Bynoe, Russell Maliphant Dance Company Education Manager. She has done extensive work in community-engaged practices. Michelle told us about the inspiring journey of her artistic career. She worked with Dance United to build progressive methodologies for facilitation in underserved communities (such as prisons and group homes). Michelle shared her current interest in dance accessibility, focussing on research surrounding blind and partially sighted people.  We were excited to tell her about Vancouver’s All Bodies Dance Project and their in-depth performance research around audience accessibility with these groups in their work Translations, undertaken in partnership with VocalEye. (Learn more about Translations or check out a performance during Dance In Vancouver, Nov 19-24 TICKETS).

Our conversation made an unexpected to turn when we discovered Russell Maliphant and Vanessa’s movement languages share curiosities in fascial and circulatory investigations…

The day ended on two joyous notes. First, we got to observe a dance for Parkinson’s class, run by the English National Ballet’s programme that DanceEast hosts in their building. This was followed by a lovely opportunity to participate in a rehearsal of Encore East, a community dance company for ages 55+, lead by Christopher Owen, who is on the education team at Russell Maliphant Dance Company.

Collage of images from UK Research Project

Day 4 – Thursday, October 31: DanceEast/Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich

It was a day of more invigorating conversations, countryside and fish & chips. The jet lag lingers but these stimulating exchanges with the DanceEast team are rejuvenating.

After a quick morning coffee, we met up with the Artistic Director of dance company UNIT, Tom Hobden, choreographer, educator and leader in community arts practice. Tom’s enthusiasm and passion that everyone is a dancer is infectious. The company uses dance and film to create authentic performances in brief amounts of time, and works with intergenerational casts made up of extraordinary people from different backgrounds and of all abilities. Check out one of the company’s groundbreaking projects 20 Questions.

We spent a delightful lunch in the countryside, overlooking River Orwell, with DanceEast’s Artistic Director & Chief Executive, Brendan Keaney and Lucy Bayliss. We debriefed our visit, sharing our observations, take aways, and together dreamt of future ways our organizations could collaborate. The fish & chips were good enough to write home about!

Day 5 – Friday, November 1: DanceEast/Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich | The Place, London | Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Aldeburgh

Divide and conquer:
Hilary  –  I hopped on the train this morning and headed back to London to visit The Place, an iconic dance house now in its 50th year of operations. The Place has a 288 seat theatre and presents innovative local and international artists and companies, as well as community programming. It runs as a professional development centre and is home to the London Contemporary Dance School. The organization engages youth to adults in diverse communities through creative learning and outreach, training and workshops.

I sat down with some of the team from the Creative Learning department, which included Emma Bellerby (Creative Learning Assistant Manager) to talk about their schools and youth provision, as well as Li Prentaki (Youth & Family Producer), who outlined their family and youth performances and work with artists making family or children’s work. The conversation was eye-opening to similar challenges they face as an organization to that of The Dance Centre, especially concerning: audience development and retention, connecting to communities that don’t have a relationship with the building, and recruiting new participants for programmes. We shared our strategies in trying to address these areas. We also acknowledged that for change and growth, long-term visioning and revisioning are necessary, with the understanding (and acceptance) that change takes time.

Vanessa –  I participated in the first of a three-day workshop with Russell Maliphant and Adam Benjamin, a leader in integrated dance and joint founder of CandoCo Dance Company. The workshop was geared towards anyone who has at least three years of dance experience, whether it be recreational or professional, and was open to all ages and bodies. The workshop concentrated on investigating tensegrity structures, fascial connections, sequencing, and sharing weight through improvisational tasks. Workshop participants were inspiring, coming from all different backgrounds and experiences. It felt wonderful to move and build relationships with new people in a creative, generative, and focussed way. It made me excited to connect a couple of the participants with artists in Vancouver who I see sharing similar values and practices.

Our final evening and experience with DanceEast wrapped up in an unbelievable venue, in Aldeburgh – the Snape Maltings Concert Hall, where we attended the premiere of Richard Alston Dance Company’s farewell tour, presented by DanceEast. The evening included a world premiere of Alston’s new piece “Shine On”, commissioned by DanceEast’s Board Vice Chair Elizabeth  Fargher. The concert hall was built in the mid-19th century. It was gorgeous – an old converted barn with a huge vaulted wooden ceiling, brick walls, and remarkable acoustics. During this special evening, we had the privilege to meet Scilla Dyke, the founder of Suffolk Dance, which became DanceEast, and Walli Meier, one of the remaining, first students of Rudolf Laban.

Following the performance, we joined Lucy and Brendan at Elizabeth Fargher’s beautiful, historic country home to celebrate the evening with the cast and company of Richard Alston, over a spectacular curry feast.

Saying goodbye to Brendan and Lucy, we recapped the week, remarking on the value of these international exchanges and the importance of building artistic bridges between global communities.

Thank you to Mirna Zagar, Executive Director of The Dance Centre, Brendan Keaney and Lucy Bayliss for this enriching experience.

– Hilary Maxwell & Vanessa Goodman