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Kaia Goodenough, former DanceEast student, returns as choreographer in anniversary year

PUBLISHED: 06:28 25 August 2018

Kaia Goodenough captured during a performance. Photo: Leon Poulton

Kaia Goodenough captured during a performance. Photo: Leon Poulton

LPoulton Photography

DanceEast’s region-wide Centre For Advanced Training is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Arts editor Andrew Clarke spoke to an ex-student Kaia Goodenough who has come full circle and returned to DanceEast as a professional choreographer

Dancers performing work by Kaia Goodenough at Sadler's Wells in London Photo: Stephen WrightDancers performing work by Kaia Goodenough at Sadler's Wells in London Photo: Stephen Wright

East Anglia has a stunning reputation for supplying top flight dancers and choreographers to some of the world’s leading dance companies. Gary Avis, Helen Crawford and Liam Scarlett are all currently working with the Royal Ballet at Covent Garden, James Muller is a member of the Richard Alston Dance Company, Flora Wellesley Wesley dances and choreographs with her own company Nora while Kanika Carr spent several years dancing with Ballet Black before joining the dance casts of several West End shows, including The Lion King.

And, it’s not just ballet or contemporary dance Robin Windsor has made a name for himself in the competitive world of ballroom dancing becoming a regular on the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing and in the West End dance show Burn The Floor.

Having DanceEast on the Ipswich Waterfront provides a valuable support structure and a way of nurturing young talent. This year sees DanceEast celebrate ten years of their Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) scheme and the appointment of Kaia Goodenough, one of the first graduates of the scheme, as a new associate artist at DanceEast, illustrates that, with talent and hard work, it is possible to realise your dream and find work in the highly competitive dance world.

Ipswich-born dancers with the Royal Ballet Gary Avis and Helen Crawford Photo: Andrej UspenskiIpswich-born dancers with the Royal Ballet Gary Avis and Helen Crawford Photo: Andrej Uspenski

Kaia is thrilled to be back in the building where she first got serious about her dancing career and explains how she has moved away from performance and into choreography.

Did you always know you wanted a career in dance?

Kaia Goodenough, DanceEast's new associate artist and former CAT student Photo: Kaia GoodenoughKaia Goodenough, DanceEast's new associate artist and former CAT student Photo: Kaia Goodenough

KG: “I have been dancing since I was five or six and I started with local dance school ballet two and then three times a week and I was set on becoming a ballet dancer. I then joined English Youth Ballet and did a number of extra-curricula things but I had no real experience of contemporary dance before I joined CAT.

“My school was fairly forward thinking and they introduced us to things like contemporary dance and physical theatre but I don’t think you can say that I did anything more than dabble in it. So when I joined CAT it really opened my eyes to what contemporary dance was all about.

CAT students rehearsing at the Jerwood DanceHouse Photo: Rachel CherryCAT students rehearsing at the Jerwood DanceHouse Photo: Rachel Cherry

So did CAT change your view of dance?

KG:”It confirmed what I was all ready thinking that I wasn’t going to be a ballerina. I wasn’t the right shape or fit. I knew from the age of 12 that, physically, I wasn’t right and I discovered, thanks to CAT, that contemporary dance was much more exciting.

DanceEast's Centre Fior Advanced Training students in performance. Photo: Rachel CherryDanceEast's Centre Fior Advanced Training students in performance. Photo: Rachel Cherry

But, there is now much more of a blurring of the line between dance styles...

KG: Absolutely, when I was 15, Wayne McGregor was one of my favourite contemporary choreographers and now he is working with the Royal Ballet – that would never have happened in the past. I love the fact that the dance industry, as a whole, is pushing at the edges, blurring the line between different styles and everyone wants to see where it can go because you don’t want to get bored or for a highly creative art form to stand still.

One of the joys of the CAT scheme is that it offers students opportunities to work with some of the world’s leading dance-makers thanks to their connection with DanceEast.

KG: “One of the first things I did after joining CAT, 10 years ago, was work with Tamsin Fitzgerald who is very dynamic. So, coming from a strict ballet background, it was quite an eye-opening experience. It was a very creative experience but also a big shock. I remember break dancing was involved! It was so exciting and looking back it was exactly what I wanted at that time. It opened my eyes to new forms of dance, to new possibilities and different ways of moving.

So it helped you up for everything that followed?

KG: “Absolutely. We were the first year to graduate and go off to further training at dance schools. I went to London Studio Centre because I wanted more of a breadth of training. Knowing that I would probably go down the contemporary route I wanted opportunities to do singing, acting, jazz... I don’t know one person who has graduated who hasn’t done at least one thing that is commercial. Everyone ends up doing a bit of everything. If you are a good enough dancer you should be adaptable.

So did CAT prepare you for the outside world?

KG: “Oh yeah, we are really stretched at CAT, it is hard work but really fun as well. It challenges you to try new things, to think differently, to move differently. They do prepare you to go off and audition for dance schools and then professional companies. I remember as a CAT student being in a rehearsal room working with a choreographer and being asked to just make something up on the spot, something that fitted with what we were doing. It was a challenge. So I was used to that and went off to dance school and discovered that some people applying for places had never been asked to improvise before and were really thrown by it. Fortunately, we had been doing it for years at CAT.

Did you stay in contact with CAT while you were training?

KG: “In my second and third year I came back as a rehearsal director working with the choreographer Joss Arnott, which was really cool, finding out how he worked and watch his process. At that point I still wanted to be a dancer but I had started to dabble in choreography and I was able to see how Gecko worked which is much more physical theatre. It was interesting to see how they both worked. Joss teaches his material but Gecko was much more task-based work pulling it from the dancers own experience.

So has the experience informed your own work?

KG: “Absolutely, I think my own style is probably somewhere between the two. I like making work on specific people because it allows them to express their personality on stage. They are not acting but they are presenting themselves but in an amplified form. I also have my own movement style which I like to bring out of the dancers.

When did you finally decide that your future lay in being a choreographer rather than a dancer?

KG: “I suppose I really started to realise this in my third year. It dawned on me that making up work was where my strength lay and the London Studio Centre was very supportive.

So you don’t regret leaving your ballet roots behind?

KG: “No, contemporary dance is much more about you being able to put your stamp on a piece. A happy accident in the rehearsal studio may completely change the development of a piece and this may not have happened if you hadn’t been involved. CAT was very good at providing personalised development programme. I left with ten other people and I don’t think any one of us had the same programme because we were all very different dancers and were looking at very different careers.

So what are you planning to do at DanceEast?

KG: “A lot of my work is influenced by art. My first piece Abstract Romanticism was inspired by the work of Mark Rothco and then I was on the Sadler’s Wells Young Choreographers course and made a piece which I proposed to explore further during my associateship. It’s a feminist piece. I am wanting to open up a conversation around feminism but it a discussion for all genders and it’s not just from a female perspective and the conversation should be quite light-hearted. It should be fun. My work has become quite amusing because I feel its a better way to get a conversation going and I am looking forward to finding a way to extend my work and make something exciting and entertaining.”

For more information about applying to DanceEast’s Centre For Advanced Training go to www.danceeast.co.uk/get-dancing/centre-for-advanced-training/

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