Private Viewing: DanceEast’s new choreography fund celebrates Suffolk’s creative talent

The James Cousins Company dancers Gareth Mole, Albert Garcia, Georges Hann and Chihiro Kawasaki rehe

The James Cousins Company dancers Gareth Mole, Albert Garcia, Georges Hann and Chihiro Kawasaki rehearse at the Suffolk Food Hall in preparation for their performance at the Jerwood Dance House on Friday 19 September. - Credit: Su Anderson

DanceEast launches a new Suffolk-based choreography fund tonight. Arts editor Andrew Clarke applauds the vision

The James Cousins Company dancers Gareth Mole, Albert Garcia, Georges Hann and Chihiro Kawasaki rehe

The James Cousins Company dancers Gareth Mole, Albert Garcia, Georges Hann and Chihiro Kawasaki rehearse at the Suffolk Food Hall in preparation for their performance at the Jerwood Dance House on Friday 19 September. - Credit: Su Anderson

DanceEast is launching a new initiative which should see the dance agency putting its significant weight behind a new campaign to get new dance created in the regions.

Suffolk resident and Royal Ballet star Gary Avis is hosting an evening of new work which will see the James Cousins Company staging the world premiere of Without Stars and the critically acclaimed There We Have Been.

Gary will be joined by Deborah Bull, director of Cultural Institute at King’s College, London, formerly creative director of the Royal Opera House and principal, Royal Ballet, and Brendan Keaney, artistic director and chief executive of DanceEast.

Brendan said that the evening will set the wheels in motion to establish a new regional choreographic development fund which will be used to promote regional talent and encourage new works to be developed and premiered in Suffolk rather than being forced to go to London.

Brendan Keaney, artistic director of DanceEast

Brendan Keaney, artistic director of DanceEast - Credit: Archant


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“It’s about investing in the future of dance. It’s about celebrating the creativity to be found in the regions and more to the point, the creativity we have in Suffolk. We are very fortunate to have a wealth of talent in Ipswich. We have six Arts Council-funded national portfolio organisations in the town. We have tremendous creativity here and we are looking to offer a way to channel and develop that talent. It’s about investing in the future.”

Premieres at DanceEast and the New Wolsey, new writing from Eastern Angles, Pulse, Spill and HighTide Festivals as well new commissions from Aldeburgh Music mean that Suffolk is one of the most vibrant creative areas in the country and this new choreographic fund will allow us to further develop this reputation for nurturing new talent.

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Brendan said that it was important that not everyone could afford to or would want to move to London. “The one thing that none of us can afford to do is forget about the future. Part of the rationale behind the establishment of the choreographic development fund is that we recognise that it will become increasingly hard to find money to make new work and we felt strongly that the future is our life blood. Even though times are tough we need to invest in new talent and in upcoming talent.

“And we felt very strongly that if we are asking people for money they should see where it is going. It’s a hard ask, we realise that, because, if you are investing in new talent, occasionally you are investing in mistakes but really that’s what it is all about because you learn from mistakes. It’s much harder to work why something has gone well rather than exploring why something has gone wrong.”

Brendan said that being a recent arrival he can see clearly that Ipswich and Suffolk are great places to make new work. “You are away from London, so you can concentrate on your work and experiment but you are not too far away so you can keep in touch with people and invite people to have a look at work in progress. Ipswich is ideally placed because it offers you the best of both worlds.

“Also you mustn’t forget that the facilities here at the DanceHouse are extraordinary. They are world-class and so it seems to be an obvious thing for us to be doing.

“Also we have been developing young dancers for some years now and we need to be growing the idea that if you want to work in dance you don’t necessarily have to go to London. So growing DanceEast as a place where people make work is very important.”

A vibrant cultural economy is also important for us in both cultural and fiscal terms. Creating cutting edge contemporary culture makes Suffolk a very attractive place to live and somewhere which can attract expanding businesses. It also accounts for an increasingly large part of our wealth generation. Cultural tourism is an important element of the Suffolk economy and is not to be ignored.

But, more than that, as the We Are Ipswich collaboration proves, we should be proud of our creative talents and should be seeking to develop them and shout about them – not only to people down-the-road but to the rest of the country.

DanceEast has also announced a new cohort of associate artists who will work with the Ipswich-based agency to create new work and take the art form in directions. Brendan has deliberately chosen a mix of national artists and people with strong links with Suffolk. This can only be good for us as a creative hotbed.

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