A Brief History

2003 – Ballet into the 21st Century

In 2003, DanceEast conceived the now internationally recognised Rural Retreats – international think tanks looking at the future of ballet and dance. The first Retreat saw the largest ever gathering of Ballet Directors from around the globe.

2005 – Ballet into the 21st Century

In 2005, the second coming together of Ballet Directors from around the globe established Retreats as a strong network of peers who agreed these vital gatherings should continue.

2006 – The 21st Century Dancer: Nurturing Talent

In partnership with the Prix de Lausanne, this Retreat brought together the Directors of professional schools and companies from around the globe.

2008 – Future Leaders and Artistic Directors

26 aspiring leaders from around the globe joined ex-England football manager Graham Taylor, Stuttgart Ballet’s Reid Anderson and Scottish Leadership CEO Zoe van Zwanenberg. With funding support from the Cultural Leadership Programme, seven of these individuals went on to take part in placements shadowing artistic leaders in dance organisations around the globe.

2010 – MINI Retreat

DanceEast hosted a mini Rural Retreat for these seven individuals and their host artistic directors at the Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich, including Tamara Rojo who became Artistic Director of English National Ballet.

2012 – Future Leaders and Artistic Directors

26 current, emerging and aspiring dance leaders from all over the world came together. Amongst them were Christopher Hampson, the new Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet’s principal dancer Robert Parker, whose appointment as the new artistic director of Elmhurst School for Dance was announced in September 2011.

2013 – The Future is Now

10th anniversary edition where five of the Artistic Directors who attended were at the very first Rural Retreat – David Nixon, Northern Ballet; Mark Baldwin, Rambert Dance Company; David McAllister, Australian Ballet; Mikko Nissinen, Boston Ballet; and Madeleine Onne, Hong Kong Ballet. All acknowledged how much progress has been made in the leadership of dance companies over the last decade, characterised by a generosity of spirit, collegiate culture and genuine international collaboration and support. Also, they recognised the impact on dance leadership of the Rural Retreats as the first peer-led professional development opportunity for Artistic Directors of Dance Companies.

2015 – Embracing Change

The eighth Rural Retreat attracted 22 aspiring leaders from different parts of the world, dance forms and backgrounds and announced, ‘The future of dance is in the hands of a talented new generation of dance artists that embraces change and has an ambitious agenda for the art form.’

Rural Retreat Placements 2015

Six bursaries offered to people working in dance, wishing to explore contexts and perspectives beyond dance, through a self-designed and self-managed programme between Jan 2016 and Jun 2017.

2016 – First Young Rural Retreat

In August DanceEast hosted its first ever Young Rural Retreat to identify and nurture the next generation of dance leaders. 20 young people, aged 17 to 21 years, recommended by a director or teacher as having the potential to become a future young leader in dance, attended from around the world, including from Dutch National Ballet, Amsterdam, The Royal Danish Ballet, Denmark, Rambert School, London and The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, Canada. They participated in practical and discursive sessions led by James Mackenzie Blackman (New Adventures), Cassa Pancho (Ballet Black), Kenneth Tharp OBE (The Place), James Cousins and Matthew Rushing (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater) as well as facilitators Christopher Hampson and Catherine Cassidy (Scottish Ballet).



On Thursday 5 January, 14 directors of international dance companies arrived in Ipswich for DanceEast’s tenth Rural Retreat to focus specifically on audiences and taking place over four days at DanceEast’s home, the Jerwood DanceHouse in Ipswich.



Young Rural Retreat 2019 was an intensive experience aimed at 17 young leaders who want to make a difference and who want to learn more about themselves, leadership and, where and how they may contribute.


2020 – Future Artistic Directors and Creative Producers for Dance

DanceEast’s most recent Rural Retreat was in January 2020 and was for individuals who aspire to lead a ballet or contemporary dance company or organisation. It took place in January in Ipswich. The aim of the retreat was to provide an environment for aspiring dance leaders to gain insights into the multi-facetted role of a leader in today’s ever-changing challenging world.





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