Click the search icon or press enter to search

< Back


10 Jan 2017


Over the last weekend, 5-8 January 2017, Artistic Directors from the world’s leading dance companies met in Ipswich to discuss major global leadership challenges, focusing specifically on audiences. The event was hosted and organised by DanceEast and brought together leaders from the across the USA, Australia, Asia and Europe.


Devised and originated in 2003 by DanceEast to support and create a world-wide community of Artistic Directors, Rural Retreats have become a key event in the dance calendar, providing unique opportunities for both established, emerging and young leaders from within the sector to come together, share experiences and ambitions for the future of dance globally.


This was the tenth Rural Retreat and took place at DanceEast’s home, the Jerwood DanceHouse in Ipswich, the perfect setting to take time out; a creative environment, stimulating and provoking creative thinking, and Snape Maltings Concert Hall where the first Rural Retreat was delivered in 2003.


After a positive weekend of discussions during which delegates shared experiences and heard presentations by guest speakers Jennifer Curry (Executive Director, Dancers’ Career Development), Ann Wixley (Creative Director of OMDUK, former Principal Ballet Dancer of PACT and CAPAB in South Africa) and Roger Wright CBE (Chief Executive, Aldeburgh Music, former BBC Radio 3 Controller & Director of BBC Proms), the Directors made the following group statement:

This 2017 Rural Retreat has again seen we Artistic Directors from dance companies from across the globe gather together to exchange and explore ideas. Being the 10th Retreat over a period of 14 years, it was exciting to see the impact that DanceEast’s programme of Retreats has had on the evolution of artistic leadership in dance. This year’s group included multiple Rural Retreat veterans, Artistic Directors who were alumni of the ‘Future leaders’ Retreats and also first time ‘Retreat-ers’.

We worked together in a spirit of generosity and camaraderie discussing the current issues we face of leadership, art and artists. We reaffirmed through our facilitated discussions and from the insights from a number of inspiring guest speakers, the importance of having clear and defined values and using them to chart the artistic future of our companies. Innovation and creativity which can be drawn from our rich heritage and artistic DNA will ensure that we can continue to flourish and define our art form in a constantly evolving and diverse environment.

We all acknowledge the uniqueness of this opportunity to come together to share ideas and enrich our skills which is provided by DanceEast. We believe its importance is not only to us as individuals but that continues to provide a place of investigation and scholarship which enhances and develops our companies and in turn the art form.”

Brendan Keaney, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of DanceEast said

DanceEast is immensely proud to have hosted its 10th Rural Retreat this weekend. The knowledge and energy that each Director contributed, together with their collective spirit of openness and enquiry, has been quite extraordinary. In such a fast moving world it is incredibly important that those responsible for some of the most complicated decisions in our industry are given an opportunity to reflect on their practice and consider the challenges ahead. It was heartening to learn the group were unanimously of the view that the retreats were as relevant now as when they were when they first started in 2003, we must now start to plan for the next event scheduled in 2019.



Mark Baldwin, Rambert Dance Company, UK

Robert Curran, Louisville Ballet, USA

Thomas Edur, Estonian National Ballet, Estonia

Caroline Finn, National Dance Company, Wales

Christopher Hampson, Scottish Ballet, Scotland

Ingrid Lorentzen, Norwegian National Ballet, Norway

David McAllister, The Australian Ballet, Australia

Kevin O’Hare, The Royal Ballet, UK

Johannes Öhman, Royal Swedish Ballet, Sweden

Madeleine Onne, Hong Kong Ballet, Hong Kong

Krzysztof Pastor, Polish National Ballet, Poland

Janek Schergen, Singapore Dance Theatre, Singapore

Adam Sklute, Ballet West & Ballet West Academy, USA


The Retreat discussions were facilitated by Isabel Mortimer, personal and executive coach, established leader and fellow of the Clore Leadership Programme, and Jo Wright, Facilitator and Coach, Licensed Practitioner of Insights Discovery and Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming tools.


Accommodation was generously supported by the Salthouse Harbour Hotel. DanceEast is supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.