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03 Nov 2023

Erika Clegg is a corporate values consultant, writer and start up advisor. From 2006 – 2022 she owned Spring, a multi-award-winning communications agency, and she founded Larkenby, a corporate values consultancy in 2019. Her varied career has spanned roles such as Director of the Design Business Association, Director of New Anglia LEP, Brand Director for the Festivals of Suffolk, and Trustee of various cultural and community charities. Erika is also a Deputy-Lieutenant, representing Southwold.

As part of the #MoveBeMoved40 campaign, Erika talked to Helen Oldfield about her relationship with DanceEast. Erika started working with Artistic Director and Chief Executive Brendan Keaney in 2013; they were both passionate about supporting and driving creativity locally. She says “we were both involved in projects outside our own roles in terms of the cultural life of Ipswich [and] the visitor life of Suffolk.”

As a result of this shared passion, Brendan engaged Erika’s agency Spring to work on DanceEast’s brand identity. Spring played an instrumental role, creating the ‘Move, Be Moved’ strapline which gives the name to our 40th anniversary campaign. She says: “we were really involved with DanceEast and that ‘Move, Be Moved’ strapline, our copywriter called Cora Benzie came up with that. It really encapsulates everything, it’s about ‘come on, take part, watch a performance, be part of that wonderful black space [the theatre at the Jerwood DanceHouse], where you are so close to the action.”

Erika’s love of DanceEast extends beyond a working relationship. She says that DanceEast is “a place where people really seize the opportunity, it doesn’t matter whether they are old, young, or from continents away… I think what DanceEast does brilliantly well is it balances huge ambitions with genuine accessibility. That’s a really tricky thing to pull off.”

She shared her own memories of DanceEast: “one lovely memory… is when my son was a tiny, tiny thing, we used to come on the train for classes on a Saturday. Another… is of Dame Evelyn Glennie (the percussionist who is deaf), you felt it in your blood stream, it was extraordinary; this visceral blood pumping experience around me.” Dame Evelyn Glennie performed at the DanceHouse in 2015 with Joss Arnott Dance, premiering their joint work 5 | 0.

Erika grew up in a music, not a dance household: “we always went to concerts and operas, never dance.” She discovered dance as an adult, “just through exploring things.” Now a convert, a big part of Erika’s enjoyment of dance comes from ‘going with the flow’ and not overthinking what she is watching.

She says: “if you are willing to go with the flow, you can get drawn into the narrative, the colour, the other aspects of performance in some way. There’s this real sense of communication, a visceral connection between what you in the audience feel and what you are watching… Dance is a great way to express emotion too, the whole way the performance is projected, the lights, the costumes as well, what they wear is so important.”

Erika particularly appreciates the artform as a non-dancer: “there’s something about the athleticism (a bit like when you sit on your sofa watching the Commonwealth Games), they own their physical power. I’m clumsy, chaotic, I have no control over my body whatsoever; I break things! Then you watch people who are extraordinary and it’s such a privilege… [dancers’] moves are extraordinarily beautiful and other times, they are extraordinarily ugly. We are talking about exquisite athletes.”

And finally, as a non-dancer, Erika recognises that dance is a brave thing for people to do. She says: “it’s not an easy choice of life, it’s demanding and for a lot of people it’s really at odds with what is expected of them by the people around them.  In dancers I see a braveness.”