Jeanette Siddall CBE had a successful, impactful career in dance. In 2013, she was awarded the Jane Attenborough Dance UK Industry Award, and a CBE for services to dance in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Jeanette started dabbling with dance when she was in primary school, but she “lived in the middle of nowhere and had no car… [so] there was no way I could continue when I went to secondary school.” It wasn’t until Jeanette was at teacher training college, when she went to see Swan Lake performed by Antonitte Sibley and Anthony Dowell, that she fell in love with dance: which she describes the performance as the “most powerful thing” she had ever seen.
Inspired, she returned to watch a ballet six months later and saw someone fall over on stage. This made her take up dance classes in a church hall in Newcastle Upon Tyne. She says: “it was the inspiration of seeing Antoinette Sibley in Swan Lake, and then seeing someone fall over on stage, that made me consider going to ballet class. I needed the two, to be inspired, and see it as achievable and accessible.”
Jeanette trained at Laban (now Trinity Laban) and “went on to do lots of community dance work and dance in education,” and then into arts administration, feeling she could “make more happen by fund-raising and organising.” Her career included leadership roles as Director of Dance for Arts Council England and Director of Dance UK, alongside consultancy work for Dance Consortium, Clore Leadership, the Scottish Government, The Australian Ballet, DanceEast, and the European DanceHouse network.
In 2016, Jeanette moved to Ipswich. She says: “I moved from London to Ipswich just to be nearer DanceEast!” She started dancing again, after a 35-year break. She says “It makes me feel the best version of me, it brings together the body, mind, spirit, and emotions… I also like a physical challenge, and that’s good for me, especially as I get older.” Jeanette now takes part in weekly dance classes at DanceEast, including Afternoon Ballet and Over 50’s Contemporary.
Jeanette is part of EncoreEast, a performance company of older dancers aged 50+, which has become a big part of her life. Recently, Jeanette has been performing in Home From Home, created with renowned choreographer Luca Silvestrini. She says: “Being part of EncoreEast is great we are usually working towards a performance. That’s a reason to work hard, and because they are probably the best group of friends I’ve ever had.”
Dance is so central to Jeanette’s life, and she thinks it should be so for others, too: “It should be more important in more people’s lives… One of the things I love about Strictly Come Dancing is all the celebs saying, “This is the best time of my life, I’m loving dancing.” It’s almost as if they are born again. They are that much fresher, younger, more energetic, they’ve found something fulfilling that makes them be the very best version of themselves. I think dance is the only art that brings the physical benefits into the real world.”
Jeanette continues her close relationship with DanceEast and says: “one of the things I really admire… is [DanceEast has] been busy building something sustainable for dance… you can come as a tot or at primary school age and can progress through to the CAT – the Centre for Advanced Training, then go away for professional training and come back as a young artist or teach or perform here, right the way through to EncoreEast. It’s fantastic.” She sees DanceEast as an inclusive place: “There aren’t any barriers at DanceEast… There is a belief that dance is for everyone. Everyone can move and everyone can be moved by dance.”
Find out more about EncoreEast here.