Reflections on 2021

December 27, 2021
Photo by Summer Dean

As the year draws to a close, the DanceEast team have been reflecting on the highlights of 2021. Collectively we have come together to share these memories with you, and hope you were able to enjoy some of them yourselves! So, without further ado, here’s a note from Brendan, our Artistic Director and CEO…

“I imagine that a significant number of people shared my concerns back in January 2021 as we started the then new year in “lockdown”.  This was, almost certainly, one of the low points in whole pandemic saga. What has carried me through the darker moments has been the extraordinary resilience of my colleagues, the public and the inspirational artists who have been doing amazing things in supremely complicated circumstances.  We have had the most amazing response from so many people including our funders, friends and patrons. As I write this, it is abundantly clear that there is whole new bunch of challenges waiting as we start the 2022, however our experiences since the start of the pandemic, have made us stronger, wiser and all the more determined to keep creating new opportunities for people to engage with great dance.”

Brendan, Artistic Director and CEO

Whilst the beginning of the year was a struggle for many, we were very privileged to see the positive impact of our Dance From Home project at Sherrington House. Local community dance artists delivered sessions outside the lounge windows of the care home, giving residents a chance to dance and connect with others despite the challenges of the pandemic.

“I was lucky enough to play a small part in the development of Dance from Home and I am very proud of what has been achieved – during a period of such challenge, this project placed smiles on the faces of care home residents who have endured so much throughout the pandemic and all through the power of dance.”

Alice, Development Manager

For 6 months of this year we recruited 4 young people aged 16-25 to become Company Dance Artists as part of the government Kickstart programme, a nationwide scheme creating opportunities for those on Universal Credit.

“It’s been such an enriching experience for the organisation having resident dance artists performing, making, teaching and learning in the building especially after it was empty for so long. And perhaps even more enriching and more exciting is the fact that in the weeks after the Kickstarters concluded their placements and redefined their relationships with DanceEast, they are already achieving their goals with two successful Arts Council applications, professional performance work and much more.”

Richard, Kickstart Rehearsal Director and Company Manager

Our Kickstarters, Joey, Annie, Lesya and Bar in the studio

A huge project for us throughout 2021 has been 5G EDGE XR, a technical feat that took the knowledge and expertise of many…

“We’ve been working with BT and a consortium of academic and tech partners on the DCMS funded 5G Edge-XR Project since summer 2020. The project focusses on the application of cutting-edge technologies to teaching dance – with an ambition to use photo realistic holograms projected into school halls.

An absolute highlight of 2021 for me came in late October, when after 15 months of planning and trials, we finally had the opportunity to deliver a lesson with school children wearing augmented reality headsets. There was a moment when it suddenly all fell into place – they were absolutely captivated by the experience and fully engaged in the dance. Seeing (and hearing) their excitement and being able to imagine the difference this could make to every child’s right to access the finest quality of teaching was incredibly moving – an experience that will be hard to beat in my career.”

Lucy, Head of Audiences, Communications and Development

During the pandemic, we have all become so much more reliant on technology to continue having enriching experiences of arts and culture. Our programme here at DanceEast was no exception to this and so, earlier this year we live streamed Jose Agudo’s Carmen directly from our studio theatre to screens around the world!

“One of the highlights of the year was the live streaming of Carmen. Not only was it a fantastic piece of dance, but knowing it was being performed live in the DanceHouse and being the first performance since the start of the pandemic, it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling.”

Bill, Head of Operations and Resources

The summer of 2021 saw a range of outdoor events around the country, including our very own Waterfront Dance Day…

“There was something really special about watching the Waterfront Dance Day performances along with a crowd of people who might never have been to the DanceHouse. We had young lads on bikes, families and passers-by, as well as people who came specifically because they wanted to see dance or because it was a programme inspired by the Power of Stories exhibition and the work of Aspire Black Suffolk. It was a brilliant reminder of why we do what we do, when we saw the response from the audience.”

Lucy, Head of Creative Programmes

Just Us Dance Theatre at the DanceEast Waterfront Dance Day

After many months of learning on Zoom, our Centre for Advanced Training Students were finally able to come together in person for their end of year show entitled An Extraordinary Walk in the Park. 

“This year we finished our academic year with a full-length production by our CAT students choreographed by Jeanefer Jean-Charles in the nearby Christchurch Park.  It was amazing to see the restrictions and challenges of the last year give way to an entirely new way of learning and performing for the 90 young people involved in the piece. We were thrilled to be able to create a production that celebrated the students’ determination, hard work, and talent.”

Tom, Centre for Advanced Training Manager

Heading slightly further afield, we were also able to take a selection of exceptional artists and companies to Latitude Festival where they were able to present their work to many thousands of people!

“Standing with 1000+ people on the edge of the lake at Latitude this year, watching the companies perform after a year and a half of no performances, was quite overwhelming. The companies were hyped at the opportunity to perform and the excitement from the crowds was palpable. In particular, watching James Wilton Company perform an extract from The Four Seasons, with Vivaldi blasting out over the PA, the audiences completely captivated and the sun beating down, had tears streaming down my face, and I wasn’t the only one.”

Lucy, Head of Creative Programmes

We also supported dance artist Takeshi Matsumoto in the creation of a new early years work called Club Origami. After an intensive rehearsal period at the Jerwood DanceHouse, Takeshi took his peice on the road to local nurseries, sharing dance with young children, many of whom had never seen live dance before.

“It was a true joy to join the Club Origami Nursery Tour. The nursery staff noted one quiet boy began to play with other children for the first time after watching the show. It was the most engaged and vocal they’ve ever seen him. Due to lockdown, this was the first time most of the children had experienced a performance. For me, the reminder of the power of dance to connect people was overwhelming.”

Esther, Programme Administrator

Many new projects were brought to life including our Digital Primaries Programme!

“This year’s highlight has been collaborating with DanceEast’s Digital Primaries team. In a year when ‘Everything We Loved About Dance Was Taken Away’ Digital Primaries had some of the answers. This Paul Hamlyn Funded project is working creatively with technology to enable primary school children to access high quality affordable creative dance regardless of where their school is located.”

Chloe, Digital Primaries Project Manager

In September we reopened our theatre doors after 18 long months of closure. The Autumn Season was particularly special as it featured one of our former performance companies, EncoreEast, who became an independent dance company back in 2020.

“My highlight of the year is definitely the EncoreEast and Friends evening, with the premiere of Focus. EncoreEast have a very special place in our hearts here at DanceEast, as one of our former performance companies. Despite the obvious challenges of the pandemic, the company have worked so hard to continue dancing and have thrown themselves into a number of exciting projects, including this one with Russell Maliphant Dance Company. Watching them perform Focus was such a proud moment – to see how far they have come and how much they have grown. What they have achieved in the last 18 months has been incredible and inspiring!”

Sophie, Producer (Participation and Engagement)

Our CAT students also went on the road, representing DanceEast in Leeds and London at Audition Toolkit, an intensive series of workshops preparing final year students for auditions at conservatoires around the country.

“The National CAT Audition Toolkit was a great chance for our graduating students to learn more about conservatoire dance training – travelling to Leeds and London over four days for a series of workshops at leading schools. It was wonderful to see our CAT students working with other young people from around the country and sharing their passion, creativity, and skills with each other.”

Will, Centre for Advanced Training Coordinator

DanceEast CAT students heading out to Audition Toolkit

Our Autumn Season was a huge hit with many performances selling out! One such show was Political Mother Unplugged performed by Shechter II, Hofesh Shechter’s renowned apprentice company.

“Back in March 2020, Shechter II were at the beginning of their time together as a cohort and were here at the Jerwood DanceHouse working on Political Mother Unplugged. Over the 18 months that followed, the company faced a whirlwind of unexpected challenges, so welcoming them back on our stage to complete their tour and perform together for the final time in November 2021 was incredibly special. There was not a dry eye in the house!”

Ania, Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Finally, we wrapped up a year of wonderful dance experiences with Jasmin Vardimon’s Pinocchio in December.

“My highlight of the year has to be the winter festive show Pinocchio. It was a real treat to be able to watch such a fabulous and beautiful production by Jasmin Vardimon Company, especially alongside young school children, for many of whom it was their first time back in the theatre for nearly two years and for some maybe the first time in a theatre ever! The DanceHouse was buzzing with excitement and the children (and adults) were hooked!”

Zoe, Programmes Assistant

We’re sure you’ll agree with us when we say it’s been quite a year! From the whole team at DanceEast, we would like to extend our thanks to you for your support in 2021. We hope you have a wonderful holiday and we will see you in 2022 for more dancing!

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