Reminiscing with… Valerie Irwin

June 12, 2020

Construction of the Jerwood DanceHouse by Valerie Irwin.

LAST YEAR WE CELEBRATED OUR 10TH ANNIVERSARY IN THE JERWOOD DANCEHOUSE, AND IT’S SAFE TO SAY WE ARE MISSING WORKING AND DANCING TOGETHER IN THE BEAUTIFUL BUILDING ON THE WATERFRONT. NATURALLY, WE’VE BEEN REMINISCING AND WANTED TO SHARE SOME INTERVIEWS YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE SEEN BEFORE WITH ARTISTS AND THE COMMUNITY!

Valerie Irwin is a Suffolk based artist whose journey began with DanceEast when she drew the Jerwood DanceHouse being built, Valerie later joined our Dance for Parkinson’s programme. Below is Valerie’s DanceEast story.

“I first learnt about life drawing in my 30s, which formed the basis of my practice and introduced me to movement. I went down to the docks because I love structure and shapes, and noticed diggers moving – so I set up and kept getting closer and closer …

I was only going to capture the movement of the demolition, but it was absolutely chaotic. So, I just kept drawing and that’s how it started. I didn’t want to draw the construction, but a man came down from the site in a smart suit. He said “I’d like to invite you on to the site to draw” and I said “Oh, I’ve just done 18 months of the demolition, I’m quite tired.” But I came home and thought, “well, I’ll have to do it!” I couldn’t say no.

I couldn’t have drawn the detailed construction without drawing the chaotic demolition first. I had to get there by half past seven and by nine o’clock they would have done a huge amount. There was a very old man who had a hand trowel, and he spent so much time and care smoothing down the big concrete pillars. I didn’t know what the place was that I was drawing, but I found something so interesting about it, how each pillar was a different size, it was just fascinating.

And one day someone said “You know where you’re standing?” and I said, “No, I haven’t a clue!” and he said “This is going to be DanceEast” So it wasn’t until that very moment that I knew I was in DanceEast, after all that time! There was chaos at the end because they were running out of time, so they brought in 64 extra people. When I was drawing the studio upstairs, once everyone had gone, I did a dance right across the space.

I started having funny symptoms and eventually I got a proper diagnosis which was Parkinson’s. So I came along to a trial for Dance for Parkinson’s. We were from all walks of life, all at different stages of Parkinson’s and we all went in to the Wellbeing Studio, and it was magic. It was partly the building – everybody relaxed. The funny thing is when I walked into this class, it took me twenty minutes to control my crying inside, I don’t know what it was. It’s something to do with change, and all the people who spoke to me were yearning for their past lives.

I’ve still got that attachment to the building. It took me about six months not to get emotional whenever I went in to the Jerwood DanceHouse. I was actually using this new building after seeing the demolition and construction. And it took me six months before I opened up to people that I actually drew the building being built.”

 

Our doors maybe closed but we are still here for you, working hard to support artists to share and engage you with great dance – if you are able, please consider making a donation here to support us. You can find our more about Valerie’s work on this project by clicking here.

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