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Why I fell in love with dance

Published 27 June 2014

The moment a nugget of interest lodged quietly at the back of your mind transforms into an all-consuming, pounding necessity of life can be harder to pin down than a skittish, turbo-boosted slug with a lust for freedom.

But whether it hits like a lightning bolt thrown straight from Zeus’ fist or quietly grows like a spider plant that one day you realise has taken over your entire lounge, there’s always a story behind a part of your life about which you’re passionate.

As Sadler’s Wells’ two week taster festival Sampled continues to introduce more theatregoers to different dance forms this weekend, offering tempting morsels of movement to whet their artistic appetites, we asked a quartet of performers and creators about the moment they fell in love with dance:

Alistair Spalding (Artistic Director of Sadler’s Wells)

My first encounter with dance was when in my final year at university my girlfriend at the time took me to the old Sadler’s Wells to see a performance by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. It was absolutely to be thrown in at the deep end of contemporary dance.

I only now have a vague recollection of the performance but I remember the dancers were moving around behind a gauze giving the impression that they were in some undersea world – this impression was emphasised by the sound of the composer John Cage blowing occasionally into a conch horn in the orchestra pit.

I can’t say I understood what was going on but I loved the mysterious nature of this art form and the memory of that night stuck with me. And then after a circuitous route I finally came to be working 100% in the field and running the new version of that very venue!

Michael Keegan-Dolan (Artistic Director of Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre)

I was 17 and I decided to take a dance class. The only available class was jazz ballet in a local church hall. They were staging scenes from West Side Story when I joined and because there were not many young men dancing on the North side of Dublin 1986, I was immediately given a part. I was to be one of the Jets. 

One evening during the rehearsal, something happened, maybe it was the post-Fame, 1980s style leotards, or maybe it was the brilliance of the Bernstein music or the exuberance of the Jerome Robbins choreography they had copied, I don’t know, but I remember I had a moment of extreme clarity, and I knew that dance was going to be the practice to which I would devote my entire life. And so far that has been the case.

Dada Masilo (South African choreographer of Swan Lake)

Art was not really a part of my life as a child, but I’ve always been a performer and when I learnt that one could create art doing what I loved, I was hooked. I started dancing at the age of 11 and formal dance training (ballet, contemporary etc) at the age of 12.

I remember being taken to see a ballet. The first ballet I saw was Swan Lake. I fell completely in love with it, especially with the tutus. From that point on, I vowed that I would create my own Swan Lake one day.

I love ballet, its discipline, gracefulness of line and how one has to be so in control of one’s body. I also love how hard it is, because it forces one to be focused and bloody-minded about improving one’s technique. I love pushing myself and I am completely obsessed with getting better at what I do. Yes, I am a perfectionist, the worst kind!

Carrie-Anne Ingrouille (Performer with ZooNation)

Music and dance have been my passion for as long as I can remember, I quite simply don’t know what I would do without them!

Apparently (in my mother’s words), my first experience of dance was when I was two-years-old, and it was all down to Michael Jackson featuring in a Pepsi advert. Nappy and all, I would prance around the living room with the music blaring from the tv, smiling from ear to ear.

There isn’t one particular thing that made me fall in love with dance, it was a culmination of all these amazing feelings when I did that sucked me in for life.

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