Lord of the dance
PUBLISHED: 12:53 11 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:53 11 February 2014
DanceEast's new artistic director Brendan Keaney is a man who likes to get involved and wants the Jerwood DanceHouse at the heart of Suffolk's cultural life. He talks to Andrew Clarke about building a creative climate
Brendan Keaney is a recent arrival in Ipswich and he is excited by the possibilities the town offers. Brendan is the new artistic director of DanceEast and he moved to Suffolk from Greenwich Dance in south London.
When I voice mild surprise at someone moving from the capital to the shires, he is rather non-plussed. “Look around,” he says, indicating the Jerwood DanceHouse around us, “this is one of the best, most up-to-date facilities in the country.
“It’s got state-of-the-art dance studios, a fantastic studio theatre, it’s in a fantastic position and has plenty of office space. I think the problem is that not enough people know about this wonderful building and what it has to offer.
“One of the things I want to do is get more people coming in here. I want this building used more – not just for dance – I want to get people through the doors. I want the studio theatre offering a variety of different events through the week.”
He says that he sees his job as being fundamentally different to his predecessor Assis Carreiro, who held the post for the previous ten years.
“Her job was to develop DanceEast as a brand and raise the money to make this ambitious dance facility a reality.
“Now that it is open, we have to embed into the community. I don’t think people realise what a treasure they have in their midst. This is one of the finest dance/arts facilities in the country.
“I want people to be familiar with it. I want everything we put on to be of the highest quality, so they know when they step through our doors they are going to see something that is remarkable.”
He also sees DanceEast and the Jerwood DanceHouse as part of an integrated arts provision in Ipswich. He has moved quickly to build bridges with other arts providers. He wants DanceEast to become part of a broader programme which brings people into the town.
“I want us to be part of Pulse, to be part of the SPILL festival. I want us to be part of Ip-Art because we are part of the cultural life of the town.”
This desire has led to the formation of We Are Ipswich – a new co-ordinated contemporary arts provision which will take in new work from the New Wolsey Theatre, The Robert Pacitti company and Gecko physical theatre company.
Brendan said that the combined programming was designed to celebrate the world-class theatre being made in Ipswich.
“There is a strong sense amongst us that if we share and plan together we can raise the profile of Ipswich and the culture offer. Amazing work is taking place here but not enough people outside the town know that. We want to be proud of Ipswich and the world class work that is being produced here.
“I want Ipswich to be recognised as an international cultural centre. We have a world-class facility here in the Jerwood DanceHouse and, quite rightly, we have booked international companies to perform here. We have world-class dancers, who usually perform in vast arenas in London, performing to Suffolk audiences in our 200-seater studio theatre on the Ipswich Waterfront. That is something to be celebrated. It’s very hard to get that up-close and personal with international performers anywhere else.”
One of Brendan’s ambitions is to put on a wide variety of work that will appeal to a broad cross-section of tastes.
“I think the message is to give it a go. I think it will be highly unlikely if everyone liked everything but I firmly believe that everyone will like something.
“What I want to do is introduce different types of work and see what people like and try to guide people to work or artists that may appeal.
“I always say that the spring programme is rather like a box of chocolates. It’s full to the brim of different types of fillings and you won’t like everything but there will be plenty that you do like. I don’t happen to like orange creams but other people do and equally will not like my preference for nut-clusters or a caramel.
“We have a wonderful facility here on the Ipswich Waterfront and I want people to get used to coming here. Every Friday there will be something on – as well as plenty of performances at other times – but I have made sure that there is something on most Fridays so people get into the habit of coming. It won’t be a case of: ‘Is there something on?’ Rather it will be a question of: ‘What’s on?’