Choreographer Rosie Heafford has been involved with South East Dance’s Professional Development Programme since graduating from Laban in 2009. This month she premiered her second dance piece for children, Getting Dressed, at Bournemouth’s Pavilion Dance South West. We chatted to her about her career to date.
How did you first get involved with South East Dance?
After graduating I moved back home, knowing I wanted to choreograph but not knowing where to start. By getting in touch with Surrey Arts, I found out about South East Dance as a regional support hub and started getting involved with all of the professional development opportunities I could. I had a couple of appointments with a Producer there, which I found really helpful and inspiring; and I was successful in applying to have my own mentor. Gradually I started building up a good understanding of how the dance world works. South East Dance have been there for me from the beginning, in terms of guidance, helping to raise my profile and always offering words of wisdom and advice.
Your 2015 piece Grass toured for over a year, tell us about that?
Grass was my first theatre piece for young children and established my work on the children’s theatre network. It toured right up until November 2016 and is going to be included in a high profile children’s theatre festival [which I can’t mention the name of yet] and then there are plans for it to tour overseas. Before making the work I made an effort to go and meet the promoters I was interested in engaging with, usually before or after performances. From this I gained a lot of knowledge about what a venue might expect, how they worked with different ages and opened my mind to what theatre for young children was already out there.
What are you working on now?
Commissioned by Gulbenkian University of Kent, Getting Dressed has been a while in the making. It’s a more technical show than previous pieces, aimed at children and families aged 4+. The idea came from thinking about how choreographic getting dressed and putting on shoes can be, as well as the fact that we gender our children very young. We choose colour and names based on predictable gender stereotypes. I wanted to encourage children, parents and teachers to have more fun with clothes, to wear the clothes you want. Twirling a skirt is fun whether you’re a boy or a girl and Getting Dressed plays with that.
You’re a well established choreographer now, what advice would you give to emerging dance artists about how to develop their careers?
Firstly, get in touch with arts organisations local to you, don’t be London centric about it (if you’re in London). There’s a real drive to develop dance for the regions and some lovely spaces to make work and get support. Most development organisations are open to having a chat with artists, so always ask for a cup of tea! You never know where it might lead. For me, so much has come out of conversations with colleagues at South East Dance, with producers, choreographers, and other arts organisations: directing me to funding opportunities and links I can make.
Grass. Second Hand Dance. Image © Zoe Manders