Interview: Lea Anderson Q&A

Friday 15 June 2007

Lea Anderson Photo: Andrew Fox

Founder and Artistic Director of The Cholmondeleys and The Featherstonehaughs, Lea Anderson has choreographed over 100 original works for her companies since founding the Cholmondeleys over twenty years ago. In 2002 she received an MBE for her services to dance. Her latest show “YIPPEEE!! ! (2006)” arrives in London next week. (Sadler’s Wells, 3 & 4 November 2006). She answered afew questions for us..

What were your main sources of inspiration for your new work YIPPEEE!! ! ?
Busby Berkeley & microscopes.

*What particular aspects of the Busby Berkley films do you like? Do you have a
favourite Berkley film?*
I don’t have a favourite film. I like the strange movement sequences best.

Can you tell us about your choreographic working methods when making YIPPEEE!! !? – What were your starting points?
We started by sampling dance & then replacing all movement bit by bit with other movement suggested by paper collage.

Is there ever a narrative in your work? Is there a narrative within YIPPEEE!! !
It starts in one place & ends in another. That could be narrative.

Your work is noted for its attention to detail, often comprising of small movements such as minute gestures and gesticulations. Have you had to adjust your choreographic language for larger scale venues?
It’s true that lots of people do keep mentioning the detail & never look at the larger stuff or act like it isn’t there. I don’t know why this is. Maybe it’s easier to talk about.

Your companies all have names that are a challenge to spell and pronounce unless you’re in the know…. Why did your choose these particular names?
It was an accident. I made a dance based on the painting called The Cholmondeley sisters & we called ourselves that when we took some work to Edinburgh Fringe in 1984. We planned to change the name to something snappier afterwards but it didn’t happen. I chose The Featherstonehaughs as a name for a group of men purelyas a one-off joke. Then they stayed around so I ended up with these names.

The dancers within both the Cholmondeleys and the Featherstonehaughs are all extraordinary and highly individual. What qualities do you look for when choosing your dancers? How do you find them?
I find them in many ways. Sometimes an ex-Cholmondeley or Featherstonehaugh will find someone who they think is right & introduce me or I meet someone interesting all on my own. We hold workshops to see if we get on, or if the work is the right thing for them.

Before you studied dance at the Laban Centre you were a visual art student at St Martin’s School of Art. What was it about dance that interested you and made you change direction?
I have always danced & was dancing when I was at art school. Being at art school just made me realise that it was boring to spend my days sitting &
standing. I used to think that I couldn’t be in the dance world because there was no place for me. Then I realised I had to make a place for myself.

Favourite book? CD? Film?

I read somewhere that you hoped to continue choreographing for a middle-aged Cholmondeleys and Featherstonehaughs…
I think that’s already happened. Middle age has come for many Cholmondeleys & Featherstonehaughs & they have not stopped dancing.


Questions by Tanja Mangalanayagam

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