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TL Alum becomes new Artistic Director of Limón Dance Company

The José Limón Dance Foundation has announced the appointment of Dante Puleio

On 1 July 2020, widely respected dancer and Trinity Laban alum Dante Puleio will become the sixth Artistic Director in the Limón Dance Company’s 74-year history.

Dante began his contemporary dance training aged 19 at the Laban Centre (now Trinity Laban), before moving to Northern Contemporary and then Philadelphia where he studied at the University of the Arts.

He went on to perform with the Limón Dance Company in New York for over a decade and has enjoyed a diverse career including national and international Broadway tours, television and movie appearances. He is currently a Visiting Professor of Dance at the University of Florida.

On becoming Artistic Director, Dante comments –

“I am so excited to return to the Limón Dance Company in this way. I am looking forward to collaborating with the Foundation to continue this historical legacy and reimagining José Limón’s vision to reflect these rapidly changing times.”

Speaking of his training he continues –

“At 19 years old I came to the Laban Centre [now Trinity Laban]. I had no training, no understanding of the art form, and I had no idea that stepping into that building in New Cross Gate in 1995 would lead to directing an international legacy company.

“I am so thankful that [Trinity] Laban took a chance on me and showed me all the beautiful facets of this diverse world of dance. It gave me a foundation and confidence that led to a career I had no idea was even possible. Now I am stepping into a role that was originated by José Limón’s mentor, Doris Humphrey, and this would not have been possible if it weren’t for my formative time with the faculty and my peers at [Trinity] Laban.”

Dante will succeed Colin Connor, who has been at the Foundation’s helm since 2016. In the Company’s announcement, Colin commented –

“I am happy to pass the torch to Dante Puleio, who brings a broad and forward-thinking vision drawn from his rich past with Limón and his strong educational background. The Legacy is in good hands and the future of the Company is bright.”

Hailed as one of the world’s greatest dance companies, the Limón Dance Company has been at the vanguard of American Modern dance since its inception in 1946. The Company is renowned for its technical mastery and dramatic expression, and is one of the two components of the José Limón Dance Foundation, which also conducts educational programs and disseminates the Limón repertory through the Limón Institute.

To learn more, visit the Limón Dance Company website

Find out more about studying at Trinity Laban on our dance pages.

Image: Dante Puleio staging The Traitor with Limón Dance Company (credit Grace Landefeld)

TL to co-host live-streamed Manu Delago concert

The composition alum will perform live on Facebook this Thursday

Grammy-nominated percussionist and composer Manu Delago studied composition at Trinity Laban, graduating with his Postgraduate Advanced Diploma in 2011.

During his international career, Manu has performed in more that 50 countries across the globe and has collaborated with world-famous artists including sitar player Anoushka Shankar – for whom he composed and produced the 2016 album Land of Gold – and Björk. He has also appeared as a soloist with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Postponing his concerts across the Czech Republic, Hungary and Turkey due to Covid-19, Manu will instead perform an intimate concert from his living room, joined by a surprise special guest. The concert features his own compositions as well as new arrangements of the diverse talents of J. S. Bach and Britney Spears.

It will be streamed live on both Manu and Trinity Laban’s Facebook pages at 20.00 BST on Thursday 9 April 2020.

In the meantime, enjoy Manu’s newest YouTube video ‘House Beats’, where he swaps traditional instruments for household items:


To find out more about studying at Trinity Laban, visit our music pages.

Introducing #SelfIsolationCreation

#SelfIsolationCreation animated gif

As London’s Creative Conservatoire, we’re committed to supporting and developing a diverse intake of talented performers and creators throughout their artistic lives so that creativity can flourish.

Whilst our buildings are closed and our teaching has moved exclusively to online delivery, we are continuing to provide exciting opportunities for our community to encounter dance and music and unite with the wider industry.

That’s why we’re asking our staff, students and audiences to share their artistic practices whilst at home using the hashtag #SelfIsolationCreation.

An antidote to isolation, the campaign showcases the talent and resourcefulness of our community, something epitomised by Tunes From Home. Spearheaded by the Composition Department to keep spirits high, Tunes From Home sees either a live stream or a live film made by a student, staff member or alum shared every weekday evening at 20.00 on our YouTube channel.

An opportunity for the traditional and experimental alike, we have already seen a range of sounds from guitar sessions over a glass of wine, to the sounds of live-coding software.

Students, staff and alumni interested to contribute can send their two to five-minute video of music making to Head of Composition Dominic Murcott via Dropbox, Yousendit or WeTransfer and become part of this fantastic initiative.

It is important to us to support both the physical and mental health of our community, so we have commissioned some of our Trinity Laban Health practitioners to create at-home workouts as part of our new digital campaign, starting with Yoga flow for Breath Awareness with Vanessa Michielon.

Another strand of #SelfIsolationCreation is this year’s Daryl Runswick composition competition, which underwent a digital make-over for 2020. The virtual showcase featured theremin virtuoso Lydia Kavina performing extracts of the six finalists’ works, before adjudicator Dr Lauren Redhead named Harry Weir the overall winner.

Premiered on Friday 27 March, this is the first online competition in the conservatoire’s history:

Stay tuned to our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook channels over the next few weeks for more exciting examples of @TrinityLaban #SelfIsolationCreation and let’s stay connected through creativity.

Celebrating Valerie Preston Dunlop at 90

Trinity Laban pays tribute to an inspirational educator

Dr Valerie Preston Dunlop is a leading specialist on the life and work of legendary dance practitioner Rudolf Laban. Since her initial training with the expressionist dance guru, she has had an immeasurable impact on both Trinity Laban and the world of dance.

In celebration of her 90th birthday, we take a look back over Valerie’s incredible career.

At the age of sixteen, Valerie began her training with Rudolf Laban at the Art of Movement Studio in Manchester: the predecessor of the Laban Centre and, later, Trinity Laban. Joining the year that the school first opened its doors to students, she studied alongside dance artists from all over the world –

“With ten other men and women aged 16 to 40, from seven countries, I sweated, learnt, created, notated, rehearsed and performed, from 9am until dark and we could go on no longer.”

Valerie dancing with fellow students

Valerie dancing with fellow students. Copyright Valerie Preston Dunlop 2017.

Immediately inspired by Laban’s subversive approach to dance teaching, Valerie recalls –

“The curriculum was haphazard, new, modern, creative and exciting. We were socialist pioneers – everything that a traditional ballet training, with its vocabulary and star system, was not.”

Valerie’s meeting at such an early age with the formidable Rudolf Laban was the catalyst for her lifelong dedication to developing and interrogating his expressionist dance practice –

“I experienced his extraordinary presence, his intense stillness, his acute observing of us, not as dancers but as possible apprentices to serve his quest, to understand and promote expressive human movement in all its manifestations. Despite surviving as a refugee from Nazi Germany, owning nothing, his aristocratic bearing exuded an integrity that made you pay attention.”

Rudlof Laban

Rudlof Laban, when he and Valerie first met. Copyright Valerie Preston Dunlop 2017.

Completing her studies in Manchester, Valerie received a Laban Diploma, and went on to study at the School of Russian Ballet in London and at the Folkwangschule in Germany. Here she met Laban’s former student Albrecht Knust, leading exponent on movement representation system Labanotation – a study in which Valerie’s aptitude had impressed Laban.

Valerie's Labanotation - Tile Making

Valerie’s notation of the movement of two workers in a tile factory, 1948. Copyright Valerie Preston Dunlop 2017.

Valerie’s study at the Folkwangschule also led to her meeting renowned choreographer Kurt Jooss. She describes rehearsing Jooss’ powerful anti-war piece The Green Table in destroyed and war-torn Essen as one of the most influential experiences of her career.

Sought-after as both an educator and performer, Valerie has enjoyed a dynamic career working with artists all over the world, including fellow Art of Movement Studio alum Hettie Loman at the British Dance Theatre between 1949 and 1951.

Beginning in 1953, Valerie trained students in modern educational dance – a creative practice devised by Laban in which people of all ages could participate.

Passing on her expansive knowledge to others has always been a key element of Valerie’s career –

My one aim is to empower the next generation, with knowledge and curiosity and the will to keep progressing.”


Following over a decade spent honing her teaching skills and expertise and the publication of her internationally-selling Handbook for Educational Dance (1963), Valerie opened Beechmont Movement Study Centre in 1967, which delivered courses in dance and dance notation. Then, after deciding to take some time to devote to her son and daughter in their younger years, Valerie threw herself headlong into study again at the Laban Centre (now Trinity Laban), obtaining the first PhD in dance to include practical elements.

Valerie’s expertise has been in demand all over the world. Between 1981 and 1997 she was a regular adjudicator for the Federation Internationale de Danse, judging choreographic competitions in France and the Netherlands. She has also been a guest artist and lecturer at universities across Europe, Australia, Asia and North and South America and spent time as a choreographic mentor in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Valerie has written several instructional and research books over the course of her scholarly career, including Looking at Dances (1998) and Dance and the Performative (2002). Valerie describes her work as striving to illustrate and emphasise the inextricable link between dance practice and dance scholarship –

“The world tends to separate practice and theory but Laban did not and neither have I, writing books, giving workshops, watching performances and making dances.”

In 1998, Valerie won the De la Torre Bueno Prize for Rudolf Laban, An Extraordinary Life and has more recently published her autobiography Moving with the Times (2017).

Focused on moving forward and looking to the future, in 2008 Valerie helped to create an interactive web-based method of recording the creative process of award-winning American choreographer William Forsythe’s work The Loss of Small Detail (1991).

Valerie’s more recent writings interrogate Laban’s highly significant and ground-breaking Kammertanz works of the 1920s. Drawing from archive material and her intimate knowledge of Laban’s choreographic process, Valerie re-moulded the material in response to the ever-evolving dance theatre landscape and culture of today, directing performances of the works for Trinity Laban students.

This adaptive and progressive attitude defines Valerie’s artistic outlook –

My one direction is ONWARDS, find the new, pay attention to culture and opportunity and respond.”


In another project utilising the talents of Trinity Laban students, Valerie directed the dance film In Memoriam (2014), marking the WWI centenary remembrance. Created in collaboration with filmmaker and Trinity Laban alum Roswitha Chesher, the film depicts a performance in the Laban Building’s amphitheatre space by a movement choir of 100 dancers and musicians between the ages of nine and eighty. Recognising the importance of this experience, Valerie explains –

“The range of participants at Trinity Laban made it possible: undergraduates, teenagers, children and over sixties all together, highlighting the inevitable fact that war affects everyone and that together we can build a future.”

Alison Gee, a Trinity Laban alum and now Head of Community and Professional Development (Dance Programmes), comments –

“It was through Valerie that I found the love of dance analysis.  She made complex theories seem easy and lectures were never dull.  I had the pleasure of working with her again much later in my career on the dance production of In Memoriam.  What an inspiring woman she is.”

Both Valerie’s commitment to dance and her vibrant personality have been immensely influential to generations of students and scholars. Alysoun Tomkins, former Trinity Laban faculty staff and one of Valerie’s students at the Laban Centre, describes her as “an inspirational woman and teacher” and recalls meeting with her again at a recent reunion –

“It was not an academic presentation on the value of Laban’s work today that she gave, but more a saucy divulgence of life with Rudolf back in the day. And that is Valerie: fun, mischievous, knowledgeable, driven and with the energy and enthusiasm of the first-years.”

Yu-ling Chao, who studied with Valerie while working on her PhD at Trinity Laban, also has high praise for her –

“I am very grateful for Valerie’s guidance – she is my model and I owe my success to my education at the Laban Centre. I am inspired by her cool humorous teaching style and commentaries. Following in her footsteps, I am working on the interdisciplinary application of Choreological Studies in Taiwanese Higher Education and Performing Arts. Thank you my teacher!”

We applaud Valerie for her inspirational dedication to the art of dance, thank her for her continual support of Trinity Laban over the years and, finally, wish her many happy returns for her 90th birthday.

Alumni spotlight: In conversation with Maxine Doyle

Dance maker Maxine Doyle completed her MA in Choreography at Trinity Laban (then the Laban Centre) in 1994 and has been Associate Director and Choreographer for Punchdrunk since 2002, having co-directed the multi-award winning Sleep No More among other productions.

She has also worked independently creating dance theatre work for companies including Martha Graham Company, Verve, Perth Festival and Johannes Wieland Company. 

Most recently, Maxine has been collaborating with internationally acclaimed BalletBoyz and fellow Trinity Laban alum, composer Cassie Kinoshi on Deluxe, a show celebrating the company’s 20th anniversary.

We caught up with Maxine to find out more…

Tell us a bit about your creative process

“I think a lot, I research a lot. The piece lives with me. Before I begin a project I always do some writing – an ‘imagining’ – where I close my eyes and write what I see – images, words, stories – in a stream of consciousness. I then perhaps try and formalise that a bit more. Then I put it away and let the piece uncover itself and present itself. The challenge of not knowing where the process can take you is a kind of joy for me.

My work is very collaborative. It’s really about the movement language the dancers offer based on the tasks and frameworks I offer them. Part of my process is facilitating lots of skills and abilities in one space.”


A3 sheets of paper with written notes pinned to studio mirrors

(Image: Rehersal room mirros with notes credit George Piper)

How did you become involved with Deluxe?

“I had conversations with Michael [Nunn] and Billy [Trevitt, Artistic Directors] about doing work and originally it was only going to be a short 5 to 10-minute piece. After doing workshop with the dancers to see if our processes mixed, Michael and Billy then commissioned me to do a half hour piece and suggested I collaborate with a composer.”

Can you tell us a bit about your new work Bradley 4:18?

“I’ve been listening to English poet and spoken word artist Kate Tempest’s concept album Let Them Eat Chaos for the last few years. The album, set against a backdrop of global crisis and societal anxieties, describes the thoughts and feelings of several different characters as they struggle with their insomnia at 4:18 in the morning.

One poem-song, ‘Pictures on a screen’, became the shared starting point for my collaboration with the dancers and Cassie. The song’s character Bradley seemingly has everything – all the external markers of success like a great job and a riverside apartment – but feels super empty and questions his purpose in life.  He asks himself whether he is awake or asleep and what he can do to get him out of his stupor. Bradley’s pre-occupations seem painfully relevant for the anxiety we’re feeling today.

In the dancework, the audience meets six different versions or facets of Bradley.”

6 male dancers in various positions in the studio space


(Image: BalletBoyz rehearsing Bradley 4:18 credit George Piper)

What was it like working with BalletBoyz?

“I recently made a piece on eight women for Martha Graham Company, working with composer and sound artist Leslie Flanaghan, but am generally used to bigger ensembles. So I asked myself ‘what did I want to explore with 6 male dancers? What’s our artistic conversation?’

BalletBoyz are famed for their beauty, grace and generally gorgeous dancing.  I was interested in a different physicality and edge. I wanted to connect their theatricality to moving and had a desire to see the dancers as people in the piece. I was interested in how movement can be imbued with narrative, personality and project a heightened sense of self. I was interested in what dancers were offering me and how I could push or pull that.

 I found the dancers really inspiring and hungry. They responded to a creative process that was different and challenging.”

6 male dancers sat in circle in rehearsal room with choreographer Maxine


(Image: BalletBoyz in rehearsal with Maxine credit George Piper)

 What has it been like to collaborate with fellow TL alum Cassie Kinoshi?

The meeting point of music and dance language was really exciting. There was a sense that both elements can coexist but also have an independence to them.

I remember on the first day of my masters at Trinity Laban, going in and saying ‘I really want to collaborate with a composer’, so I have really enjoyed being given space and support to play with an artist from a different discipline.


Cassie and Maxine working together at a white desk with laptop and headphones

(Image: Maxine and Cassie collaborating in the rehearsal studio credit George Piper)

It was an interesting process at the beginning. Michael and Billy sent me links to Cassie’s work – some for dance on film, something for Young Vic theatre, and the SEED Ensemble’s album Driftglass. I was really drawn to the diverse range of Cassie’s work.  It seemed like she could shift between the orchestral, jazz ensemble and the cinematic.  I’d also never worked with jazz music so was excited to see where I could direct this in relation to atmosphere and storytelling.

I believe the essence of a good collaboration is identifying taste, finding a common ground in aesthetic and appreciation. We would share film and visual references and music to give a sense of the atmosphere and tone we wanted to create. We talked a lot about atmosphere, tone, worlds; I felt like we understood each other very quickly in terms of what that meant. I wanted to create a sound-world that was dreamy but had a darkness to it, that was uncomfortable.

Cassie was in the studio with us a chunk of the time, to see how I work in terms of improvisation, working around a physical idea or the words. I was using lots of different types of music to change up the atmosphere and energy in the room. I would bring Angelo Badalamenti, Shostakovich, Philip Glass, Kylie Minogue. I didn’t want Cassie to be dictated to by my ideas.  I wanted to offer jumping off points.

There were a couple of rehearsal where Cassie came in with her saxophone and recording gear and began to jam in response to choreographed phrases and images.  This was exciting – a great energy and dialogue evolved organically.


We had a session with all ten musicians playing live with us. Having them there in terms of dynamic and dialogue was exciting. It gave a confidence to understand the potential of the piece. As the dancers began to work more specifically with the final, recorded musical work, the movement language became more nuanced.”

You can watch the digital version of Deluxe on Sadler’s Wells Facebook page  until 2 April 2020 and will also feature in the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine festival.

Find out more about studying Dance at Trinity Laban.

Composition Prize’s Digital Make-over

Amid London’s lock-down, new music is still thriving at Trinity Laban as the Daryl Runswick Competition goes virtual for 2020. 

Named after a former Head of Composition at Trinity Laban, the annual Daryl Runswick Competition is one of the Conservatoire’s premier platforms for showcasing brand new work.

This year the competition, which celebrates the diversity and creativity of our composition community, underwent a digital make-over with current Head of Composition Dominic Murcott presenting an exclusively online edition for the first time in the Conservatoire’s history.

The virtual showcase, streamed on our YouTube channel at 2pm on Friday 27 March, saw finalists Assyl Almakhanova, Christopher Charlton, Mathieu Robert, Jan Stevuliak, Anders Waller and Harry Weir introduce their compositions before theremin virtuoso Lydia Kavina – former pupil of the instrument’s inventor Léon Theremin – performed extracts from the works. Composer-conductor Gregory Rose then discussed the orchestration and practicality of each score.


Lydia Kavina playing the theremin

(Image: Lydia Kavina)

The competition was adjudicated remotely by composer, musicologist and performer Dr Lauren Redhead, Senior Lecturer and Head of Undergraduate Studies in Music at Goldsmiths University.
Lauren praised the six finalists’ work, commending their strong ideas and individuality, before naming Harry Weir the overall winner for Chromatic Aberration.

Awarding the prize, Lauren described Harry’s piece as “sensitively written” and “gestural”, praising the composer’s effective use of orchestration as stand-out.

On winning this year’s competition, Harry comments –

“I am deeply honoured that my piece ‘Chromatic Aberration’ was selected as the winner of this year’s competition, however the real victory here is the opportunity Trinity Laban gives us to write for an ensemble of this size and guarantee a recording or a premiere of our work. I must thank Soosan Lolavar and Gwyn Pritchard for their expert teaching, and to Gregory, Lydia, and Dr Redhead for their helpful comments today.”

Harry Weird conducting an ensemble at an outside event

(Image: Harry Weir)

Lauren also gave an honourable mention to Anders Waller’s Falling Objects, praising the composer’s willingness to experiment and ability to create different textures and colours within the ensemble.

Trinity Laban’s Head of Composition Dominic Murcott commented –

“In previous years we’ve held this event at the National Portrait Gallery, at Southbank Centre and at the Brunel Museum, but today’s ‘socially-distanced’ version was in the ether. All six pieces were of an incredible standard – a testament to the creativity and flair within the Composition Department at Trinity Laban. Thank you to all the staff who supported this project.”

As London’s Creative Conservatoire, Trinity Laban provides a playground for the creative mind where experimentation combines with technical excellence.

Learn more about the Composition Department on our study pages.

The Daryl Runswick Competition 2020 is available to watch on our YouTube channel. Congratulations to all our finalists.


Finalists and Repertoire

Jan Stevuliak Idyll of Justice for Everyone
Mathieu Robert Confession
Assyl Almakhanova Foggy Introduction
Anders Waller Falling Objects
Christopher Charlton The Movie Night Suite
Harry Weir Chromatic Aberration


Alumni Spotlight: In conversation with Peter Gn

Singapore-based dance artist, educator and choreographer Peter Gn studied his MA/MFA in Choreography at Trinity Laban (2013-2014).

Growing up, he wasn’t encouraged to dance due to peer pressure at school to conform to gender stereotypes, but he always wanted to try.

In secondary school I was a marathon runner and played sports. I was from a boy’s school. In junior college all that changed. There was a dance co-curricular activity and they were trying very hard to recruit boys. I was one of the six boys and I never looked back. I felt, for once, in the area of the arts I felt I was good at something. I had my beginnings in ballet.”


Currently he works at the Education Ministry in Singapore, supporting dance programmes in schools across the country, whilst continuing to choreograph professionally. He is also a PhD candidate at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne.

Peter returned to the Conservatoire last spring to share his insights with current dance students and to present work at the first alumni platform Bite Size Pieces. We caught up with him to talk about his time at Trinity Laban, how his career has developed since graduating and where he is going next.

Selfie of Peter Gn looking up at sky wearing a grey fleece

Image: Peter Gn

It’s lovely to welcome you back to Trinity Laban, what brings you back to London from Singapore in 2019?

“In 2017 I got in touch with Tony [Thatcher] and Sara [Matthews] about the possibility of coming back and showing a work in progress at Trinity Laban, to get some feedback on the piece. They were excited about the idea and we made plans for it to happen, but schedules didn’t quite align until now.

Along with the prospect of staging a performance, I thought I would include a seminar as well. I didn’t want to feel like I was travelling all this distance just to show something, I wanted to have a positive message for students here that once you graduate there are many possibilities out there.

I see it more as a conversation: sharing what I’ve been up to these couple of years to give students food for thought in respect to their education here.”

What were your highlights of studying at Trinity Laban and how has your training prepared you for your career?

“Trinity Laban equipped me efficiently and effectively for artistic pursuits, specifically in the area of dance. It equipped me with the idea of working with other disciplines like art as well as music. I’m now always interrogating what I create.

I decided to do an MA in choreography because I was hearing a lot of good things about Trinity Laban and the way it approaches dance. It was very welcoming of different kinds of partnerships with other art forms and I was very excited about that idea.”

CoLab is wonderful – it really gave the opportunity to try something remarkably different.”


“I assembled nine first-year dancers, all eager to try creative improvisation, and I brought on board a musician from Trinity Laban who was an electric harpist. What I felt was most interesting was this relationship where sometimes the musician was improvising based on what she saw and dancers based on what they were hearing. Soon the dancers saw the musician as part of them and everyone in the studio was part of one performance.

For a long time, like most of the dance choreographers, I have relied on sourcing piece of music that could fit my vision. These days I find a lot of merit in collaborating more. Last year I collaborated with a visual artist and in the work created I had four dancers responding to his artwork, and I layered that with the sonic landscape created by a musician who played live.

Another highlight was getting to know really amazing lecturers who encouraged you to look at dance differently. Those were the great moments: sitting the café just debating how to approach a particular work. Hearing them tell you ‘have you considered this?’ and being able to move from a point of defence, to that of saying ‘maybe you’re right, there’s another way which the work could be approached’.

When I first joined I was quite resistant. I used to think on a basic level I just had to start by coming up with steps, with this dance routine that impressed. Just a year after graduation I began to see the wisdom of a lot of things I saw here and I began to apply a lot of things as well. Now it’s me challenging the dancers – does what look good on stage mean you are really dancing? Gets them thinking and out of their comfort zone. I don’t value their experience as performers if I only come up with routines for them to look good onstage – I value when they mature as artists and are able to think about what they are dancing.”

Black and white blurred shot of dancers in motion on stage with side lighting

Image: Insistence and Burn (Peter Gn 2019)

Tell us more about your work in Singapore’s Education Ministry and why you want to impact the education of young dancers

“The interesting thing about Singapore is that we don’t have dance in the curriculum. We have it in the form of movement but that’s PE, so the students have dance as a co-curricular activity. They pursue that on an enrichment basis, but no one is compelling them to be in it. There is a sizeable number who have chosen dance.

It was a choice that I wanted to try and impact younger students, the way that they see dance, because many of them have their world views shaped by their dance instructors and depending on their background or years of training they could be sharing just one facet of how they see dance. I’m quite concerned that, because the students look up to them, their perspectives are therefore narrowed to just one, so I would like to also share a perspective that’s a little different but hopefully nonetheless important. Trinity Laban has helped me develop that perspective.”

In 2015 you choreographed the official re-opening of Singapore’s national stadium, what is it like to stage big events?

“Crazy. At the end of the day it’s about being sensational. For the big sized arena-based performances it’s really about colours, visual sensation, and spectacle. The choreography just needs to please. You work hard to make it synchronised. Individuality is compromised.

This is something I wouldn’t typically do in a theatre piece. Conceptual choreography is a lot harder because through the piece you want to explore other things, and layers, which makes it tougher in an interesting way.”

How do you balance your full-time office job with dance creation?

“I pursue my professional dance work outside of office hours with whatever energy left. When I leave the office at 6.30pm I just go to the studio and try and create something.”

If the dancers are interested, that gives you motivation and energy.”


A group of male and female dancers rehearsing in a studio in front of greenery 

Image: A Still Moment With You (Peter Gn 2018)

Can you share any advice for aspiring dance makers?

“Take all feedback in your stride. Learn from it. Just last year I had an audience tell me they didn’t quite understand what it was I was trying to do in a particular work and they hated it, but I think Trinity Laban prepared me well to handle criticism – it is always an invitation to do better the next round, or approach it with new perspective. Such is the life of an artist.”

You can’t get everything right at a go – what’s most important is being true to your own voice, your artistry, not someone else’s.”


What is next for you?

“What I do in dance is a conscious choice rather than habit. I’m happy doing what I’m doing, impacting lives and pushing certain artistic boundaries to see where dance goes.

Australian Youth Dance Festival has invited me to conduct a class for their young people, which is another opportunity to impact lives. I’ll be staging a work at the Festival too. Each time an opportunity like that comes along it’s a chance to be a change agent, and do something amazing.”

Find out more about studying Dance at Trinity Laban.

February Alumni Round-up

Our roundup of some of the achievements of Trinity Laban alumni

Both staff and alumni have seen huge successes this month in music and dance. At The Bonnies 2020, choreographer, performer and writer Janine Harrington received the New Choreography award while a Choreographic Development award went to dance teacher and choreographer Julie Cunningham.

Alum and faculty staff member Martin Speake embarked on a UK tour with the Martin Speake International Quartet. Read this great review of the jazz ensemble’s performance at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

We hosted the official book launch of The Routledge Companion to Dance Studies, co-edited by two Trinity Laban alumni: our Professor of Dance Studies Helen Thomas and Reader at University of Roehampton, Dr Stacey Prickett. Also contributing research and discussion to the seminal dance book were alumni Larraine Nicholas and Johan Stjernholm.

Acclaimed pianist Iyad Sughayer received a five-star review in BBC Music Magazine for his interpretations of some of Khachaturian’s earliest music, while fellow piano alum Christina McMaster launched new project Art of Listening. In this YouTube series, Christina performs and sheds further light on the works of prolific composers such as Satie, Scarlatti and Birtwistle.

The film adaptation of classic tale The Call of the Wild was released in cinemas worldwide, featuring an original score from Hollywood film composer John Powell. Find out more in this insightful article exploring John’s music.

February saw Trinity Laban welcome back alumni both emerging and eminent. Ching-Chun Lee, alum and Associate Artistic Director of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, delivered masterclasses to dance students following an evening celebrating Cloud Gate’s founder, Lin Hwai-min.

Sharing more alumni wisdom over at our Music Faculty, Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian provided insights into her varied career as a composer, performer and producer in a careers talk, while internationally renowned pianist Gen Li joined us in the latest instalment of our alumni spotlight video series.

This month dance alumni showcased work both close to home and worldwide. At the Laban Building, we held 2020’s first instalment of alumni performance platform Bite Size Pieces. Featuring performances from Daisy Farris, Elise Phillips, Kate Brown and Aline Derderian, the four alumni choreographers received feedback on works in process from both faculty staff and audience members.

Dance alum Christopher Tandy performed at Sadler’s Wells in the title role of Pina Bausch’s legendary production of Bluebeard. Read this glowing review of the performance, premiering in London more than 40 years after its inception.

Malik Nashad Sharpe (marikiscrycrycry) presented original performance piece He’s Dead at The Yard Theatre, combining dance, text, live action and sound.

Candoco Dance Company returned to the Laban Building this month for a double bill of performances. Featuring several Trinity Laban alumni, the collective performed works by Yasmeen Godder and Theo Clinkard.

Over in Ireland, Michelle Cahill began touring her first solo show, Thirteen Steps to the Attic. Based on true events, the performance explored the mind of a woman trapped in an attic with only letters and her imagination for company.

Close-harmony trio The Puppini Sisters announced their upcoming UK Spring tour, while dramatic soprano Madeleine Bradbury-Rance took Trinity Laban talent across the pond, performing with the LA Philharmonic Orchestra at the illustrious Walt Disney Concert Hall alongside a host of international stars.

Musical Theatre alum Jack McCann starred in the Belfast Lyric Theatre’s run of Kiss Me, Kate in the role of Bill Cahoun. Read this review of the “dazzling and sharp-edged” production.

Back in London, Lucy Drever was announced in the cast of the London Palladium concert performance of The Secret Garden. Making her West-End debut, Lucy will perform as the Narrator alongside the Trinity Laban Musical Theatre students making up the ensemble.

This month, alumni explored environmental concerns through their art. Exhibiting work at the Gerald Moore Gallery, dance artist Laura Rouzet was selected by young students as one of a number of artists to create work responding to the climate crisis. Jazz musician Oscar Jerome released new single Sun For Someone: a poignant but interrogative comment on the threats that face our planet.

Many more jazz alumni saw successes this February. Cherise launched her EP ‘Paradise’ at Kings Place while jazz septet MoonMot released their latest album Going Down the Well. Read this interview with alum Dee Byrne, discussing the album and the band’s origins.

Moses Boyd continued touring the UK with material from latest album, Dark Matter. Moses’ album was met with stellar reviews from music outlets such as NME, while Bassist and alum Daniel Casimir received acclaim for new release These Days in collaboration with vocalist Tess Hirst.

Two ensembles featuring Trinity Laban alumni were celebrated at the Urban Music Awards 2020. Ezra Collective won Best Jazz Act out of a shortlist which included Joe Armon-Jones and Camilla George, while Best Group went to KOKOROKO.

Kairos 4Tet and jazz vocalist Emilia Mårtensson joined forces in a performance at Stapleford Granary. Find out how to get your tickets for their next performance together in Bristol.

Alumni have been continuing to enrich local communities with their art this month. Lynette King’s Spin Off Dance Company brought their show The Love Letter to the Ed Sheeran Exhibition Space at Christchurch Mansion. Find out more about Lynette’s dance practice and her work with young people with learning disabilities.

Emily Jenkins’ Move Dance Feel teamed up with leading cancer charity Penny Brohn UK to provide a free dance taster session for women affected by cancer. Combining creative movement activities with opportunities for interaction and reflection, the session aimed to help participants find freedom in their bodies and gain confidence in their abilities.

Making opera more accessible, vocal alum John Savournin brought a whistle-stop version of classic opera The Marriage of Figaro to audiences across the UK. Read this great review of John’s 45-minute adaptation, performed at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield.

Coming Up

Featuring vocal alum Mairéad Carlin, the Celtic Woman 2020 tour is now underway. Find out where you can see the ensemble in concert over the next six months.

Our Carne Trust Ensemble in Residence, the Carducci Quartet, will welcome pianist and fellow alum Reiko Fujisawa in a performance at Southbank Centre. Book your tickets for this exciting evening of music, featuring piano quintets from Shostakovich and Schumann.

Harriet Waghorn’s EDIFICE Dance Theatre will present SALOMÉ at The Place on Tuesday 10 March.

The Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival 2020 is back from 26-29 March. Find out when you can catch alumni Rebecca Nash, Emilia Martensson and Kairos 4tet in performances across the city.

Elisabeth Schilling and Margarita Zafrilla Olayon will perform at Siobhan Davies Studios’ Open Choreography performance evening on Friday 06 March.

Composer Hollie Harding will premier her new work FERAL at LSO St Luke’s 16 May as part of the LSO Jerwood Composer+ Showcase.

Alum joins unique emergency services orchestra

Armen Boldy reconnects with music through the Blue Light Symphony Orchestra.

The Blue Light Symphony Orchestra (BLSO) is the UK’s only orchestra for all Emergency Services personnel.

Started four years ago for police officers, 120 players are now drawn from a wealth of talent hidden inside the UK’s Police Forces, Fire Brigades and Ambulance Services, as well as the military and other emergency services such as Mountain Rescue, Cave Rescue and the RNLI.

One of these players is Trinity Laban alum Armen Boldy.

Armen began studying horn at Trinity Laban (then Trinity College of Music) in 1991 and shortly switched to singing. Following his graduation in 1993 he enjoyed a decade-long career as a professional singer, which included a four-year stint in the touring production of Phantom of the Opera.

Ready for a new challenge, he joined the police service in 2007.

“I like it for the fact that I’m communicating with people, all sorts of people,” he explains.

This sentiment is something that BLSO’s Founder, CEO and Musical Director Detective Constable Seb Valentine shares, “Music is about communication. I use a lot of skills I learned as a musician as a police officer.”

After a 20-year hiatus from horn playing, Armen was inspired to pick up the instrument again by his family, “My brother-in-law plays bass guitar and wanted to form a little band for pantomime. I picked up the horn and thought ‘this was fun’”.

An orchestra for actively serving members of the Emergency Services, the BLSO was the perfect place for Armen to rediscover his playing. He is looking forward to their upcoming concert at St John’s, Smith Square in London on 9 October 2020.

“The Blue Light Symphony Orchestra not only provides the opportunity for us to make music together, it also emits mental wellbeing.”

As a registered charity, the BLSO’s aim is to promote and support music making in the emergency services to aid mental wellbeing and to promote the use of music therapy to treat serious mental health problems such as PTSD, chronic stress and anxiety. The orchestra is working in collaboration with Chroma, the UK’s largest provider of arts therapy.

To find out more visit or follow @bluelightsymph on Twitter.

Image: Armen Boldy (credit John Deehan)

Music alumni at the Barbican

Music alumni Hollie Harding and James Newby will be showcased as part of the Barbican’s 2020–21 season.

Composer, researcher and curator Hollie Harding will present the world premiere of FERAL at LSO St Luke’s on 16 May 2020 as part of the LSO Jerwood Composer+ scheme Showcase.

Created in discussion with George Monbiot, author of Feral: rewilding the land, sea, and human life, the piece considers themes of rewilding (the large-scale restoration of natural processes in ecosystems) and our loss of connection with the natural world. It also features a film by Josh Ben-Tovim (Impermanence Dance Theatre).

The LSO Jerwood Composer+ scheme is a 16-month mentored placement that supports early career composers in programming, planning and delivering chamber-scale concerts in the Jerwood Hall at LSO St Luke’s, including their own work developed through the programme.

Hollie has been Director of Production for the London Ear Festival since it began in 2013, and recently completed her PhD in Creative Practice at Trinity Laban, investigating space and physical action as elements of composition.

Her most recent project Melting, Shifting, Liquid World was the first composition to incorporate the use of open-ear, bone-conducting headsets alongside live acoustic and amplified instruments to create a multi-layered sonic environment for the audience to move around and within. The work premiered at the National Maritime Museum, performed by Head of Strings Nic Pendlebury and the Trinity Laban String Ensemble.

Hollie is also a Royal Philharmonic Society Composer, and is currently working on a commission for the Philharmonia’s Music of Today series as part of the scheme. Other projects include a new participatory immersive piece for CoMA.

In the new year, baritone James Newby will perform a self-curated programme at Barbican Centre’s Milton Court Concert Hall featuring songs by Britten, Beethoven, Mahler and Schubert and a specially-commissioned new work by award-winning British composer Judith Bingham (29 Jan 2021).

As a European Concert Halls Organisation (ECHO) Rising Star, this concert is one stop on James’ upcoming tour of the major concert halls of Europe. The singer was nominated for the professional development programme by the Barbican, and will enjoy a truly international platform.

Prior to graduating from Trinity Laban’s BMus (Hons) programme, James became the youngest ever winner of the prestigious Kathleen Ferrier Award (2016). In the same year he received the Wigmore Hall/Independent Opera Voice Fellowship.

He has since gone on to be a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist 2018–20, a Jerwood Young Artist at Glyndebourne Festival Opera (2017–2018) where he was awarded the prestigious John Christie Award and the inaugural Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Rising Stars prize, debut as Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro for Nevill Holt Opera, and make his solo recital debut at Wigmore Hall (2019).

To find out more about studying at Trinity Laban, visit our music pages

To book tickets for FERAL visit the LSO Jerwood Composer+ Showcase page

To book tickets for ECHO Rising Stars, visit the Barbican What’s On page

Image L-R: James Newby (credit Gerard Collett); Hollie Harding

A memoir from one of Laban’s earliest UK students

Rudolf Laban’s Art of Movement Studio remembered by one of its very first students

Margaret Stephens Smith (1929-2019) was among the very first students to train at dance artist, choreographer and theorist Rudolf Laban’s legendary Art of Movement Studio in Manchester.

Austro-Hungarian Laban (1879-1958) is widely considered to be one of the founders of European Modern Dance and is responsible for raising the status of dance as an art form. His explorations into the theory and practice of dance and movement transformed the nature of dance scholarship. The studio he founded was renamed the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance in 1975 before merging with Trinity College of Music in 2005 to become Trinity Laban.

In a memoir passed on to Trinity Laban by her granddaughter, Margaret fondly remembered her early years as a dance artist and her time training with the founding father of expressionist dance in the late 1940s.

After originally aspiring for a career in botany, Margaret joined Bradford’s Civic Theatre School in 1946.

Remembering her initial training, Margaret reflected –

“Both literally and figuratively my life changed dramatically when I left home to start training… The years at Bradford burnished my basic theatre skills. Throughout, general classes for all students included all aspects of vocal work, song, ballet, fencing, teaching”.

Drawing from her multifaceted theatrical training, Margaret and members of the Civic Theatre School performed plays for schools, including The Merchant of Venice and Julius Caesar with actor Alec Guinness visiting to play the lead roles. Margaret felt that bringing the arts into schools at that time was “greatly appreciated by so many children after the sombre years of war”.

It was during her training in Bradford that Margaret was first introduced to Rudolf Laban and German-British dance practitioner Lisa Ullmann, co-founders of the Laban Art of Movement Studio –

“This movement filled me with enthusiasm. I loved it!”

Unfavoured by the Nazi regime, Laban’s name and work were destroyed at the height of his career by the Government Propaganda Ministry, resulting in Laban fleeing to Britain in the late thirties. By the end of World War II, older, more experienced European artistes such as Laban were coming to Britain from all avenues of the creative arts and beginning to set up training centres wherever available. “Their aim was to establish their particular metiers, ready to start with new students”, Margaret explained.

Despite being approached by a prestigious private school for the post of Speech and Drama Teacher at the end of her studies, Margaret declined the offer, keen to continue studying under Laban and Ullman.

“I got on with the teachers very well as we’d known each other for a long time… my heart was set on spending another full year continuing with the Art of Movement, which I really loved.”

And so it was that Margaret began a year of training at Laban’s newly founded Art of Movement Studio at 101, Oxford Road, Manchester, studying Laban’s theories of Space, Weight and Time.

She remembers the programme broadening her frame of mind and discovering “the absolute freedom of the human body within its own globe and the directions we could travel into… and the points of the compass.”

Margaret was also introduced to Labanotation, Laban’s original system of describing movement based on spatial models. In its infancy at the time, it is now used by dance artists around the world.

“I understood, but this concept of movement recordance was very new to us. Maybe Labanotation was in its infancy, but we tried and noted it down.”

Recalling the sense of routine in the programme, with exercises done in the mornings and a cool down at the end of the day, Margaret looked back on the experience fondly –

“Winding down with Rudolf was a rite. “ARMS UP – BREATHE IN”, then he’d growl “RELAX! RELAX! – BREATHE IN and BLOW!” I still do it and always have done.”

Having taught and directed drama and movement since her studies in Bradford until her retirement in 2017, Margaret enjoyed seventy years in a varied and extensive career. Before Margaret passed away last September at the age of ninety, she remarked –

“My career has led to many very positive developments in many venues. They have all given me a great sense of personal fulfilment.”

We thank Margaret’s family for sharing Margaret’s account of her rich and inspiring career and unique experience of training with Rudolf Laban.