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Alumni Spotlight: Adam Rutherford

Mon 18 June 2018

Dancer and choreographer Adam Rutherford graduated from Trinity Laban with a BA Dance Theatre in 2002, and then an MA in Dance Performance in 2003.

He is the founder of Birmingham-based Rutherford Dance Company [RDC] and Rutherford Dance Company Youth, and recently secured Grants for the Arts funding from Arts Council England to continue the organisation’s #EMPOWER initiative for a third year.

We caught up with Adam to find out more about #EMPOWERIII, his memories of Trinity Laban, and his advice for aspiring dance practitioners.

Congratulations on securing funding! Can you tell us a bit more about RDC Youth?

Thank you! We are very proud that our vision to empower the next generation of dance artists has once again been recognised, and will be supported for a third year of activity by Arts Council England.

RDC Youth is a contemporary-based dance training and performance company for gifted and talented dancers aged 11-21. The company train once a week during term time with company sessions including contemporary and ballet technique, Pilates and choreography. We welcome guest tutors to deliver Cunningham and Graham techniques and we are extremely lucky to also have an ongoing working relationship with Birmingham Royal Ballet who deliver our company ballet classes. We are now in our fifth year, and alumni have successfully secured places at dance conservatoires across Europe.

I like to think that we make a positive contribution to the ever-growing dance ecology in Birmingham. Our works, at small and large venues, tackle themes with social and political resonance through the execution of technically precise choreography. Through the creation of this work, we supporting the development of aspiring choreographers and youth leaders, and strive to provide the tools required for a future portfolio career in dance.

#EMPOWER, for example, provides the opportunity for company members to lead, select, audition and interview possible choreographers, before commissioning new bespoke work for the company. All aspects of #EMPOWER are the company members’ responsibility, from devising the audition call out to the selection process.

And you are now working with fellow Trinity Laban alumnus, Lea Anderson MBE?

Yes, we are very fortunate to have been able to commission Lea as part of #EMPOWERIII this year and we are very proud to be the first youth training programme to welcome Lea to Birmingham.

I vividly remember studying Lea’s Flesh and Blood when I was at college, and the fact that she trained at Trinity Laban influenced my decision to train there myself. From the moment Lea became an option for #EMPOWERIII I was obviously very keen for the company to commission her. However, due to the nature of the project I had to remain impartial and allow the company to reach their own decision. A challenging period for me!

Lea is a true master of her craft, and RDC Youth have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working with her and learning how much emphasis can be placed on the smallest detail.

They created Formulator by studying and replicating vintage photographs – sourced from professional dance magazines from the 1940s and ’50s – of tap, modern, ballroom and ballet dancers. The company constructed the imagined sequences that resulted in these poses, and assembled them using structures borrowed from K-Pop promo dance sequences. The result is a highly energetic work, which is sure to enthrall audiences.

On Thursday 12 July at the Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) Formulator will form part of our triple bill No Borders alongside work by myself and emerging international choreographer Chiara Prina from Italy.

What was your experience of studying at Trinity Laban, and how did it prepare you for your career?

I will be forever grateful for the training I received at Trinity Laban, which will always play an invaluable role in my career. The all-important information available from the teaching faculty – a world-class source of information – provided me with the strong foundations to build my career on.

After completing my BA Dance Theatre, I was lucky enough to secure a place in Transitions Dance Company. This was an extremely useful additional stepping stone into the professional world post-undergraduate training that allowed me to tour the work of choreographers nationally and internationally – including to Japan!

So many tutors played a key part in my development as a dance artist (Dr Marion North, David Waring, Emma Redding, Sonia Rafferty, Susan Sentler and Gary Lambert), but I must give an extra mention to ballet tutor Teresa Kelsey, affectionately known as TK. She nurtured me through the demands of ballet with the patience of the passionate educator that she is – even though my experience and understanding of the technique was lacking, to say the least!

Tell us a bit about your experiences since graduating – how did you shape your dance trajectory?

After completing a year with Transitions Dance Company I joined Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake and from there enjoyed many years performing with renowned choreographers across the globe. Alongside my eclectic performance career, I was also always making my own work and teaching contemporary technique and choreography laboratories for other companies.

I was always interested in all of the aspects that bring a work to fruition and then to the stage, even when I was an undergraduate. As a dancer, I felt it important to understand the audience’s experience and look beyond just my role as a performer. This naturally led me towards accepting more responsibility as Dance Captain/Rehearsal Director for companies and productions.

Over the years, I have also developed a passion for nurturing the next generation of young dancers. At RDC Youth, we actively strive to provide company members with as many tools as possible to achieve their goals, not only for successful undergraduate entrance but also for their careers post-conservatoire or university.

I feel that all of my various roles have been intricately linked to one another. Each has fed and supported my growth as an artist.

What are your future plans?

I am Resident International Choreographer at a ballet academy in Florence, Italy – the Accademia Internazionale Coreutica. I recently completed my new work for them, Boxed, which premiered at the beginning of May. In July, I will be returning to deliver on their 2018 Summer Intensive with a small cohort of RDC Youth company members, then in August I will also be leading on our own RDC Youth Summer Intensive in Birmingham.

Later in the year, thanks to the Lisa Ullman Travel Scholarship Fund, I will be travelling to Dresden, Germany, to visit the Palucca Hochscule für Tanz and observe their teaching methodologies. I will be writing an evaluation paper of my findings, comparing EU and UK pre-vocational training models.

I am also working towards the creation of my technically frank and autobiographical solo ONE, which will premiere at Birmingham’s LGBTQ+ arts festival SHOUT in November 2018. Thanks to a successful application to the Birmingham Dance Hub Artistic Commission, I am building on initial development from 2017, which was supported by DanceXchange and a Dance Hub Developing Practice bursary.

As Artistic Director of Rutherford Dance Company (RDC), what advice can you share for aspiring dance practitioners looking to follow a similar path?

Perseverance is key and experience is irreplaceable. There will always be ups and downs but if you trust in yourself and your art then the right opportunities will present themselves at the right time.


Follow Adam and the Rutherford Dance Company at:

Twitter: @aerutherford @rdcyouth

Instagram: @ae.rutherford @rdc.youth



(Image credit: Main image – Aimee Spinks Photography / Second image – @bazjayuu)