Meet Fleur Hoefkens-Lee, the new Creative Producer of Bath Dance. Fleur has recently taken over from Lisa Lort, who has moved to Pavilion Dance South West in Bournemouth. I caught up with Fleur to find out more about her background and her vision for Bath Dance.
1. What is your dance background?
My love of dance started at school, the age of 11 when I did my first after school dance club. A teacher noticed a spark in me and suggested I join a dance school. From that moment dance became my life. I took part in 100s of performances and competitions, went to Italy to perform with my school a number of times and studied GCSE and A-Level Dance.
At this point most of my studying had been in commercial styles such as show dance and street dance, which I loved. However, Contemporary Dance at GCSE and A-Level spoke to a different part of me that other styles hadn’t. It felt like it gave me a voice, a way to express myself and complete creative freedom in the choreographic process. This led me to take the contemporary dance route in higher education and I applied to various university courses. (At this point I hadn’t had any exposure to vocational courses that places like Laban and The Place offer, otherwise I’d probably have applied to those too.)
All my auditions went well, however one stuck with me. I remember turning up to the audition at Bath Spa University and listening to the head of dance talk about the course. I was bubbling with excitement and enthusiasm at the thought of being able to spend every day dancing and learning about my craft. The energy of the teachers and their backgrounds sold the course to me and that September I started my journey into Contemporary Dance.What I loved about this course was the diversity of areas it touched upon. Rather than simply training us as performers/choreographers, it opened up our eyes to a wealth of opportunity and possibility within the dance world. Somatics and Contact Improvisation were the two modules that resonated with me most as an individual. They not only taught me exciting skills that complimented my dance training, but encouraged me to look at myself as an artist at a much deeper level- as a human with emotions, strengths and weaknesses & experiences. This then developed my creativity and helped me decide what sort of artist/ practitioner I wanted to be.
I went on to achieve a BA Dance Hons 1st Class degree and was awarded an Artwork Bursary Award.After my studies I spent time doing class in London, traveling and performing with various local companies in Bath. The Egg Theatre gave me my 1st paid job as a workshop assistant for YPT dance and my love of teaching and youth dance was born.
For the last 8 years I have been a dedicated dance artist, passionate about dance performance, engagement and education. I have worked extensively within the BANES and Bristol area in dance performance, project management and teaching. This has included working in a variety of settings such as schools, theatres, community groups, higher education, youth dance companies and professional dance companies.My main project over the last 4 years has been founding and running a not-for-profit contemporary youth dance company. Dedicated to facilitating creative exciting opportunities and advanced training for 8-19 year olds.
2. Tell us more about your work with Banes Youth Dance Co and why you decided to initiate the company?
As a company we strive to get the best from all of our dancers with fun, energetic classes. We pride ourselves on offering exciting opportunities, regular technique classes, performance platforms, arts award, work experience as well as confidence and friendship. We now have three groups, Juniors, Rec and The Company, which offer classes from age 8-19yrs. Our partnership with Bath Spa University means we are a great stepping stone into studying dance in higher education.
We try and ignite in our dancers the following characteristics…
TRUST : To work well together and trust each other
CONFIDENCE : To take part in regular performances and have confidence in your own ability.
RESPONSIBILITY : To be responsible for their personal body development – warm-up, stretch, live a healthy lifestyle, wear the correct clothing.
INSPIRATION : To draw inspiration from and be open to the wealth and diversity of different choreographers and dancers.
DESIRE : Imbue students with the desire to keep training in contemporary dance to a higher level.
We aim to do this by:-
INSPIRING : Young people to engage and develop their skills in Contemporary Dance through working with professionals, partnering with the University Dance Department and delivering exciting workshops.
NURTURING : A pilot youth dance company that responds and evolves to the needs of the participants and the local area.
SUPPORTING : Listening to and supporting the dancers in their aims, dreams and development.
SIGNPOSTING : Directing young dancers to access specialist knowledge, expertise and high quality opportunities.
When I first thought about setting up a youth dance company for the area, Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES) was rich in it’s abundance of private and community led dance schools, providing opportunities for young people and children to engage in dance from Tap to ballet, from Street Dance to Stage School. At least seven out of it’s 14 secondary schools provide some form of dance accreditation through G.C.S.E, A Level or BTEC Dance. B&NES was a thriving youth dance scene, but had a significant gap in the lack of opportunities for young people to access Contemporary Dance outside of school.
Unless young people attended a school with dance as part of the curriculum or offered it as a form of accreditation, they may never have got the chance to discover, explore or be inspired by contemporary dance. In turn this had led to a lack of B&NES youth dance representation at regional and national events and initiatives.The lack of opportunity for young people to experience contemporary dance in B&NES is what spurred me to found B&NES Youth Dance Company.
I proposed in a funding bid that my dance company – Peppered Frills Dance – would work in partnership with Bath Spa University to develop the vision of a B&NES Youth Dance Company. A Youth Company that would support young people’s aspirations, support Bath Dance’s mission to make dance visible in B&NES, as well as develop passion in young people to access Contemporary Dance and take it to a higher level.From this, we were given the funding to develop B&NES Youth Dance Company and have been going strong since 2012.
3. What is your vision for Bath Dance?
My vision for Bath Dance is for it to be a catalyst for high quality dance provision of all styles and at all levels. I’d like Bath Dance to be known nationally for it’s high quality dance offer, excellent local practitioners and artists and as a place where graduates and professionals want to stay to develop their careers.I’d like there to be an annual event that showcases and shares high level dance made in BANES as well as bringing exciting companies into the area. An event that people from all over the South West and beyond come to see and take part in dance. I’m hoping to draw on what Bath already has to offer and support the excellent things already taking place. This includes offering work experience, volunteer opportunities and connecting with all the dance groups/ organisations in the area.
Accessibility and transparency is key to Bath Dance’s plan, with the aim of inspiring, supporting, nurturing and signposting the local talent in the area.I’d also like dance to be part of Bath’s culture. I’m hoping to develop strong relationships with Bath’s museums, libraries and other cultural hubs to help strengthen our connection with the wider community and help bring these community buildings to life.
Bath Dance is in a period of transition. I’m currently contracted for a year at 2 days a week. We are now at the end of our funding remit, so this year is all about raising funds for the next few years and holding carefully all the great things Bath Dance has already put in place.
With limited capacity, in the short term I will be prioritising:
* Meeting and connecting with local people and listening to what they feel is needed/wanted for the area
* Developing a strategy to take Bath Dance forward
* Applying to G4A and writing other funding applications for Bath Dance
* Supporting local practitioners with mentoring 1:1s, Creative Cuppas and Dance Seed Funding
* Developing a deeper understanding of what dance opportunities are currently offered in Bath
Being a face for Bath Dance by attending local performances as well as local and regional meetings concerning dance provision.