Fergus Early began his dancing career with the Royal Ballet and choreographed and directed for the Royal Ballet’s educational company ‘Ballet for All’ throughout the late 1960s. In the early 1970s he left the ballet to study at the London Contemporary Dance School where he became a senior teacher.
In 1976 he was a founder member of X6 Dance Space, the influential experimental dance studio and performing venue and in 1981 he helped to set up Chisenhale Dance Space, an artist-led studio and performance venue for dance in London’s East End.
In 1987 he formed Green Candle, a dance company working in community and educational contexts, devising and performing shows and education projects for particular interest groups, including pre-school children, older people, young people both in and out of schools, children with learning difficulties and people in hospital.
He is the winner of several awards, including a Greater London Arts Dance Award, a Lisa Ullman Travelling Bursary, the Time Out/Dance Umbrella Award for Outstanding Artistic Achievement and a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. In 2009 he was awarded an OBE for services to dance. He is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and received an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from De Montfort University, Leicester in 2011.
We spoke to Fergus recently around his involvement with Joie de Vivre:
1) What do you think is interesting in film as a medium for capturing work featuring mature dancers?
I think that the ability of the camera to get close to performers and reveal the life lived in older skins, older eyes, older hair, is a wonderful gift. The lens can capture the true value and significance of a simple, minimal gesture, without recourse to youthful virtuosity. It can be magic.
2) Do you still dance yourself? What are you interested in exploring creatively in your own body or other mature bodies?
Yes, I’ll always dance and sometimes I still do it in front of people. At the moment I am doing some R & D with Jacky Lansley as part of a group of dancer/performers which will lead to a performance in the autumn. I’m interested in what I can and can’t do any more and what is down to ageing and what might improve if I could only do more work in the studio…..! I’m also aware that there are ways I can dance now that I couldn’t when I was much younger – I have a lower centre of gravity now and more fluidity in my pelvis and lower back; perhaps also a greater appreciation of the minimal. When I’m working with our over 60s performance group – the Green Candle Senior Dancers, who mostly have never had any formal dance training – I’m aware of limitations, but then I’m also aware that any group of dancers has its limitations, however skilled they are and it’s my job a) to work within those limitations and b) to find ways to extend the limitations, to create through them.
3) What continues to inspire you about dance and its potential as an art form?
Perhaps it’s the dancers themselves – extraordinary people who seem on the whole to embody values that most of the world is in danger of forgetting. And of course dance holds the great secret of life – if you’re moving, you’re alive, if you’re not, you’re dead! I think in this country dance has made the most extraordinary strides as a participatory activity with huge spin-off benefits for health, well-being, community cohesion and so on, but as an art form it seems rather stagnant. However, I’m hopeful that these extraordinary alliances that dance has forged with many aspects and levels of society are quietly bringing about a refocusing and repositioning of the art form itself, with potentially radical and exciting results to come.
The Joie de Vivre film competition is now open – click here for more details.