I got the chance to sit down and have a coffee with the mastermind behind Beyond Repair Dance. Find out what makes Jane Coulston tick, and her secrets to creating one of the UK’s most successful dance companies.
If you attended The Hustle launch earlier this month, then this incredible dance company need no introduction. However for those of you not lucky enough to grab a ticket, Beyond Repair Dance (BRD) provided the ‘official’ entertainment for the event, amongst an array of unofficial entertainment, (those involved shall remain nameless).
This small but powerful company is the brainchild of Jane Coulston, who co-founded the company back in 2008 with the intention of following her contemporary training and building a company to perform within the dance theatre arts world. However it’s clear to see after speaking to Jane for less then 5 minutes, that her ideas, creativity and personality are far from traditional.
How it all began
When asked how did BRD come to be? Jane explains how she originally trained at LABAN and has come from a very traditional contemporary background,
“We used to apply for arts council funding and do those kind of tours, but I think in a very short amount of time I began to find applying for funding very exhausting and really boring, you had to jump through lots of hoops. I would see lots of interesting things on television, different things that actually floated my boat a little bit more.”
Some of you who have followed BRD may be aware of their feature on the first series of ‘Got To Dance’ and Jane talks about this being a turning point in the companies style and direction,
“I got a really nice insight into TV stuff and we started working with body artistry. It was really fun and interesting to me, I’m always really fascinated in seeing artwork being made and how you can make a creation. A friend of mine who is a body artist came to me and it kind of grew from that point.”
The next step
It was after this that the company really began to broaden its reach and audiences, and Jane’s choreographic style started to develop along with it.
“I wanted to work more in film and TV and not just choreographing full pieces, but stepping into a scene or music video and collaborating with other people for the overall design of something, rather then one 25 minute contemporary dance piece that the same audience is going to watch. Where you all go and see each others work because your obligated to and you don’t actually know if anyone new is coming to see it … I didn’t feel like I fitted into that area.”
It is clear at this point to see Jane’s creative passions come to life as she describes her current working environment,
“To me its more exciting working in different places, in different contexts with different people, where I’m working with actors or a director who doesn’t know about dance, I enjoy that exchange where you are sharing some of your knowledge and learning new stuff.”
It is this passion for creating that defines BRD and is at the heart of all Jane’s ideas,
“I wanted to provide another option, (from the stereotypical corporate entertainment) so making it personal and making it bespoke and not an interruption to an event but an addition to an event … so that people can find something of themselves in the performance.”
Supporting our community
Alongside developing accessible dance, Jane also has a goal to provide dancers with REAL dance jobs, she is aware of the talent within London’s bars, Theatres, FOH and promo events and wants to do what she can to provide sustainable work for dancers.
“Lets get dancers employed so that they have a couple of jobs a week, so they are actually dancing, but it doesn’t always mean its with big companies doing long contracts, that was always really important to me, because then you’re a working, active dancer.”
Q & A
What is the worst job you have done? The job where you drew the line?
It comes to me straight away, for several years I was doing body statue work, and for one job they got me walking around a boat exhibition with only nipple guards on painted just with a brand logo, all over my boobs all over my arse, everywhere. I drew the line when they got us to unveil a boat, but I was arse out to the audience, to a wall of paparazzi, (Jane is laughing just as much as me at this point) … and I thought, i’m a grown up now, I can’t do this! I was no longer a body statue, I was just a walking, naked, brand!
If you ever have the joy of meeting Jane, please get her to tell this story in full detail, as her delivery is truly hilarious!
What’s the job that has been a perfect culmination of everything?
There are so many things that come to mind, but one that I think of a lot was one I did for WhatsApp TV with a girl talking about her abuse as a child and we were telling her story through dance. It was really heavy, but I felt like myself and my dancer were a part of her recovery in some way. It was so important to get her experiences out there and it felt like an important and fulfilling job.
Top 3 Choreographers?
Supple Nam – He’s been an inspiration to me since ‘Got To Dance’ he’s so generous with supporting people.
Jasmin Vardimon – I think she has a really individual style and doesn’t worry what anyone else thinks, her work is really intelligent but also very entertaining.
Ryan Huffington – He has caused a huge shift in taking quite contemporary work that’s very quirky, and playing around with an overall aesthetic like in ‘Chandelier’ and ‘Elastic Heart’ and this has carved a way for more contemporary performances.
Top Three Classes to take?
Tory’s Contemporary Ballet (Pineapple) – Everybody should take this class, especially any dancers not wanting to be a ballet dancer specifically. Anybody can go and get something out of this class, and there is always a great atmosphere.
Hakeem Onibudo (DancceWorks) – People always seem to be having so much fun in there, just really great positive vibes.
Space & Flow with Raphan (Indaba Yoga Studio) – I think it’s important to do a non dance class sometimes, and it’s a nice studio, its a really nice space and a great environment to go and just do something for your body.
Favourite Song right now?
Sia – Cheap Thrills
Are you taking on new dancers? How would someone work with you?
I am always looking for new dancers. I would advise people to use social media and get videos of themselves doing whatever they are doing, even just get someone to film you in class. The way I meet lots of dancers is in my class at DanceWorks, and if your interested in the company, drop me a line first and let me know your coming to the class, it doesn’t mean you have to come to the class every week, but it’s a great way for me to meet you and see you dance.
I don’t look for just contemporary dancers, I’m not looking for a particular aesthetic from any dancer, I actually like dancers that when they walk on stage you don’t expect them to be a dancer, but when they move they just shock you with their presence. This keys in with what I was thinking for the company about our flaws, these are the things that might need repairing, the things that are unusual about us are what makes us different. We are a collective of different styles, backgrounds and skills, hence Beyond Repair Dance.
What does the The Hustle mean to you?
There couldn’t not be The Hustle! You know when your at home plugging away like the freelance nutters that we are and there are people putting out the feelers for different jobs, or asking for recommendations or helpful and impartial advise I think its important that as a collective of people we support each other. It’s an absolute necessity.
I told a work experience student the other week, “start with The Hustle” it’s essentially artists looking after artists. The Hustle is a community that is promoting real change and making everyone feel a little less lonely, a little less isolated.” This last statement is made with Jane’s natural humour
“We are enough of a minority as it is and if we don’t come together we’re SCREWED!”
Since those early years BRD has expanded its vision in an effort to break the mould of the standard contemporary company, bringing in elements from a variety of different sources, to create pieces that are new and exciting for a broad spectrum of audiences. With a long term vision for the company of lager scale productions and possibly a full blown theatre show, this is only the beginning for Jane and Beyond Repair Dance.
Facebook: Beyond Repair Dance