Dance Monday, December 7th

Chris Knight: Dancing as a profession

Hereford is in his heart and so is dancing.

But Chris Knight is surprised to be working as a professional dancer in his home city.

He never thought this would be possible but given his views about the resurgence of Hereford perhaps he shouldn’t be too surprised.

“I never thought I would be back in Hereford dancing,” said Chris.

“I think it says something about the city and the energy here at the moment.

“There are lots of entrepreneurs setting up and there is a lot of life coming back into the city.”

 

Chris performing at the Courtyard in Hereford.

Chris started dancing with the2Faced Dance Company when he was 14-years-old. He now works for the company as a professional and credits it for launching his career.

“It is unusual for a dance company to get to a point where it can employ five full time dancers along with office staff,” said Chris.

“It is amazing we have got a touring company here in Hereford. I think for young people it makes the city a more attractive proposition.”

As a pupil at the Bishop of Hereford’s Bluecoat School Chris started breakdancing with his mates.

“We were breaking but it had more of a contemporary format,” said Chris.

“We were gaining so much performance experience but I don’t think I appreciated the benefits until later.”

Chris avoided the Billy Elliot syndrome of being vilified for dancing as a male and believes we now live in more enlightened times.

“I think we are getting past the Billy Elliot sort of thing,” said Chris.

“When I left dance school for the first time in its history there was a fifty/fifty ratio between male and female students.

“I have been brought up in a very physical environment and to start with when I was breakdancing it was just another interesting way of moving.

“At school there were a few of us that wanted to dance.

“We were doing some pretty cool stuff. For instance, I had to leave school early one day to travel to Germany to do a gig.

“When you are having experiences like that with your mates you can easily brush off any stick.”

After deciding that he wanted to make dance his full time career Chris completed his professional training at The Northern School of Contemporary Dance and London Contemporary Dance School, where he graduated in 2012 with a BA (Hons).

“After graduation I worked at various companies for three years. I was really lucky to get work straight after university,” said Chris.

Since graduating he has performed in the UK and aboard in many different productions including Windows in Progress by Protein Dance, Motionhouse’s USA and Asia tours of Scattered, and Helene Blackburn’s Concert Danse at Birmingham Symphony Hall.

“You cannot beat the feeling of performance. What I feel really lucky to have done is to perform in different countries to very different audiences,” said Chris.

“It is interesting to see how they are received differently and see the different customs in the theatres.

“Whenever I see a international company coming to the UK I am interested in seeing the work, at the same time it is interesting to see how different people work in different countries.”

Shumpei Nemoto, the Japanese choreographer Chris worked with in Germany, had a big impact on him.

“He had very different ways of choreographing a creative process,” said Chris.

“We would be in the studio and he would work with a single performer for a number of hours.

“A lot of us have come from a background where the rehearsal has everybody doing something.

“It took three days in rehearsals before I started to work physically with the choreographer. He gave us a lot of reading materials about his ideas.

“A few of the concepts in the reading materials really jumped out at me.”

This experience will inform Chris’s work as a creative-in-residence at Hereford College of Arts.

He plans to create a choreographic work incorporating the Japanese ideas about aesthetics in art that he has come across.

He also wants to explore how dance is taught in the UK. This will involve developing a series of exercises that dance teachers can use to allow students to develop their creativity.

“I work in a lot of schools and I have noticed in mainstream schools it is something that teachers need a hand with,” said Chris.

He will work closely with the performing arts department at the college.

“The piece I am looking to make is something that I started off when I was asked to create a piece for a gallery in Italy,” said Chris.

“One of the concepts I am looking to use in this is that of Iki. One of the explanations of Iki is that it protects the possibility of possibility and this is linked to the Japanese art of seduction.

“It is about enticing the whole audience into something without giving them everything. Luckily I have been given space and resources at the college to create something.”

The work will involve having a shed on stage and a projection which the dancer can interact with.

“I am using the artist in residence project to play with ideas,” said Chris.

“What is great about the programme is it is so unusual to be offered the support of an organisation that has a lot of experience with the arts.

“And I want to focus on what I have picked up along the way.”

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