Jane Attenborough Award Winner: Gill Clarke MBE (2010)

Gill ClarkeGill Clarke was educated in English and Social Sciences, and has spent her career as an independent dance artist; performer, teacher, movement researcher and later producer/curator. A founder member of the Siobhan Davies Dance Company, she also performed and collaborated with many choreographers including Janet Smith, Rosemary Butcher and Rosemary Lee. Gill lead master classes and workshops internationally and was Head of Performance Studies at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance (2000-2006) and continued to be a consultant there. She was a joint NESTA fellow, served as a Trustee of Dance UK,  received a London Dance and Performance Award, and an MBE.

A pioneering independent dance artist, co-director of Independent Dance (ID) and co-founder of Dance UK Gill Clarke MBE died on November 15 2011, having been announced as the 2010 winner of the Jane Attenborough Dance UK Industry Award earlier the same year. She died as she lived, calmly and with great poise.

Gill was closely involved in Dance UK since it was established in 1982 and she was key to the formation of the Dance UK independent dance artists e-group. As a former board member she was an ardent and committed champion of support and recognition for independent dance artists. Whenever the Dance UK team organised anything, the voice of Gill was always in our minds encouraging us to constantly consider representation for independent dancers, and still is now at One Dance UK.

Gill was announced as the Jane Attenborough Dance UK Industry Award winner at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards at Sadler’s Wells on 24 January 2011. The award was accepted by the choreographer Siobhan Davies on Gill’s behalf. The Dance UK Industry Award honours an individual working in dance who has made an outstanding contribution to the art form and who, through their knowledge, skill and generosity, has had a significant effect on dance. The winner is chosen following an open nomination process, making the winner someone who is truly respected and admired by their colleagues. Gill’s nominations for the award cited the importance of her impact as an advocate for independent dance artists. Also, her generosity, offering time and advice to support fellow artists, resulting in her being recognised as a major influence on the careers of many independent dance artists and choreographers.

Choreographer Rosemary Lee said:

‘No one has so selflessly, intelligently and creatively done more to support dance and practitioners in the last decade.’

Gill Clarke said in her award acceptance letter:

I would like to accept the award on behalf of Independent Dance Artists– that powerful and under-acknowledged workforce that is made up of all those artists who work in the demanding freedom outside the relative security of institutions. These multi-talented artists are vital to the Dance ecology – they are the performers or choreographers of most of the contemporary work seen around the country, they act as bridge-builders, connecting a public of all ages to the rewards of engaging with dance, they teach and inspire the next generation of artists as well as established company members, and most importantly their investment and passion generates knowledge that will help us to keep re-defining Dance, ideas that will find their way into mainstream theatres such as this – and new choreographic forms in media and contexts that we cannot yet imagine.

She was Co-director of Independent Dance, resident at Siobhan Davies Studios. She developed a new MA in Creative Practice, in partnership with Siobhan Davies Dance and Trinity Laban aimed at mid-career professional artists, and was involved in research around dance training and education. She worked with South Bank, Barbican and Serpentine Gallery on the involvement of dance performers in their visual arts programmes, and directed a trans-disciplinary Lab of experts around ‘Movement and Meaning’ with PAL, an organisation that builds partnerships between artists to make new work.

Susan Sentler Senior Lecturer at Laban said when Gill won the award:

‘Gill Clarke does not specifically work for a ‘particular institution’ but for the all within dance, and has devoted herself relentlessly to enriching the art form in a multitude of modes and within all kinds of frameworks. Her openness and generosity to students, young artists, practitioners, professionals, institutions, and the general public is outstanding. The hunger and passion for the art form she generates is extraordinary. She is inspiring as an artist, and is absolutely phenomenal as a teacher, educator, and mentor.’

Gill is greatly missed by the dance world.