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Be our guest: What it's like to host a Fellow

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Francesca Tortora | 10:50 UK time, Thursday, 26 July 2012

On the 13th August, the next round of this year’s funding will be on offer through our Music Fellowships scheme. This scheme will be open to organisations who hope to host a Fellow in the early stages of their career.

Music companies, organisations, venues and festivals from across the UK will need to have a Fellow in mind when they apply so we asked Marie McCluskey MBE, the Artistic Director at Swindon Dance, what her experience has been since receiving a Dance Fellowship in 2011.


Marie McCluskey smiling with choreographer Fellow James Wilton

Marie McCluskey smiling with choreographer Fellow James Wilton. Photographer: Jeremy Freedman

How did you go about finding your Dance Fellow, James Wilton?
It was quite an organic process; Swindon Dance is always on the lookout for new dance talent, especially choreographers and companies. I had started to pick up on James’ name and reputation from various sources and partner producers and finally met him through a meeting set up by Ron McAlistair at South Hill Park to explore the possibility of a joined up approach to nurturing James’ work and company development. The runes were stacking up and so by the time the opportunity to apply for the Dance Fellowship came along it seemed like a fortuitous next step and I approached James with a view to nominating him.

How did you come to decide on the structure of the Fellowship?
Swindon Dance has for many years offered a range of Associate Artist opportunities of varying lengths to choreographers – the PAF application process and guidelines encouraged me to revisit previous frameworks and, following initial discussions with James, to rework one to suit Swindon Dance, James and the Fund’s requirements.

How collaborative was the process? How much involvement did you have will your Fellow?
I think we had just the right amount of time and collaborative working together. James is at an exciting point in his development as a choreographer and of James Wilton Dance Company; his work is generating a real demand. In addition he is proactively developing new links all the time and so we worked in a flexible way in order for him to fulfil his commitments at Swindon Dance whilst also responding to new opportunities .We used a mentoring process to agree upon these choices – both myself and Sue Davies (freelance dance consultant) are working with James as mentors.

What is the plan for the final performance or experience?
James has created a 15 minute solo as part of his Fellowship and this will be performed on November 30th in Swindon Dance Studio Theatre.  This will be part of an evening called Simply Solo – which will present solos created by four different choreographers and followed by a facilitated Q&A which will look at the solo form in dance and how and why each choreographer has been inspired to make and develop their solo.

Have you had to adapt parts of the original plan?
Yes – that was the realisation / discovery that we made – The PAF funding gave James and Swindon Dance the opportunity to respond flexibly to certain new opportunities or changes in creative ideas. For example, James initially thought he would make a new group piece as part of his Fellowship. In the end he realised he wanted to work in a more reflective and rigorous way with a solo performer and the time and space he had (a luxury for a choreographer) meant that he could engage in meaningful research and development  as opposed to meeting a deadline for a finished piece e.g. process led versus product led. Also we changed some initial planned activity in Swindon to enable James to take up exciting opportunities e.g. performance in Dies De Danza in Barcelona.

What has been the highlight of working with James so far?
The fresh energy and ideas he has brought to Swindon Dance – a ‘get up and go now’ attitude and sharing risks. For example he decided at quite short notice to change the layout of his performance at Swindon Dance – the right decision which resulted in a fantastic evening of dynamic dance – and threw a complete new perspective on his work. It is refreshing to witness his ‘nothing is a problem’ approach to his work and to solving problems through a creative approach. James also encouraged (politely) that we engage more fully in social networking and was confident in making suggestions to us too.

Any final bits of advice for an organisation thinking of taking on a Fellow?
Make time to listen to your Fellow – they have the fingers on the pulse of the future! Build in some flexibility to respond to creative twists and turns as they emerge. Do have an agreement and budget and make sure you review them both during the placement.

Would you apply for the scheme again?
Yes it has been an amazing scheme for dance – commissions for chorographers and the time to enable a rigorous period of process driven research and development are a luxury in today’s world, especially time for reflection!  I sense that the PAF Fellowship provided James with the space and funding to begin planning his future pathways and for personal and choreographic reflection and growth.

Thank you Marie for the insight!

More information about the Music Fellowship scheme is nowavailable  on our website where you can read the Terms and Conditions and FAQs. And you can also  learn more about the Dance Fellowship scheme here.


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