News: Meet Dan Daw - Dance maker and performer

Wednesday 22 March 2017

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Dan Daw is a Candoco Associate Artist and currently a student at the Sadlers Wells Summer University (2015 – 2018), Dan continues to work at the forefront of collaborative performance making in the UK. Dan is a recipient of the BBC/South East Dance Performing Arts Fund Fellowship, the Outlet Dance Award and the Russell Page Fellowship in Contemporary Dance amongst others. He has been a part of Dance UK’s Mentor Bursary and the National Theatre Step Change programme, furthermore evidencing his ambitions as disabled artist to impact and lead the conversation on dance and disability.

Dan Daw is an Associate Director in partnership with Sarah-Vyne Vassallo to commission, develop and produce new work and co-manages support and reflection for the company’s independent artists with disability, Dan plays an integral role in the development and delivery of Murmuration’s artistic programs and community activities.

Tell us about the company you are currently working with, Murmuration, and the work you are doing with them?

Murmuration is an integrated performance company in Sydney, Australia I have set up with Artistic Director, Sarah-Vyne Vassallo. It is Sydney’s first professional integrated company and as the company’s Associate Director I work in partnership with Sarah-Vyne to commission, develop and produce new work and co-manage support for the company’s independent artists with disability, I play an integral role in the development and delivery of Murmuration’s artistic programs and community activities.

When did you decide you wanted to dance professionally? What drew you to dancing?

Alongside my going to theatre school at Adelaide’s Flinders University Drama Centre, I danced with Restless Dance Theatre ( where my love for dance was ignited and my dance training began. The turning point for me was when Restless worked in collaboration with Australian Dance Theatre to mount a double bill directed by Kat Worth and Garry Stewart. Working with Garry in this professional context and finding out about Candoco at around the same time gave me the confidence to seek out professional opportunities in Australia and in the UK.

What has been the stand out moment in your career to date?

Winning Best Theatre for ‘On One Condition’ at the weekly Adelaide Fringe Awards last month. Conceived by Graham Adey, ‘On One Condition’ has slowly been evolving over the last three years and to receive this endorsement from my peers of my and Graham’s collaboration in the place I started is very special indeed.

You are back at Sadler’s Wells in March as part of the Wild Card programme, which includes your new piece On One Condition, what can audiences expect from this piece and the evening?

We’re not wanting to give away too much, but just to say that audiences can “prepare to be surprised, confronted, elated, challenged, happy and sad but, above all, expect to have their expectations shattered” (Matthew Plummer, Broadway World).

London is sometimes referred to as ‘the dance capital of the world’ – do you agree with that? What would make it better to work in?

London is a city where lots of fantastic dance stuff happens, but I think to say it is ‘the dance capital of the world’ is perhaps a little inaccurate. It’s not better than, it simply offers something distinctly different to other dance cities where dance is a popular art form. I fear that if we look at London in these terms, we may grow complacent and stop working to further dance and choreography’s evolution.

You are busy touring, and performing, what else is next for you Dan?

With intentions of continuing to tour and perform ‘On One Condition’ in 2017/18, after being awarded the Jerwood Choreographic Research Project II, next month I will enter a period of choreographic research with theatre director Mark Maughan and an ensemble of four performers to dissect the notion of inspiration and explore its wider implications beyond disability. Our aim is to invite audiences to consider the origins and consequences of their own sources of inspiration.

What piece of advice would you give to dancers beginning their journey, a bit of advice you wish you knew when you were starting out?

To dancers starting out, two pieces of advice I would offer is to find ways of taking “artistic responsibility” and to be clear on what your terms are. In my career I’ve found it far more empowering to work “with” companies than work “for” companies. In this way, I’ve been able to take ownership or responsibility for what I offer in the creative space, so it feels more like a collaboration and an exchange of ideas, rather than a top down approach to making. I say this without discounting the validity of the top down or hierarchical approach.

What things help you create or develop new works? Do you have a favourite space, or routine that percolates ideas?

I’m finding allowing myself the space and time to let ideas percolate is the most useful. There seems to be an expectation of dance makers to keep churning out work and it’s important for my practice and my integrity that I resist, in a way, this pressure. This leads on from what I was saying above about dance makers being clear on their terms. I guess, these are my terms – I’ll make work when I’m ready and when I feel like ideas are formed to a point of something needing to be said.

Would you say that collaboration is necessary to creating or developing work?

The foundation of my artistic approach is collaboration. I’m not sure there are many instances where this doesn’t apply actually. Speaking for myself, there’s something quite lovely about assembling the ideal creative team and including them in all parts of the making process. There’s something addictive about the act of doing something together and I think this is the thing I enjoy most about my job.

Wild Card is a chance to see work by a new generation of dance makers curating a series of special evenings. Dance maker and performer Dan Daw curates an evening of collaborations exploring the notions of ‘success’ and ‘failure’, highlighting the role of the audience’s perception in distinguishing the two.

30 & 31 Mar
Sadler’s Wells,
Lilian Baylis Studio
Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R
Ticket office: 020 7863 8000

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