News: Rosemary Butcher 1947 - 2016

Thursday 28 July 2016

Rosemary Butcher, from

The dance and visual artist Rosemary Butcher died on 14 July, at the age of 69. An influential figure in post modern dance, she made over 50 works in the last four decades with an international reputation for her radical and innovative approach as an independent dance artist.

In nearly four decades Rosemary Butcher made over 50 works, mostly for non theatrical spaces and in collaboration with practitioners in music, visual arts, film and architecture. Her career in dance began in ballet, but her approach changed when in the early 1970s she moved to the US and spent time working with the Martha Graham and Cunningham Schools in New York. She was also influenced by the Judson Church movement and inspired by the crossover between film, music and the visual arts happening in New York.

“In those early years at the age of 21 or 22, I was exposed to this cross-cultural artistic world, and at the time I didn’t realise it but I inherited certainly a very strong visual presence and a sense of the influence that I felt visual art had upon my ideas of creativity.
“It was very personal and totally ideologically removed from the dance hierarchy. It was very much about a creative artist working with the body in their own individual way, so visual art has been a huge influence upon me as it has grown and changed.”
Rosemary quoted on Middlesex University website

She returned to the UK and took up a post at Middlesex University,developing an academic career alongside her own artistic practice, with work more often made for visual art galleries than theatres. She also taught at Surrey University and Laban.

In 2004, in her late fifties, she was one of the finalists in the first edition of The Place Prize for choreography. Although Hidden Voices, a 15 minute solo for dancer Elena Giannotti, didn’t win, it was highly and widely praised.

“Repetitive though the choreography first appeared, the purity of its focus became exhilarating to watch: you felt your senses had been rinsed, your intelligence put on high alert.”
Read more in Judith Mackrell’s obituary in the Guardian, 20 July 2016

“People in architecture, film, and the visual arts have always seemed to understand her work in ways in which some of the more conventionally oriented members of the British dance world have been able to do. Yet for me it has always been the movement material that dancers develop through working with her and the quality of attention with which they execute it in performance that hooked me, and that I always rediscovered each time I had an opportunity to catch up with what she had been doing.”
Ramsay Burt, Professor of Dance History at De Montfort University. Read more of his memories on his blog

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