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The CEO and Artistic Director of Déda reflects on the influential figures he has learned from.

Photo of Stephen Munn
Stephen Munn at Déda's 20th anniversary celebrations

Michael Clark (Choreographer)

Moving from the West Coast of Scotland to London in the early 1980s was the most exciting of times: I landed in Hammersmith working in and around the iconic Riverside Studios. This is where I first encountered the Michael Clark Company, and to be honest at first I never quite got it. But the sounds, imagery and movement have stayed with me throughout my career. Watching Michael, who is the same age as me and also from Scotland, turned any conception I had about dance on its head - the abstraction was liberating, visionary.

I later toured with the Michael Clark Company as their Technical Manager on the European Tour of the show O in 1994, and again Michael had a huge impact on me. There were amazing highs, but also some challenging times. I still follow all he does with excitement and always a bit of envy.

Michael Hulls (Lighting Designer)

Lighting for dance for me is like painting and it is rare that a design completely partners with the choreography. This takes total empathy with the work being created and a confidence to, at times, dictate the movement. Michael Hulls, as an artist who works with light, has these qualities in abundance. Being with Michael in a focus session can be excruciating: time disappears as he works with one light after the next, coaxing them to do exactly what he needs in exactly the right place – he builds his canvas.

The term 'collaboration' is used a lot but Michael is a true collaborator and works best with like-minded artists such as, of course, the amazing choreographer Russell Maliphant, another hero of mine!

Dr Marion North, Laban Dance Centre, and the ‘Table of Four’

I joined Laban Dance Centre in 1994 and stayed until 2003, and I can honestly say those nine years changed my path. It was the time of the Creekside Capital project and I was on the Client Liaison Team with some extraordinary people, including Jacques Herzog (architect), Anthony Bowne (now Principal at Trinity Laban), Michael Craig Martin (artist) and of course the late Dr Marion North, Director of Laban. Marion became my mentor over my time at Laban, encouraging me to complete an MA in Arts Management and think about the future – ‘Always come with the solution Steve, never the problem’, she advised.

The Creekside building went on to win the 2003 RIBA Sterling Prize Building of the Year award. When we moved into the new building, I shared a work station for a short period of time with an inspirational group: Nicky Molloy-Napier (Producer), Eva Martinez, now at Sadler Wells, and the legendary Gill Clarke (Dance Artist) – a very precious time indeed!

Rachel Clare (Artistic Director, Crying Out Loud)

I first met Rachel in 1983 when I moved to London and a friend of mine was living in Rachel’s Mother’s house - which, looking back, is quite bizarre. Our paths have crisscrossed ever since, mostly around presenting and producing contemporary circus and outdoor performance. Déda is currently involved in creating a piece of research which is concerned with the crossover between dance and contemporary circus practice. Rachel has been integral to the thinking in this area.

She and Crying Out Loud are leaders in their field and I trust Rachel’s judgements as a producer and programmer implicitly, often seeking her advice on international matters - of which she is the complete guru.

Déda Trustees

I think one of my strengths is to surround myself with people who really know what they are talking about - because often I don’t. The Déda Trustees are a brilliant group, whom I am in awe of for their collective knowledge and generosity. Over the past twelve years, I have worked closely with three inspirational Chairs: Shona Powell (Lakeside Arts), Michaela Butter (Attenborough Arts Centre) and Geoff Sweeney (National Holocaust Centre and Museum). I have learned vast amounts from these people and they have helped place Déda on steady ground.

Stephen Munn is CEO and Artistic Director of Déda, the Creative Centre for Dance, Contemporary Circus and Outdoor Performance, located in the Midlands. It hosts the Family Arts Festival from 1st – 3rd November.


Link to Author(s): 
Stephen Munn