Artistic Director Rose Beeston stepped down at the end of March
It’s impossible to encapsulate everything Rose has achieved, and she’s incredibly modest about her strengths and successes, but Dancefest and its work wouldn’t exist without her creativity, expertise, determination, tenacity and care.
We asked Rose to tell us in her own words how she’s feeling, what her highlights have been, and what her hopes for the future are, and you can read our interview with her here.
We’ll miss her very much, but the team will continue to work hard and build on Rose’s legacy. And we won’t be saying goodbye, Rose will still be dancing with us for many years to come!
You may also like to listen to Rose's Why I Dance podcast episode.
An interview with Rose
How are you feeling right now about going?
Well, on the one hand, I feel quite sad. I will miss the hustle and bustle of the office - the sharing of ideas and working on things, so I will miss that. I do think of Dancefest as my family, and so obviously leaving feels quite daunting. On the other hand, as with many jobs, there will be things that I won't miss at all, and I will be glad to have time to do other things.
What have you most enjoyed about Dancefest?
I don't think that it's a simple answer because it has changed over the years.
I've always really enjoyed working with people and the way that happens has changed - my role has moved from teaching to becoming desk-based, but it is still about enabling people to dance.
It doesn't matter how old you are or how fit or unfit - dance is a lovely thing to share.
That is something great about Dancefest - you get so many opportunities to do so many different things. I've never been bored. I like all the people that I dance with and work with.
Could you pick out some highlights?
Looking back to when Dancefest started, before it was an organisation, it was a festival, and it was part of Worcester Arts Workshop. I was working for them as a dance leader, and for me it was a really important time - the Arts Workshop encouraged and supported you to develop ideas, and so Dancefest came out of that. One of my highlights is looking back to when it started in 1990 as a festival of dance in education, dance in the community and dance in performance. Those things still remain really important to Dancefest today.
There are performance highlights. I have enjoyed the development of outdoor work. It’s something which is close to my heart. Dreams and Ruin at Witley Court in 2005 stands out, partly because of the relationship that my dad had to the place, so it came from a very personal relationship. Working with choreographers from ACE Dance and Music, Motionhouse and Angela Woodhouse and more than 100 professional and community dancers was exciting, and it was a brilliant start to a different strand of work.
But there are also smaller things that are equally special. When we do things like youth dance platforms or dance in education performances and you see the creativity and skill of the children and young people, I find very moving.
To recall particular highlights is difficult. We keep moving on. So much has changed since we started, we moved from being a festival to being a full-time organisation in 2000, we've made our work so much more accessible to so many more people. And there is still lots to explore. The attitude to dance generally has changed - there's so much more about recognising the benefits of dance to people's health and well-being. And I think that is really important.
Thinking about why you created Dancefest, how did you imagine it and how it is now compared to that? You’re the only one who knows what it was like before and now. Did you imagine it would still be here 33 years on?
It wasn't just me starting Dancefest, it was Karen van Berlo as well who worked for the local education authority and we brought together different aspects. Thinking about it lasting for 33 years is incredible, and I hope it'll still be here in another 33 years, because that's what Dancefest does. We’re a group of people who are constantly looking outwards and talking to others, trying to find out what people want to do, where they want to do it and thinking about how best we do that whilst also having our own ideas.
Things we now take for granted like lots of classes for adults and older adults, we didn’t know of anything else that was happening with that age group. And the work that we did in the community centres with children, there was nothing like that at all.
What makes Dancefest different? While some similar organisations haven’t survived, what’s made Dancefest exist for so long?
The people - we have worked closely together for Dancefest for a very long time, and in turn it's about how Dancefest works with participants. I don't think we ever try to impose anything on anyone, we always tread carefully. That's also important in terms of my role with the team. I want everyone to enjoy their work and develop their skills, interests, and ideas, and support each other to do that. And I think that it is amazing to see what is produced.
It's really interesting with age to look back. 20 years ago, I was in the place that the Dance Development Team are now, and I think that it is one of the best times. You've got energy, expertise, experience, and you've also got the confidence that you know what you're doing.
The most important part of why we've lasted is because of the people that work with us and that includes all our freelance artists. We have some amazing teachers who are incredibly creative, and we offer something which is different.
We have also had investment from funders without which we couldn’t have achieved what we have and so we owe them huge thanks.
People often describe Dancefest as a modest organisation, which I think touches on some of those things you've said. We're led by you, who is very modest about your achievements. So what are some of your personal achievements - as part of Dancefest or outside it?
Well, OK, my achievements. Keeping the team together. Finding the right group of people (or them finding us!). I'm not a strategist, so I will just say that I think I'm led very much by gut instinct and what I see around me, but that has led to some great partnerships and projects.
Well, I think all of the things you've talked about are your achievements anyway, but I think it's interesting that you often do that. You bring it back to the team
But I see myself as part of a team! I know very often when people talk about organisations, they talk about leadership and then the team, but I see myself as being part of a team, where we all have different strengths.
I think that it is an achievement to have a group of people that work brilliantly together. The Dance Team, Clare, Elizabeth, Janene and Michele are the public face of Dancefest. They're out there with our participants, but in the office we’ve got Karey, Paul, Kitty and Jane, who all use their expertise to ensure everything happens.
To put it another way then, what are your strengths?
I make artistic decisions. Although we are a very democratic organisation, sometimes you need someone who says “We've discussed this, and now this is what we're doing.”
I hope my ideas have been strengths, seeing opportunities, making good partnerships and having integrity.
We often make a joke that when we have performances, you're moving the chairs and putting the lights up, but I think it’s important to say you get stuck in.
I see myself as being part of a unit that works efficiently together, where we all play our part.
What does the future look like for you?
Well, I certainly don't want to stop. I’ve always said that. So I will certainly carry on dancing. I’ll continue to be part of the Chance to Dance Company.
I am open to thinking about different arts things, not necessarily dance. I wouldn't mind a project every now and again! I would like to do more outdoor work, and I'm quite interested in making things.
It is hard to think about not being involved in Dancefest, not working on creating projects. I think that's probably, out of everything, what I would still like to be involved with in some way. And I'm going to paint my bedroom, work on my garden - things I haven't had much time to do.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
It's impossible to predict the future, but my wish is that Dancefest goes on and thrives and develops. I have a fear of missing out on being part of organising exciting things in the future, but it will be great to be part of the audience and be a participant!
Rose Beeston is artistic director and founder of Dancefest
Dancefest started as a two week festival in 1990 to profile dance in education, community and performance, becoming an independent organisation in 2000 with Rose as the manager. Since then things have grown, but maintained the community dance ethos – offering work that is of high quality and accessible.
Here's Rose's Why I Dance podcast. with contributions from Shelley Eva Haden, Penny Perrett, Clare Wood, Jen Irons, Jill Parry-Okeden, Lucy Dennison, Michele Holder, Penny Marriott, John Taylor, Elizabeth Crosswell, Jayne Glendinning, Rachel Freeman and Janene Wyatt.