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Dance Dialogues with Robert Cohan: Now and Then
Thu 16 February 2017, 18:30 – 20:00 GMT
Robert Cohan will be in conversation with his biographer Paul Jackson (Reader in Choreography and Dance, University of Winchester) to discuss his recent work including his choreography for the Yorke Dance Project and Richard Alston Dance Company. As he approaches his 92nd birthday Cohan brings a unique perspective developed over 70 years on the art of choreography and the dance profession.
Robert Cohan was born in New York in 1925, trained at the Martha Graham School and joined the Graham Company in 1946 becoming a soloist and then performing throughout the world as partner to Graham herself. He left in 1957 to begin his career as a choreographer but returned to co-direct the Graham Company with Bertram Ross in 1962 for its European tour. In 1967, at the invitation of Robin Howard, he became the first Artistic Director of the Contemporary DanceTrust in London and, as such, the founding Artistic Director of The Place, London Contemporary Dance School and London Contemporary Dance Theatre, which he directed for the next twenty years. Cohan’s influence on the development of modern dance in Britain is inestimable. He was instrumental in the development of a vast following for the form through his work with LCDT and his pioneering residencies throughout the country, which laid the groundwork for the many later British companies. With LCDT he won the 1975 Evening Standard Award for Outstanding Achievement In Ballet and in 1978 a similar award from the Society of West End Theatre (now the Olivier Awards). He has also been given honorary doctorates from the Universities of Kent, Exeter, Middlesex and Winchester. In 1988 Robert Cohan was awarded a CBE in recognition of his outstanding contribution to dance in the United Kingdom. In 2013, he was awarded the De Valois Award for Outstanding Achievement at the 2012 National Dance Awards. Robert remains actively involved in the running of The Place as a member of its Board of Governors. He has been a Mentor and choreographer with the Yorke Dance Project for the last 2 years and has recently been appointed a Professor at Middlesex University.
Trained in both music and dance and has taught, performed and created both subjects internationally. He is currently Reader in Choreography and Dance at The University of Winchester UK. He has been Head of Music at Northumbria University where he also founded both dance degree programmes, having worked previously at the Arts Educational Schools London, Islington Arts Factory, Central School of Ballet and the CFPD in Poitiers, France. His teachers in dance have included Viola Farber, Erik Hawkins, Kazuko Hirabayashi, Gus Solomons jr, Alfredo Corvino and Walter Nicks, and in music, Sir Malcolm Arnold, John Cage and Virko Baley.
He has performed with the companies Gravity, Nonesuch and Artlink and has created roles in dances by artists as varied as Rudy Perez, Gus Solomon Jr and Walter Nicks. Throughout the 80s he was a member of the education teams of London Contemporary Dance Theatre, Extemporary Dance Theatre and Ballet Rambert. As a pianist he has worked with the Nevada Symphony Orchestra and as an accompanist to most of the major figures in dance.
He has written extensively on dance and music in 1997 was awarded the Chris de Marigny Dance Writers Award, and was a regular contributor to Dance Now. He is the leading authority on the music of Sir Malcolm Arnold and is the author of ‘The Life and Music of Sir Malcolm Arnold: The Brilliant and the Dark’ published by Ashgate Publishing in 2003. This was the basis for Tony Palmer’s film commissioned by The South Bank Show; Towards the unknown region: Sir Malcolm Arnold a story of survival. His biography of Robert Cohan the founding father of British contemporary dance entitled The Last Guru, Robert Cohan’s Life in Dance, from Martha Graham to London Contemporary Dance Theatre, was published in 2013 by Dance Books ltd. He is currently completing a book of essays on British ballet music to be published by dance Books in 2018. He acts as an assessor for dance and music for Arts Council England.