Ipswich’s Hannah heads for dream land

When leading contemporary dance company Rambert returns to Norwich on September 27 and 28, dancing with the company will be Hannah Rudd who started her dance career with the Linda Shipton School of Dancing in Ipswich and performing in the town’s Co-op Juniors shows.

After training at the Royal Ballet School and performing with Scottish Ballet and the Michael Clark Company, she joined Rambert in 2011 and is looking forward to returning to home territory in Life is a Dream, which will receive its touring premiere at the Theatre Royal on September 27.

She chats  about what audiences can expect from the dance production:

Life is a Dream is the first full-length ballet Rambert has produced in 38 years – can you explain what it is about?

Life is a Dream is a production by Kim Brandstrup  – he is the choreographer and director of the work. The inspiration is from a Spanish play, Calderón. Kim is very interesting in blurring the line between reality and illusion. So for people who might not know anything about the play, it is about this young man who has been incarcerated since childhood and he is freed for one day. Recognising what he has missed, he then is greedy and desperate for a sense of life but to the extreme of murdering someone or rape, all the senses and experiences he hasn’t had. He is then locked away again and made to believe that it was all a dream, so that when he does approach life again he has caution and he is more careful. I guess it’s like these old tales about learning and discovering and everything that the human mind goes through.

Given that it is based so much on feelings and perceptions, does that make it a very demanding piece for dancers to bring into a physical form?

Perhaps not as much as you would think because as a dancer, as an artist, so much of what you are doing is about how you are perceiving what somebody is asking you to do. It’s not just necessarily the execution of a movement or a step. It is the inspiration you are being given, and how that works on your body. It totally changes the way that you deliver something, the way that you execute something. So it’s very useful for a dancer to have a sense as an inspiration because your body is sensuous.

Have you found it very demanding to dance?

It’s not the most demanding piece I have ever done. The role I have been given is quite a gentle role in it character, but the whole production requires physicality, concentration and dedication.

 It’s visually very beautiful – can you describe what the audience can expect to see?

It’s an extremely beautiful work. Kim is interested in creating an atmosphere for the audience to experience and for us to experience. It’s a very dark piece and it’s very shadowy and quite haunting visually. There are lots of grey and blue costumes and some of the costumes are velvet so, with the light on them, it almost looks like water or the midnight sky. So it is very beautiful work and there are lots of projections that are used. It’s quite a big set we are using. It has this old warehouse feel with these windows and you can’t really see what’s behind the windows, so it is very ambiguous.

Hannah performing in Life is a Dream by Kim Brandstrup at Sadlers Wells Theatre, London, 2018. Credit: Johan Persson

 How would you describe the music?

Complicated. The music is very complicated and I am sure Kim would say that. It was a massive undertaking for him because Lutosławski, who wrote the music, never wanted the music to be used for dance. So it is very difficult to put dance to it and there are a lot of time signature changes or sometimes not one at all, so it is tricky. It has some beautiful moments but then some moments that stand more uncomfortably which is perfect for what is being portrayed at that time during the piece.

You come from Ipswich – did you always want to be a dancer and how did you start out?

I think I always wanted to be a dancer. I was always dancing and always wanted to do more. I started with the Co-op Juniors and then the Linda Shipton School of Dancing and adored my time there with them. It was Linda Shipton who suggested I audition with the Royal Ballet School which was where I ended up going to train for seven years. I was 11 when I went to the Royal Ballet School. We had all the same academic lessons but with dancing as well.

 What led you to join Rambert?

Rambert was always one of those places I was very interested in going. When I was at school, I think there was a certain element to the formality of ballet that didn’t necessarily work for me. It was later on in my career, after I had worked for Scottish Ballet and the Michael Clark Company and done some freelance work, that I was fortunate enough to be given a place. I came and took class with the company and there was a space for me to join the company fully in 2011.

 Do you enjoy touring with your fellow dancers and what is it like to dance in front of a home crowd when you are back in East Anglia?

My family do come and see me so it is nice to come and perform near-ish to my home, and I can go and see my family, even if it’s for a day or a few hours.

And have there been some landmark productions that you were thrilled to dance in?

It is wonderful to dance in Kim’s work.  I danced in his Transfigured Night for Rambert – that was definitely a huge highlight for me to do. I had a really beautiful duet and it was another piece which was dreamlike and ambiguous. There was a recent work we did by Ben Duke which was called Goat which was a wonderful experience and I am a huge fan of his work. We are very fortunate to work with different choreographers and over my time here it has been many different people – Christopher Bruce, Ashley Page, Andonis Foniadakis. We do work with a really wide range of people. We are very lucky.

 You are probably one of the longer-serving dancers now at Rambert – is it enjoyable to watch younger dancers coming through the ranks and what advice do you give for them?

It is enjoyable. It’s funny – generations change and every generation has a different attitude and approach and I guess my advice would be to always stay curious and always be willing to learn and never bring your ego into the room. I have been doing this for 12 years now professionally and I know I still have so much still to learn. It is like everything in life, you never stop learning. And I always know there is so much more for me and so many more things I still want to learn. You have to be courageous and you have to be really strong. It can be a tough institution. It can be a tough world. You are constantly being judged and you are constantly being exposed. You have to take care of yourself during the process as well. It’s a really wonderful thing to do with your life and I think we are extremely fortunate.

And how would you encourage young would-be dancers in Ipswich or Norwich, or the surrounding towns and rural villages, to pursue their dreams if they would like to get into dance?

I guess that depends which town or city you are in, but it is getting involved in whatever community classes are available and going to the theatre whenever you can to see if it excites you. Rambert does workshops as well when we come into regional theatres. For a young person it is about starting and exploring what it is you may be interested in, as well as maybe going into a class. It is about thinking if you want to do vocational training, whether it would be going to a vocational ballet school or a more contemporary dance school like the Rambert school. It is about getting involved in whatever is available when you can. We are in a world of social media and video, so it is having a look and seeing what dancers may inspire you. It’s not necessarily easy to get to a class and pay for a class, but the internet is a fantastic thing. You can look on Youtube and watch and learn. You have to stay open and value dance and the arts which I believe is something that is very important in our culture and we always need to remember that and keeping fuelling it, keep feeding it.

 And what about the future for yourself– you are involved with Fallen Angel Dance Theatre – is this the type of work you would like to do more of and do you see this as something to focus on in the future as a life beyond dance?

Yes, I would very much like my relationship with Fallen Angel to expand. I’ve only just started working with the founder of that company, Paul Bayes Kitcher. The work he does greatly interests me. He is working with recovering non-dance addicts and he uses dance as therapy and a way to create a community environment for people who would want another sense of purpose to enable them to continue on their road to recovery. He also works with professional dancers as well who may be in the same situation or have also had experience with addiction in some kind of a way. The company is doing extremely well.  He is using what he has and his skills to reach out to people who need something to give the hope.