I have wanted to interview Beth since I saw her performance at The Queens Hall after I experienced Illuminated Sheep at Hexham. So I was lovely for her to take some time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.
Image: Beth _ credit_ Saya Rose Naruse
How did Beth Veitch Dance come about?
Working under the name ‘Beth Veitch Dance’ began accidentally really! When I graduated, I was dedicated to working as a performer before later realising it wasn’t quite where I wanted my sole focus to lie. I feel the most at home with a creation hat on; designing work and projects that align my values, my voice, my choreographic style and my Northern roots. It feels like a small slice of magic to craft the journey of a work from the very beginning, curating an alternative perspective of the world through movement, or offering audiences a different frame to view something through. When I choreographed my first work and programmers would ask for a company name, I just started to say Beth Veitch Dance without much thought behind it. At the time, I was quite happy to be ‘just Beth’, as most of my time as an early career dance maker is spent alone in my bedroom behind my laptop trying to make something happen! But as projects began to include more creatives and take up more space, Beth Veitch Dance became the umbrella under which everything sat. So it stuck! And is probably more appropriate than ‘just Beth from Newcastle’ despite it still feeling very much like that at times …
Did you start your career in the North East? If so what was your dance journey like in the region?
I grew up in Hexham and came to dance much later than most through opportunities at my school which absolutely changed the trajectory of my life. I will always be a huge advocate for creative subjects in education, as I wouldn’t be living the life I do now if I hadn’t been given the chance to ‘give dance a try’ back then. I was lucky to be part of a youth company, Youth Dance Tynedale, which provided contemporary dance training and performance opportunities, working with local choreographers to develop 2-3 works a year. It was here that the fire was lit! I began a degree at Dance City in Newcastle, which focused on practical training and developing skills relevant to pursue a portfolio career in dance. I joined Mapdance; a postgraduate touring dance company based at the University of Chichester where I toured four commissioned works by Liz Aggiss, José Agudo, Anthony Missen and Didy Veldman across the UK and Cyprus. I worked on some smaller projects down South before my heart pulled me back home. Since planting roots back here, I have worked across the North East in performance, teaching and choreographic roles, working closely with local venues, organisations, communities and artists across the region.
What is the North East dance industry like? Are there many opportunities? Advice for young dancers starting out.
The North East dance industry is small, and sadly feels as though it is decreasing in numbers. Though so incredibly rewarding when you’re working on a project, it does often feel like the odds are stacked against artists to get there. There is a will and dynamism within the dance community to find spaces for our work to exist and I’ve seen and participated in some really brilliant, locally grown work over the last 12 months.
When I moved back to the region in 2019, I initially struggled to find work as a performer within my own postcode, which led to a lot of Megabus journeys to and from London through the night. Memories of this very much fuel my own process of looking to source local artists as collaborators. I am proud that I’ve been able to provide employment for emerging, early career North East based artists in my work so far and I’m looking to get support from local organisations to be able to continue to do so.
Image: 1 – Credit – Saya Rose Naruse
Something that makes working in dance in the North East so rewarding is our local communities. There is a charm to Northern souls and the energy of the Northern spirit that cannot be articulated in words but is the absolute heartbeat of the work I do. We have diverse and rich communities across our region and equally, areas deprived of arts engagement opportunities. The hunger and need for the work the creative community do in our communities is palpable. There is a real energy from local makers to engage with audiences across the region and dispel the historic myth that dance is ‘difficult’ or ‘exclusionary’ – we just need the support to be able to deliver this. At every turn, I find that despite the challenges, there are many champions of dance and arts in the North East and they are paving greater opportunities for other artists to work across the region. Resilience is the key word here; even in the trickiest of landscapes, you will find artists fighting for their work to exist.
My advice for young dancers starting out is to put yourself in as many creative rooms as you can, remain open, keep letting in the love for what you do and grow your network. As a student, I really wanted to meet artists, learn and understand the local dance ecology and to keep experimenting in finding my own artistry and I think following graduation, this was something that paid its dividends.
Tell me about your dance style?
I work with a contemporary dance movement language. I like to work with dancers who have their own ‘groove’ and also have a point of view. I am as much invested in the person as the mover and I think sometimes, you cannot separate the two. I like to use contact work, with bodies using bodies to create moving images and textures, ledges, moments of flight and barriers. My work is imagery led, rather than steps and counts and often comes from a basis of written text and research. I work with a range of collaborators in aural, visual and film design who all contribute to the way the work moves, feels and is experienced.
In my most recent work, Waiting on It, working with the wonderful musician Anna Hughes I wanted to find a way in which movement and music could intertwine and physically move as one. Anna was very much part of the live performance, working with the dancers to trigger and bridge movement and be a fundamental part of the choreography while providing live accompaniment. In planning my next work, I am looking to continue to develop this as part of my working process and style, seeing how both elements can be valued equally and become one. It helps to collaborate with a musician as fearless as Anna!
I think my dance style will continue to adapt and evolve with every project I undertake and will always be underpinned with a range of artistic contributions, but with Waiting on It being my debut live work, it feels like I’ve had the space to experiment, explore my choreographic voice and lay down some foundations for the way I hope to continue working in future.
Did you work with Fertile Ground? What was that like?
I worked and toured with Fertile Ground Dance from Summer 2020 – Spring 2022 on their triple bill, Myths and Dreams. I worked with three other early career, North East connected dancers and we performed three works in a short tour across the North East, choreographed by Renaud Wiser, Malgorzata Dzierzon, Clementine Vanlerberge and Fabritia D’Intino. This contract was a mix of firsts for me; working with a film crew on Gosia’s work Somnium, working with complex tech and VR equipment through the process of developing Renaud Wiser’s Labyrinth and working on an empowering, ever evolving restaging of Plubel. The experience of working with Fertile Ground, working with three other early career performers and working in new and familiar spaces across the North East gifted me much insight into the way I wanted to work choreographically in the future. It is a fantastic opportunity for recent North East graduates to experience working in the industry, continuing their physical training under the programme and developing their artistry. I owe a lot to Renaud and Gosia who were nurturing and generous throughout the two years of employment they provided and helped me to access the way I am now working.
Tell me all about Waiting on It- was it a collaboration piece? What was that like? Was it your first time doing something like that?
Waiting on It is my first professional project, commissioned by Dance City and supported by Arts Council England. It took its first form in 2019, as a series of three short dance films looking at time’s continuum, with waiting, patience and otherness punctuating our experience. Each film took a different approach to capturing a specific kind of waiting; for permission, for love, for others, to be held, for the right time and for the kettle to boil. From the universal to the personal, many stories emerged and were shared throughout the process of devising and audience feedback following film screenings at Tyneside Cinema, Dance City, Berwick Maltings and Durham Fringe Festival.
Waiting on It then took its second form in Autumn 2022 as a live dance work which toured regionally with the beautiful Roma by local choreographer Anthony Lo-Giudice. It was supported by Arts Council England and Community Foundation Tyne and Wear and was partnered by Berwick Maltings, Queens Hall Arts, Alnwick Playhouse and Tees Dance. The work evolved from the films to take a form that felt the most realised, heartfelt, tonal and honest. Blending movement, live music and spoken word, it looked at different forms of waiting to the films; waiting to emerge, dealing with patience, waiting as a woman, waiting for the bus, for your moment, to be heard and the turning tides of fortune favouring the brave. Audiences follow shifting, tactile movement, sensitive moments, a blend of images and invitations. It toured different spaces and venues across the region. My favourite space to experience the work was the art gallery at Queens Hall, Hexham. We had people sat, stood, viewing from the balcony and stairs – all showing up to enjoy a night of dance made locally, with love and care. I love the idea of people stumbling upon the work unassumingly, the intimacy of sharing a small space and people-watching, people-watching.
A valuable aspect of my work in the North East that I am continuing to develop is community engagement. As part of my most recent project, Waiting on It, I was able to work across the North East, from Berwick to the ‘boro, with community groups covering ages 9-75. We worked in a mixture of ways; creating a film with Berwick based mature community group Nifty after Fifty, workshop opportunities for young people in Alnwick, a new co-created work with aspiring young choreographers based in the Tees Valley and formed vital partnerships with organisations and venues to make this possible. Watch this space for more!
Image: Nifty after Fifty filming Waiting for a hug
What does the future of Beth Veitch Dance look like?
Exciting! We have a few films launching over the next month, including a short documentary by filmmaker Alex Ayre on the making of Waiting on It across the Autumn. There are plans to bring Waiting on It back in 2023 in its current live form, to make it braver and to find new spaces for the work. I also plan to begin development for a new work, centring around the themes of lighthouses, being a light for someone and illuminating memories of the past, which will take us into 2024. In 2022, I experienced so many gorgeous and genuine connections with local community groups which I hope can continue to be nurtured so more Northern souls can find themselves in welcoming, warm spaces to have a dance. I’m also understanding what it practically looks like to be a supporter of emerging, early career local artists and I’m hoping to develop something here that can extend support beyond project-based employment, working closely with other dance makers to understand how we can collaborate on this. 2023 will also look at finding new journeys for the Waiting on It films to be screened and playing with the online space. I am about to start a mentoring scheme with Parable Dance to improve the accessibility of my work and processes and look to be more inclusive in my practice. More listening, learning and investing locally. 2022 has been a brilliant year, laying a lot of really crucial groundwork and putting reflections into practice so this really does feel like the beginning of Beth Veitch Dance!
Where can people find out more about Beth Veitch Dance?
I have just launched a website: www.bethveitchdance.com and you can find out more about the work and get insight into the process at @BethCVeitchDance on Instagram.