Tom Dale graduated from Trinity Laban, winning the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography. He danced with choreographers and companies including Mathew Bourne’s Adventures in Motion Pictures, before focusing on creating his own work and forming Tom Dale Company. It is here that Tom pursues his artistic vision, bringing together artists to collaborate on exciting, innovative projects that interrogate art and have a particular synergy with the digital arts and electronic music.
As well as creating work including pieces Rise, I Infinite, Refugees of the Lost Heart and Digitopia, Tom has created A New Chimera for Fertile Ground, Dark Clouds are Smouldering into Red with Sinfonia Viva, Subterrania which was part of In the Dustfor 2Faced Dance Company, Dance Please produced by TPO/Crying Out Loud/Theatre Is and I am a believer for Reza Aramesh. Tom also leads educational projects throughout the UK and internationally, working with Sinfonia Viva, the UK’s major conservatoires for dance and National Centres for Advanced Training.
He talks about his piece I Infinite as part of its first UK tour.
Have you always wanted to be involved with dance and performance?
No, my first love was football and I played to a good level, but when I stopped playing around the age of 16 there was a massive gap in my life as I moved into studying A Levels. I had chosen Maths, History and Chemistry. Chemistry was going so badly as we had done amalgamated science for GCSE which hadn’t prepared us at all. I dropped Chemistry for the only subject that was timetabled alongside it – Dance! I got absolutely hooked very quickly and our teacher took us up to London some weekends to see London Contemporary Dance Theatre and other great companies. I knew I could dance because it was the nineties and there was a big rave scene, and everyone wanted to be a cool dancer, but initially I had no idea what contemporary dance was.
Where did you train, and what was it like?
I got a scholarship to train at Trinity Laban. I had an amazing time there, had my horizons broadened and was inspired to work hard whilst at the same time managing to have fun. Training at Laban was brilliant! Such sweaty days: I can’t believe how hard we worked looking back, but it was a really inspiring place to go. I suddenly met people from all over the world, both teachers and other students who came to dance, with so many different perpectives. Moving to London was no small thing too. I found technical training really challenging at first because I came to dance quite late in comparison to most. I was much slower than everyone else to pick up routines and phrases but I knew I could actually move really well so it was really frustrating. Creatively it was great though and the technical side soon picked up once my brain got to grips with it.
Describe a day in your life now.
I have no set day now because it all depends on what project we are working on, and whether I am in rehearsals, researching or teaching, working in the office or in meetings. Currently we are prepping for this tour so we are creating schedule upon schedule. Next week rehearsals start again which will see me in the studio most of the time where I am much happier! Every day starts with making breakfast for my twin girls Lila and Cleo, who have just turned four, which is a lovely time.
What has been the defining moment of your career?
I don’t know, but perhaps creating this piece of work, I Infinite. Having just been turned down on my funding application by the Arts Council to make it, I decided to make it anyway with a small amount of money from Dance4 and Déda. I don’t know how we did it but we pulled off a stunning piece of work which we have been touring internationally ever since. This will be its first tour in the UK.
What has been the most challenging?
Perhaps that same period? No, it was definitely just after leaving New Adventures, where I was performing in Mathew Bourne’s Swan Lake. I managed to damage my inner ear somehow, either through exhaustion or something else. It took a long time to get diagnosed and better, and I had to re-train my balance mechanism in the end. This was a hard time and I felt like I was walking on sponge for about three years, but once I got back into dancing my balance got much better than it ever was.
What’s the most rewarding thing about the performing arts in general?
It gives people the opportunity to be generous. Just seeing people believe in themselves too and subsequently achieving and becoming an awesome inspiration for others is great. It is not something that can be faked.
What’s the worst thing?
Politics and power
Do you have any pre-show rituals, if you’re watching your own creations?
Haha, I don’t think so.
Who or what inspired you to create this piece?
All the talk about A.I. about 10-15 years ago, which is really ramping up again now – we understand its potential/threats – the moonwalk, body popping, robotics… all of that. I loved an old piece by Wayne McGregor called Cyborg and then there were videos like “All is full of love” by Bjork/ Chris Cunningham. There was also the work of visual artist Alexander McCall which was shown to me after we had begun our own work in this area, but was incredibly inspiring once I had seen it.
Can you sum it up in three words?
AM I Infinite?
What’s the best thing about touring a new work?
Watching it grow and become something more than it was at the end of the rehearsal period. It is fantastic to share though and if people like it or are inspired that does mean a lot.
What is your advice to an aspiring dance artist?
Do what excites you, do what you want and believe in it. Become strong in all ways.
What’s next for you?
We are making a new piece of work called Step Sonic. I have always used sound effects to communicate with dancers about dynamics I’m looking for and have flirted with the idea of creating soundscores out of these. This is part of it but this piece will be about the dancers on stage creating electronic music with their bodies though their movement, voices and dynamics. We will be creating a movement album. So choreographing from the perspective of composing sound and composing sound through choreography. This should be interesting. Can’t wait!