Excerpt from Gill Clarke’s Obituary
Gill Clarke 1954-2011
….. “Gill was awarded the Jane Attenborough Dance UK Industry Award in January 2011 for her outstanding contribution to dance. Gill’s nominations for the award cited the importance of her impact as an advocate for independent dance artists. Also, her generosity, offering time and advice to support fellow artists, resulted in her being recognised as a major influence on the careers of many independent dance artists and choreographers. In her acceptance letter she wrote – I would like to accept the award on behalf of Independent Dance Artists– that powerful and under-acknowledged workforce that is made up of all those artists who work in the demanding freedom outside the relative security of institutions. These multi-talented artists are vital to the Dance ecology – they are the performers or choreographers of most of the contemporary work seen around the country, they act as bridge-builders, connecting a public of all ages to the rewards of engaging with dance, they teach and inspire the next generation of artists as well as established company members, and most importantly their investment and passion generates knowledge that will help us to keep re-defining Dance, ideas that will find their way into mainstream theatres– and new choreographic forms in media and contexts that we cannot yet imagine.
In the spirit of supporting dance artists in her typical non-judgemental and generous way, Gill was instrumental in promoting a fair and creative approach to feedback. Drawing on the Liz Lerman Critical Response Process and through her own example, she encouraged us all to use this kind of approach in mentoring and giving feedback. Among the numerous initiatives she supported, all of which bettered the conditions and treatment of dancers were the move to have dancers’ names acknowledged more in written publicity, and supporting the work being done to promote good practice in the studio in relation to dancers health.
Poised, gracious and welcoming to all, Gill was a true diplomat. However bad practice where dancers’ physical and mental wellbeing is compromised, and ongoing obstacles to development and equality such as gender imbalance, closed mindedness and ignorance, troubled her greatly. She had no time for egotism, seeking instead to listen, observe, build bridges, expand the frame and promote fair and good practice that was non hierarchical.
In the last ten years she strove to show that dance and movement research is a vital element that can be used and shared within education, health and the social sciences. The particular forms of knowledge that dancers share Gill recognized as being undervalued and largely unacknowledged. She set up with Susan Benn of PAL, Movement and Meaning laboratories described as “a cross-disciplinary exploration of our embodied nature: bringing together the physical and sensory intelligence of dance artists, with scientists, social scientists, influential policy makers and opinion-formers across culture and education.” These labs and talks have and will continue to be fruitful exchanges and each and everyone involved found her modesty, curiosity and knowledge an inspiration.
Gill contemplated the “notion that we are grounded in the relationship with the environment which is changing constantly, what is coming into the present is us and the environment…in conversation. One definition of intelligence could be to be ready to adapt.” She believed the dance practice she and her colleagues are deeply involved in has strong ethical values that are fundamental and timely; namely readiness, openness, curiosity, embracing individual enquiry, working co operatively to find solutions, creating situations where learning can happen, embracing uncertainty, ambiguity and specificity, and “tuning” ones “skills of attention”. What better approach to our time and place.
Working right up to the very end with startling courage, she died as she lived, calmly and with great poise.”
- Rosemary Lee and Siobhan Davies (November 2011)
read full obituary
listen to Gill Clark in Crossing Borders 2011