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5 February 2020
Author: The Place

Dance Beyond Dance - Dean Burke

When did you study at LCDS? Why did you decide to study contemporary dance?

BA Hons. 2004/05 - I left at the end of my first year due to illness. As a teenager I was a musical theatre geek through and through, when I reached GCSEs I was inspired by my dance teacher to look at contemporary. Both she and her husband were contemporary dancers - she trained at The Place and her husband ran the 4th year at Northern Contemporary.

Tells us a little bit about what happened since! Was there a moment you realised there was something else you wanted to pursue instead of dance?

After recovery I returned to dance, but something wasn’t right. No matter how much I loved the art it no longer sat with me in the same way. I realised I no longer had the fire or drive. I would cancel auditions and find ways to cancel contracts before starting rehearsals. I felt a responsibility to “retire” and leave a space for someone who wanted it more than myself.

After a couple of years being a bit lost at sea, I started to look at what I could apply my creative skills to and retrain. Dance was my life, but what do you do when that leaves you? That was a difficult question to find an answer to.

What is it you do now? Tell us about your business/career/role!

Now I’m a Milliner making hats for stage and screen. I needed an outlet for my creative frustrations. I found a course and then became an apprentice to the woman who taught the course. I now make hats for the Royal Ballet, West End shows, Dance Companies, TV dramas and Feature Films.

Recent work includes: BBC/HBO ‘His Dark Materials’, Royal Ballet ‘Swan Lake’, DeNada Dance Company ‘Mariposa’, Arthur Pita ‘The Wind’, ‘SIX- the musical’, ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’, ITV ‘Victoria’, BBC ‘Gentleman Jack’ and ‘The Phantom of the Opera’. 

What did you take away from your creative education? What stuck? Is there something you still find useful?

I don't think a creative education ever leaves your daily working. It is all about how to apply yourself and your problem-solving skills. I also think dance gave me a strong work ethic and a focus which is essential when spending long hours in the studio, albeit a different kind of studio. 

What kind of skills were you able to transfer into your current career? How do you use your creativity today?

There is a practical consideration that I know how productions work, how performers move, their idiosyncrasies and therefore I really understand the needs of the artists. I am very aware of the weight of the head pieces I am making, of how to fasten them securely and of their durability while still being able to deliver the designer’s vision. 

I also have a good understanding of the psychology of a dancer, of how exposing it can be, and that's all essential when I am in fittings and working alongside dancers and designers, as well as with other artists. The language we use as dancers/actors/singers/artists may be different, but the intent is the same. The end goal is the same. I really believe that my background helps me every day to do my job at the level I am working, and for that I will be ever grateful. 


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