Juliet Fisher (left) Jonathan Lunn (right) Photo © Eleni Leoussi
It was with great sadness that we received the news a few days ago that former London Contemporary Dance Theatre dancer and London Contemporary Dance School teacher Juliet Fisher has passed away after a short illness in her home town of Auckland, New Zealand.
Juliet had a distinguished performing career, first as a soloist with the Martha Graham Dance Company (1962-67) before going on to become a founding member and soloist with Cullbergbaleten, Stockholm (1967-1968). In the UK, she was a soloist with Peter Brinsons Ballet for All (1970), as well as appearing as a guest artist with London Contemporary Dance Theatre (1971) and later becoming a founding member and soloist with both Siobhan Davies and Dancers (1981) and with Second Stride (1982-1984).Throughout her career, Juliet worked with a diverse array of choreographers including Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Birgit Cullberg, Richard Alston, Siobhan Davies, Ian Spink and Ashley Page.
Juliet also had an exemplary second career as a teacher and as well as guest-teaching for schools and companies worldwide, taught consistently for nearly three decades as a senior faculty member at London Contemporary Dance School from 1972 1999, before eventually returning her native New Zealand. All of us here at The Place send Elena, Ben and all Juliet's family and friends our deepest condolences, and remember Juliet with enormous fondness, respect and gratitude.
Juliet is someone whom I will always remember as an extraordinary person, with an extraordinary presence, on stage, in the studio and indeed anywhere she went. I first encountered her at The Place, when I arrived as a student at London Contemporary Dance School in the late 1970s, where Juliet taught as a senior member of the contemporary faculty. I remember at first feeling somewhat in fear and awe of this beautiful tall, willowy teacher with deep, penetrating, dark eyes and cheekbones to die for. That awe was soon to turn to deep admiration and affection, for Juliet was a remarkable teacher. She taught with enormous depth and precision and with a spirit of constant enquiry, which she expected us to share in. Just as she invited us to discover a deep and refined muscular connection, often within long and complex sequences of movement, she also encouraged a similarly thoughtful connection with the live music we always had for our dance classes. We would regularly smile as she would ask the accompanist, often John Sweeney, to provide her with something in compound triple time. As a senior member of the contemporary faculty at The Place for the best part of three decades, from 1972 to 1999, Juliet helped to nurture and inspire several generations of dancers who passed through London Contemporary Dance School; many of those graduates went onto dance in top dance companies across the world and almost all those I knew always retained enormous gratitude for the incredible grounding and knowledge they had received from Juliet whilst training at the School. Juliet's considerable legacy lives on in and through the countless dancers she nurtured and inspired during her many years in London.
On a very personal level, perhaps the one thing that surprised me most about Juliet, was that in spite of her many years of experience, she remained humble enough as a teacher to question her daily practice, even to the extent of occasional self-doubt, something that became clear to me in a one-to-one tutorial with her. That one insight alone made me respect and understand even more about the art of teaching, not as something inevitable, but rather as a constant journey of enquiry and at the same time appreciate just how special and gifted Juliet was as a dance artist, as a teacher and as a person.
On behalf of everyone here at The Place in London we send Elena, Ben and all Juliet's family and friends our deepest condolences, and remember Juliet with enormous fondness, respect and gratitude.
Kenneth Tharp, Chief Executive of The Place
Once you saw Juliet dance you never forgot it and I haven't to this day. Juliet had her own way of moving, like no-one else's. There was an extraordinary elegance to everything she did and her dancing intensified this, filling her every move with an urgent sense of purpose. Yes, her movement was expressive, loaded even and for all her lyrical and fluid grace she allowed nothing to come easily. Juliet would analyse and criticise her every move, get nervous and forget steps in rehearsal. Such worry and fretting! And yet her performances became full of serenity and beauty, albeit with an underlying tinge of sadness not that Juliet was sad about dancing - she loved it with a passion and she shared that with us all. I still have Juliet in my heart and can still vividly see her dancing. She affected me indelibly just as she did so many others - Juliet was truly, truly special.
Richard Alston, Artistic Director of The Place
When Juliet first came to the Graham studio in New York we were all immediately struck by her innate physical elegance. It is something hard to define and very personal. It is the ability to turn any movement, no matter how complex, into a beautifully designed shape. Juliet never lost it and in her latter years was able to teach some students at The Place its secrets. I remember her beauty well in this time of sadness. It is not lost. Love to you Juliet, Bob Cohan.
Robert Cohan, Founding Artistic Director of The Place
Through playing for Juliet's classes I learned so much about music from her musicality and so much about investigating something from the deep way that she investigated movement and its relation to music. Whether you were playing for Juliet's classes, or dancing in them, you were always faced with possibilities and challenges you weren't expecting, and you could find yourself seduced into new places you hadn't realised were there.
She was a wonderful teacher because she never stopped learning and this meant that her teaching was never about teaching a style, even though her work had such a particular beauty and poetry to it, but about giving students the tools to teach themselves, to develop in ways that didn't just end when their training ended, and equipped them for the various possibilities as a dance artist. She had an amazing ability to combine the practical with the poetic, an almost motherly care for her students and a sense of responsibility to them to not patronise them with pat answers. And she could be very funny too...and there were so many aspects that made up Juliet as a person, as a teacher and as a dancer, she will be much missed and never forgotten by those who were privileged to know and to work with her.
John Sweeney, Accompanist, The Place