The Place is pleased to announce that Anthony Van Laast, choreographer, director and Patron of The Place, received an Honorary Doctor of Arts from the University of Kent on 20 November 2019 in acknowledgment of his world-wide impact on theatre and major artistic contribution to the British creative economy.
Anthony Van Laast began his extraordinary life in dance as a student at London Contemporary Dance School, later joining the closely associated professional company - London Contemporary Dance Theatre - as both a performer and choreographer. Today, the internationally renowned artist works all over the world as a choreographer and director mainly for the stage, concerts, television and film.
Anthony Van Laast is perhaps best known as the man behind Mamma Mia!, the highest selling British musical ever, securing Britain’s world leading role in musical theatre in the 21st century. In addition, the film version of the stage show, Mamma Mia! The Movie and recent sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again! (2018) are among the most successful movie musical of all time, adored by audiences of all generations the world over.
Among his other prominent stage works are the musicals Sister Act (2011 on Broadway and 2009 West End), Bombay Dreams (2004), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (1993), Annie Get Your Gun (1986), Candide (Old Vic, 1988, Olivier Award for Best Musical) and most recently Tina - The Tina Turner Musical, which opened in the West End in 2018 and is currently transferring to Broadway.
His television and film work includes the concert Sarah Brightman: Symphony in Vienna (2008), the 2017 Disney live-action film Beauty and the Beast, and he became part of the Harry Potter franchise working on movement for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
He was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Choreographer in 2004 for Bombay Dreams. For his work on the musical Hair (Old Vic) and for The Beggar's Opera ( Royal Shakespeare Company at the Barbican), he was nominated for the Olivier Award. In 1999 Anthony Van Laast was awarded an MBE by Her Majesty the Queen for Services to Dance and Choreography and was awarded a CBE in the 2019 New Year’s Honours List.
Of Anthony, the late Gillian Lynne DBE said
“In our theatre, film, television, musical and creative world, there are very few names that shine brighter and carry more weight and integrity than Anthony Van Laast. His talent spans many techniques, across several continents and is widely respected in all of them. He is hugely popular, extremely accessible, dancers and actors love working with him and his rich knowledge carries them safely along as they explore new productions. His warmth as a human being ensures that his companies are hardworking and happy, as well as clever and creative”
With pride and dedication Anthony supports the next generation of talent using his stature and personal finances to support dancers throughout their careers. In 2012, in memory of his mother Peggy Hawkins who was a renowned choreographer and Patron of London Contemporary Dance School, Anthony launched the Peggy Hawkins Scholarship Fund to provide life changing scholarships to students at the school.
Recently he has been working with students from The Place’s pioneering MA in Screendance and presented a lecture in spring 2019 to share his experience as one of the world’s leading choreographers and film makers.
Clare Connor, Chief Executive of The Place, says
“London Contemporary Dance School was the catalyst for Anthony’s incredible career and where he now plays a crucial role as loyal Patron. Anthony’s phenomenal contribution to the creative economy coupled by his selfless and tireless commitment to supporting future talent is simply remarkable and I cannot think of a more deserving character for this honour.”