Robert Cohan, Founding Artistic Director of The Place, was a prolific choreographer, an utterly brilliant teacher and also a shrewd strategist. Single-handedly he changed the face of contemporary dance in this country. Well, perhaps not quite single-handedly, for it was Robin Howard, Founder of the Contemporary Dance Trust, who had the vision to invite Cohan to lead his as yet only dreamt-of new organisation comprising a Company, a School and a building which was to become known as The Place - Cohan bravely took up this invitation and contemporary dance in Britain was born.
With the raw talent at his disposal early on, Cohan’s first choreographies in Britain were strongly linked to his remarkable gifts as a teacher and these talents rapidly developed the dancers into what became London Contemporary Dance Theatre. In its heyday, LCDT was one of the finest performing ensembles in the world
Cohan’s gifts as a teacher amounted to genius, his analytical eye having all the accuracy and precision of a scientist. His extraordinary knowledge coupled with real charisma and authority led to many of his company dancers staying with him for as long as eighteen years. Such loyalty truly reflects Cohan’s ability to inspire and lead.
Beyond his own Company, Cohan inspired many, many other dancers through widespread teaching. In 1975 the first London Contemporary Dance Theatre educational residencies were set up, a real innovation in this country reaching thousands of students right across the nation. The excitement these residencies engendered transformed the lives of countless young people and left a very important legacy in the world of British Higher Education.
Another major innovation was the way that Cohan more or less reinvented stage lighting for dance. Together with the distinguished lighting designer John B. Read, he designed a new ‘rig’ of lights which radically changed the way dance looked on the stage. Cohan’s inventions in lighting went hand-in-glove with high standards of production, often with striking three dimensional sets designed and constructed by Cohan’s long-standing collaborator Norberto Chiesa. Outstanding examples were Cell (1969) and Nympheas (1976). Cohan’s first full-length piece Stages toured to major theatres across Britain reaching wider audiences. Cohan liked to think big - he was particularly excited by the large-scale and London Contemporary grew and expanded in both size and reach. Cohan retired as Artistic Director in 1983, but without him the Company’s fortunes wavered for a while until the Company was eventually folded in 1994.
All the choreography which Cohan made for his own company was absolutely imbued with the knowledge of his teaching - highly demanding choreography created for outstandingly articulate and meticulously trained dancers. Such specialised training is no longer widely available, which is why, perhaps, Cohan’s choreography is rarely performed today. Some works of art are very much of their own time - Cohan’s creations were very much born of his own knowledge, exacting a very high level of skills from hand-picked performers. It is clearly a matter of great regret that his major works can no longer be seen on the professional stage. Such dances as Cell and Nympheas were matched by the beautiful and quietly stirring Forest. These dances are greatly missed but they are dances, in truth, to which it is not easy nowadays to do justice.
Sad though this may be, it hardly diminishes Robert Cohan’s contribution to the development of a modern dance in the UK. Those Residencies in Yorkshire included the college at Bretton Hall, from whence later emerged the major British choreographer Wayne McGregor. The London Contemporary Dance School very much inspired the forming of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds where another major figure of today, Akram Khan, was trained. Cohan for a time was Artistic Advisor to the Batsheva Company in Israel, from where a young Choreographer Hofesh Shechter came to make his home in Britain. These three artists have worked across the board, creating for their own ensembles and also for the major ballet companies in the UK. Since the nineteen sixties many barriers have fallen within the world of British dance and it is Robert Cohan who we must thank for truly setting such changes in motion - sixty years later he has left us with a strikingly different dance sector.
His pioneering vision was recognised in 2019 with a much anticipated and much deserved knighthood for Services to Choreography & Dance, acknowledging the exceptional contribution to contemporary dance that Cohan has made over seven decades.
Most recently, he received the first ever Lifetime Achievement Award in Contemporary Dance at the One Dance UK Awards at the end of 2020. Still deeply involved with mentoring and teaching students, Cohan spoke at the LCDS graduation ceremony last year, comforting and inspiring the class of 2020 when they were deeply affected and unsettled by the pandemic:
“It’s hard to dance six feet apart, and I’m sorry you have to face it. But I know it’s possible! I also know how dedicated you have to be and how hard you have to work, but I recommend it. Dance has been a wonderful way to live my life, and I hope you can enjoy something similar.”
He also, only a few months ago, engaged in a lively conversation with Director of Dance Studies Dr Lise Uytterhoeven, discussing the future of dance and its role in a world challenged by social unrest, climate change and the threat to democracy. At 95, he was still deeply invested in debating how dance relates to the world we live in today, still visionary about where dance might lead us next.
He was also still active as a choreographer thanks to a fruitful association with Yorke Dance Project. Its director Yolande Yorke-Edgell instigated a series of intensive courses entitled The Cohan Collective, where Cohan was able once again to dispense his extraordinary and supportive wisdom.
As its founding Artistic Director, he has left The Place a still pioneering and creative hub, attracting inspired young people who wish to make their mark in Dance. The vision of two men gave birth to the idea of Contemporary Dance in Britain, but it was Robert Cohan who breathed life into such an idea and gave it form and substance. His achievements have been immeasurable.
Sir Richard Alston
“THE WORK IS EVERYTHING”
In Loving Memory of Sir Robert Cohan, CBE -my uncle, my guide, my dearest friend
In the late autumn of 1978, I made my first trip to London. My uncle, the choreographer Robert Cohan, had asked if I would be interested in helping to restore the rambling ruin of a house he had purchased in the South of France. I was 25 years old, an aspiring writer and artist. Interested? Far too mild a word for such an alluring offer.
The plan was for me to fly into London, stay for a performance run of the London Contemporary Dance Theatre at the Sadler’s Wells and then Bob, his collaborator Norberto Chiesa and I would drive down to France for Christmas. I spent a day or so in Bob’s South Kensington mews house getting over jetlag while watching his beloved Afghan hound, Ace.
On the way to the Sadler Wells for opening night, Bob and I talked about his life in London, the company (LCDT), and his work as a founder and artistic director of the Place. At one point in the conversation, I expressed my awe at his achievements. I think he could sense in my voice the kind of “star-struck” tone he had probably come to know too often.
“You know, Roy,” he mused, “in the beginning you hope to see your name in a playbill, and then on a marquee. And then it happens. You see your name in lights.”
“You get the dream,” I responded.
Bob paused for a moment and continued, “And then you ask yourself: What’s left? You realize there is nothing but the work. That’s really all there ever was. The work. You have to love the work. The work is all that matters. The work is everything.”
Later that evening, I joined Bob, some members of the company and invited guests for a post-performance dinner at a trendy restaurant. I entered the buzzing eatery with Bob. We approached a large table in a private room. An elegant older woman waved toward me, gesturing that I should sit beside her. Bob was in his own world, so I obliged. I introduced myself. And Dame Alicia Markova introduced herself as well.
I quickly learned that she had mistaken me in the dim light and distance for the dancer, Wayne Sleep. My height, or lack thereof, as well as my curly hair and athletically slender build (at the time) would soon make this mistake a somewhat common occurrence for me in London when I was in the company of friends who were known in dance circles.
I cannot remember too many details of the conversation I had with Dame Alicia Markova, other than she asked a lot of questions about me and about my own artistic pursuits. I did not know anything about her history and achievements as a dancer at that time, so regretfully I asked far too few questions in return. In fact, it was only later on in the early morning hours driving back to Bob’s house that I learned more about her career. Bob was very curious about our conversation and told me that he had never really had chance to talk with her at length. I remember thinking that he seemed a little star-struck with her in his own way.
That night was my introduction to London. It was the prologue to an ever-evolving play of places, ideas, and people in Bob’s orbit that would also touch and reshape my life for the next 40 plus years, and will certainly continue as part of my life for the years to come.
I am not a dancer, but thanks to Bob, the art of dance has been a part of my world since I was child. In the late 1950s and early 1960s my older sister studied at the Graham Studio in New York. I spent many an hour sitting in the hallway or at the side of the studios while Lesley was in class. I’m not sure as to why I was not allowed to enroll, but I suspect my father would not have approved of such pursuits for his son. Years later, I did get to study and perform in college working with (the late) Aileen Passloff, among others who had, coincidentally, worked with Bob over the years.
After Bob had rejoined the Graham Company in the late 50s, my mother, my sister and I occasionally went to performances in New York. I vividly recall one time backstage when Martha Graham came over to greet the family. Martha (as we all called her in my family) still had on thick stage makeup, and a large bone in her unraveling bun. She was a bit frightening to my six or seven year old eyes as she patted my head and twirled my blond curls.
Another night backstage, Bob asked what I thought of the performances. I was about ten at the time, and I told him that I was “not sure I understood everything.” Bob told me that it was not really about understanding, just feeling and experiencing the movements. Upon hearing our conversation, my sister quickly and emphatically interjected, “Well, Uncle Bob, I understood every word!”
Bob always thought that Lesley’s comment was one of the best responses he’d ever received. He liked the idea that somehow she saw the gestures as words, as communication. Decades later, Bob and I talked about how a modicum of young sibling rivalry may have prompted her interjection, but the comment itself still held firmly in his mind.
For Bob, dance was about communication, about the connection between dancers, as well as the internal spiritual and emotional connection between a dancer and their own gestures. But perhaps most importantly, when it came to stage productions, the work was about the connection and communication between the performer(s) and the audience. In fact, the title of one of his most recent works, Communion, choreographed for Yolande Yorke-Edgell’s company (Yorke Dance Project) and premiered in Bournemouth in 2019, was intended to reference just that notion.
Communion, as Bob saw it, was about that shared moment between dancers and audience. Bob was concerned that reviewers, critics and audiences may have interpreted the title primarily as a direct reference to the religious ritual. Bob and I discussed this many times and in great depth. He wanted to change or at least explain the title, and asked if I would help him write a note to be included in playbills for that purpose.
I tried to convince Bob that he should not worry so much about how people were interpreting the title. The work is indeed filled with spiritual under-tones. The score, the gestures and structures are all imbued with a profound sense of searching and reaching, of connections and isolations, and at times with a silence and pacing that rests wholly in meditative and contemplative realms. Communion.
I know Bob actually understood and intended this sense of the work. In fact, he selected a filmed version of a solo from Communion performed by Dane Hurst as his dedication and eulogy offering at the memorial chapel service for his brother Elliot in 2019. Bob was still concerned that the title would be taken narrowly rather than universally. I advised Bob to just trust the work, to the let audiences take from it what they would. After all: “The work is all that matters. The work is everything.”
But of course, it will come as no surprise to those that knew Bob well, that even after basically agreeing with me and recognizing my use of his own words back to him, Bob still wanted a playbill note, or at least some sort of public explanation of his intent. So, I hope he will now consider it done. Communion.
Roy M Vestrich January 17, 2021 E. Middlebury, Vermont
Clare Connor, Chief Executive, The Place
It is with a heavy heart that we received the sad news of the passing of our founding Artistic Director, Sir Robert Cohan. A man with an unstinting vision and belief in our ability to power imagination through dance.
For those who were fortunate enough to know and work him, there will be a great story, an anecdote, an image, a retort, but above all a passion for dance and a gift for communication. As my wonderful and dearest friend and London Contemporary Dance School peer Lucy Moelwyn-Hughes said, “Everyone’s got a Bob story.” He touched us all. Through his work he inspired artists and audiences alike and through a sense of team and belonging he built an enduring artistic vision with Robin Howard, Janet Eager (Mop) which evolved further with the advent of London Contemporary Dance School under Richard Ralph. The artistic lineage has been taken forward by Sir Richard Alston and now resides with Eddie Nixon.
Over recent days I have listened to many of the people who were closest to Bob, especially in his later years. They are coming to terms with the loss of a man whom they have loved most dearly, and my thoughts are with them indefinitely.
Bob’s legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of countless people, but it is the “love” that he bestowed for The Place and London Contemporary Dance School that I am forever indebted to him for.
Together we need to support this next generation of artists who need that love, more than ever before.
Eddie Nixon, Artistic Director, The Place
Like so many enthusiastic teenage dancers in the 1980’s, the yearly visit of London Contemporary Dance Theatre, led by Robert Cohan, to our local venue was an annual reignition of our passion. Most of the dance teachers we learned from each week had studied at The Place with Bob or the team of artists he assembled there in the 70’s. The inspiration they gave us was amplified when we saw that company and those dancers on stage. They were extraordinary to watch. The air in the theatre stood still in admiration. In one of those years and in one of those residencies was the first moment when I really understood that being a dancer was, maybe, something I wanted. Just one of thousands of young people inspired by Bob, and all the dance artists his work nurtured.
Decades later, after studying at The Place, after trying (and not succeeding) to master the challenges of Bob’s classes and choreography as a student, and in the midst of a career made possible by all that he initiated 50 years ago, I find myself as Artistic Director of the organisation he built. It’s impossible to really quantify the influence and legacy of one of the world’s great artists. But for those of us trying to honour those giants, like Sir Robert Cohan, we can strive to ensure that many thousands more get the chance to have lives changed by unforgettable moments of watching and dancing.
"Fridays with Bob" by Yolande Yorke-Edgell, Director of Yorke Dance Project and co-foundng director of the Cohan Collective
I am writing this on a Friday. Bob would ask: What day is it? I would say Friday and he would say: Is it Friday again?? And we would laugh.
As director of Yorke Dance Project and co-founding director of the Cohan Collective, I am incredibly grateful to have spent the last eight years working intensely with Robert Cohan. Now my dear friend, mentor and collaborator has moved from the body he inhabited to a new place, one where I hope he will be free from restrictions so that his mind and body can work together again as one.
The last hour I spent with him we did not say much. He lay in his bed, the curtains closed as he wanted to shut out the outside world. With the lamp on above his head, his personal spotlight, we watched some of his works on film. As he watched the dances, his body moved, responding to the movement he’d created, his body memory still strong. When I folded the computer closed there was a silent understanding between us, described, of course, through movement: He looked at me then at the ceiling and then folded his hands on his chest. He knew he could no longer do what he believed he was here to do, to carry out his purpose, his meaning in life, to dance, teach and choreograph. Every step he could no longer take with stability became a step further away from his truth, his life’s work.
And so, along with this huge loss, this deep grief within, comes acceptance that it was time for my incredible, deeply loved friend to depart from this life. He silently shrugged, looked back up at the ceiling and closed his eyes to rest. I imagine him thinking: I have done all I can do now, without the clarity of my mind and body, what’s the point.
Everyone who knows Bob wanted him to live forever. We all wanted more from him because he gave each of us purpose, meaning, the tools and understanding to be the best person, the best dancer, the best artist we could be; he nourished us constantly with his wisdom. He had spent his life, as he said, working on himself to be the best teacher he could be, giving each of us his life’s teachings. What a true blessing this has been and will continue to be for all who have been in a studio with him, talked to him and been in his presence.
It is no coincidence that the last dance he made is a series of solos, given to each dancer for them to inhabit: He called them “afternoon conversations”as they were made, mostly via Zoom, in short afternoon work sessions, he liked to work in the afternoons, he said he was at his best then. The last solo he created showed exactly what he talked of so many times and that was about presence, a dancers presence on stage. Why do we look at one particular dancer on stage and not another? He would ask this of dancers all the time, as that is what he wanted them to understand about themselves. For this last solo he imagined a huge opera house stage with a dancer entering, as she entered the space she would fill it with her presence. This would be shown through her body and her body would describe this presence by how she moved and how she moved would come from deep within. The movement would speak from every muscle and every fiber in her body that would be driven by feeling. This is how he taught, he taught from deep within the body, how it moves, what makes it move and why. He had watched Martha Graham do this when he was in her company and he would often talk about how she would set up vibrations within herself so she could vibrate out to the audience. He also told us that when Martha left the stage she took the stage with her.
My beloved friend said a few weeks ago: When it is time, it is time. And it was time, time for him to leave the stage. Our stage remains empty until we all find his vibration within us so he can fill the stages of the world again through the artists he has touched and who have loved him so completely.
Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp CBE, Former Chief Executive, The Place
It was with immense sadness that I learned Sir Robert Cohan had passed peacefully in his sleep, aged 95. I had last spoken to him on Christmas Eve.
I count myself truly blessed to have known this remarkable human being for over 42 years, to have trained in the school he started, to have danced in his pioneering company for 13 years, and later helped lead the organisation that he founded with Robin Howard, The Place.
One of the notable things about great artists and creative thinkers is their ability to constantly surprise you. Bob was always full of surprises; the breadth and depth of his knowledge, that extended way beyond dance, underpinned his ability to spark curiosity and deep learning in others. This richness of thought was one of the things that made it a privilege to be in the studio with him, and as dancers in his company, we were lucky enough to experience that on a daily basis.
Alongside his iconic choreographic works, such as Cell, Stabat Mater, Forest, and Nympheas, Bob was a phenomenal teacher, who inspired his dancers to work with enormous dedication and commitment. I can still hear his deep Brooklyn drawl, urging us to do “more”, to work “harder... deeper... higher”... and we did! Yet in spite of his aura of gravitas, he was not without humour. One day in the middle of company class, having just demonstrated an exercise, he asked us if we understood. I began to say “yes... but I feel...”, Bob swiftly cut me off, and with a twinkle in his eye, said “I don’t care how you feel, it’s how I feel!” It was said with love, wit and the perfect timing of a seasoned comedian.
To his great credit Bob nurtured his company dancers to develop their individual autonomy, evidenced not least by the fact that so many of them went on to develop other own unique creative voices - Dame Siobhan Davies, Robert North, Anthony van Laast CBE, Micha Bergese, Darshan Singh-Bhuller, or to become themselves, inspirational teachers or leaders in dance, such as Celeste Dandeker OBE, Namron OBE or Professor Christopher Bannerman... or choreographer Sir Richard Alston, who was one of the first students at the originally named London School of Contemporary Dance.
The fact that Bob, even in his last months, not far off his 96th Birthday, was still creatively active - teaching, choreographing, and inspiring a new generation of artists, is further testament to his exceptional qualities.
His legacy is beyond measure. He was an inspiration, a true giant. He was much loved and respected by many, and will be missed deeply. Wishing you a sweet sleep Bob…perchance to dream. *
* Robert Cohan’s first choreographed work was called Perchance To Dream
Dame Siobhan Davies, orginial member of London Contemporary Dance Theatre, founder of Siobhan Davies Dance
Within minutes of Bob’s death being known many of his old company reached out to each other to share sadness and remember an extraordinary man.
He mattered very much to us. When the company was first formed Bob had to begin a new story for Contemporary Dance in the U.K and we felt very much part of that adventure.
The first members, including some of the time myself as an apprentice, were a truly diverse group of individuals, trained in different disciplines, from a wide range of countries and with some very pronounced personalities.
As the company evolved, Bob always searched out dancers with individual characteristics . He asked us to notice each other and learn from some of the qualities and a few eccentricities that were natural to us and then for us to work at becoming a cohesive supportive company.
My strongest memories of him are in the studio at work with us and sensing the commitment we had for him and he to us.
He was, and remained, gloriously handsome, he had a strong presence whenever he entered a room and he had a memorable dark chocolate voice.
Quiet, authoritative and knowledgeable about many subjects he also needed to form and sustain a company of dancers to tour theatres in the U.K. Our early and very small audiences had never come across movement such as we performed and before long we were touring to full houses for many weeks of the year. It was exhausting but Bob’s constant request to us to be true to ourselves as well as bond as a company allowed us to develop real strengths within us. Overtime these strengths let us develop our own trajectories. We were all encouraged to choreograph so that we had an all round perspective of what was needed to create works for the stage. When ready we were all asked to teach because he knew how much more we would need to learn in order to communicate a class well.
There was hardly a day in which we were not involved in some new initiative, a new work, a different place or culture to perform in, an unusual skill to master.
In all of these activities he was nearby, smiling and supportive, firm and clear.
Inevitably some of us needed to stretch out and begin our own stories and while he recognised and encouraged us I felt some of his sadness as we journeyed out.
Yesterday so much of the communication between us was how incredibly fortunate we were to work with him but also how strengthened we were to have each other. I believe Bob would love that as part of his legacy, amongst many of the other things that will and should be written about him. He would love to know that his advice to us about developing our human qualities as much as our dancing ones have kept us both tender and strong for each other now.
Anne Donnelly (née Went)
On Wednesday 13th January 2021 my heart ‘imploded’ – I have known Bob for three ‘life journeys’ – as a dance student at the Place, as a dancer with LCDT and many further cherished years since leaving LCDT under his mentorship as a teacher and dearest of friends’. My last conversation with Bob was on Monday 11th January, his voice had a different vibration, he knew it was time to peacefully leave this place for another…Through the generosity of his very ‘being’ a rich and continuing legacy exists for future generations.
Lord Simon Russell of Liverpool
My memories of Bob.
As I remember Bob I think of him in two particular contexts.
Firstly, I recall many evenings in the dining room in my Uncle Robin’s house in Sandwich Street, with the conversation switching back and forth on multiple topics, fortified by excellent wine and food. There was lots of laughter, good-natured argument and an eclectic range of guests.
And secondly, as a fellow trustee of the Robin Howard Foundation, Bob’s abiding interest in, and passion for, finding and commissioning emerging choreographers to give them the opportunity to develop their skills and build their reputations.
Christopher Bruce, Choreographer
My wife, Marian and I have been deeply affected by Robert Cohan’s death. We have known him since the 1960s when we were both fortunate enough to take class with him. I cannot claim to have been as close to Bob as those who worked intimately with him over the years but, from time to time, was always grateful for his friendship, advice and support, especially whilst working with LCDT in the early 1990s when he was brought in to lead the company during a difficult transitional period.
We have lost a great man in the field of dance, who did so much for the art form and was still contributing right up until the end. The company he created was, in my opinion, one of the finest contemporary companies of its time; a wonderful group of dancers so brilliantly schooled in the Graham technique who moved with that wonderful, earthy grace that developed into a style which became unique to the company. Under his leadership a powerful repertoire was created and a new generation of fine choreographers came into being who have gone on to continue his legacy.
Yes, a wonderful dancer, teacher and choreographer. A man of great artistic integrity, a mentor and inspirational leader. And, of course, such a lovely man to spend time with. We will miss those twinkling eyes and the ready laughter, the warm voice revealing a wisdom gained from decades of dedicated toil - for so much of our world is sheer physical labour as well as discovering the Art along the way.
Cohan was the supreme example to all of us who have chosen to make our lives in this extraordinary and magical world of Dance.
Anita Griffin, LCDT company dancer 1977 - 1986
I had to hitch-hike to get to the first class I ever took with Bob. The buses went on strike but I was determined not to miss it!
As a student I would watch his classes through studio windows and sneak into the back of the theatre to watch the company rehearsing. There was always a buzz when the company was back in town and Bob cut a glamorous figure when walking through the building with his Afghan hound ‘Ace.’
Three years after that first class I was incredibly proud when Bob invited me to join LCDT which became a second family.
Thank you Bob for your generosity, wisdom and all the opportunities you gave me, I owe you so much and I will miss you more than I can say. Rest well XXXXXXX
Paul Douglas, LCDS alumnus and LCDT company dancer 1979-87, founding company member of Siobhan Davies Dance Company
It is no exaggeration to say that meeting and working with Bob transformed my life - I'm sure that most people who spent any time with him would say the same. Bob was charismatic, authentic, knowledgeable, sensitive, warm and charming - incredibly charming!
He held firm to expectations of the highest standards in the performers and all aspects of LCDT productions and this was motivated by his commitment to the quality of experience for members of the the audience, because he believed in the transformational potential of dance for all of those who became immersed in it.
He believed in the intrinsic value of arts and culture and of dance in particular and instilled in the members of his company a sense of pride in what we had to offer as performing artists and a sense of purpose in what we set out to achieve with every class or workshop we led and with every performance we gave. Each act, each interaction deserved focus and intention and would, thereby, transmit an experience of positive value.
With the company and the school Bob created a model of multi-culturalism, inclusion and tolerance, way ahead of most arts organisations in the UK at that time. Although he did this with ease, I also believe he did this with purpose. He and Robin had fought in WWII and both were severely wounded but survived - they desired and envisioned a better world and they set about building it with heroic ambition and without tiring.
I learned so much about dance and culture through Bob but beyond that I learned much about humanity. It was a privilege and an immense pleasure to have know Bob for which I will always be grateful. I will remember him always with love.
Linda Gibbs, LCDT company dancer 1968 - 1986
Thank you, dear Bob. I feel privileged & honoured to have been a part of LCDT for almost 20 years. Through your inspirational teaching, humanity, humour & love, you created a company that was special & unique.
You were our Guru.
You will be greatly missed, but forever in our hearts.
Anca Frankenhaeuser, LCDS alumna and LCDT company dancer 1973-1988
As a student waitress in the upstairs restaurant I was very lucky to be able to sneak in to see performances in the theatre. The premier of Cell in 1969 was absolutely unforgettable. The response was electric and I was exhilarated by the whole experience. Little did I know that I was to have the privilege to perform all three female roles during my time as a dancer with LCDT. I am so very grateful for that, as well as for each and every thing I did and learnt during that time, with people who are forever all important to me.
Bob, I thank you for your wisdom, your love, your teaching, your dances, your trust and inclusion, your awareness, your presence, your ability to bring people together cohesively, but also having the grace to consult us. And not to forget your cooking…
All these things have shaped us and made us better, more aware and interesting human beings as well as a diverse lot of practicing artists spread out across the globe.
Patrick Harding-Irmer, LCDT company dancer 1973-1990
What a privilege it was to be a part of Bob’s family.
I first saw him in the evening school at the Place in 1972 where he was asked by Flora Cushman to come and see me in class. He was the coolest guy I had ever seen and he apparently thought I was ok!
He said “yes” and I was taken into the X Group the next day.
From there it was a leap into the Company and to sit at the feet of the man for whom I had the greatest respect in the world.
Everything I did in the studio was just to please him and I was blessed with his knowledge, insight, encouragement and love.
I had many hours of his choreography to challenge and fulfil me.
He even pulled my leg one time while rehearsing “Place of Change” on my thirtieth birthday. I dislocated my kneecap...he grabbed my ankle and instinctively gave it a hefty twist and yank to put it right back into place.
I missed the big five week season at the Wells in 75 but watched every performance often sitting next to Bob in the auditorium. Through that experience I learnt an enormous amount about dance and what it was to be a dancer on stage.
I stayed with Bob in LCDT until he handed over to Dan. I was there for 17 years and I cherish every moment.
Bob lives in my body, heart and soul and without him I would not be me.
Christine Rapley (née Juffs), LCDS alumna 1970 - 1973
A memory I have of Bob Cohan: I was watching a class that I think Cohan was teaching and at the same time I was knitting leg-warmers either for his piece "Class" or for a Richard Alston piece, "Cold" based on Giselle. They needed the leg-warmers quite quickly! I think Jon Keliehor was accompanying class (percussion). As the tempo got faster, so did my knitting. And Bob Cohan I remember had noticed me sitting there knitting - his gaze landed on me and stayed there. And his beaming smile / grin landed on me. He was amused, and it was a lovely warm smile. For many of the students, Bob was like a God. But he was clearly fully human. He made some wonderful work and London Contemporary Dance Theatre was an amazing company - much missed when lack of funding brought it to an end. I will never forget my student years at The Place.
Cathy Lewis, LCDT company dancer
Bob dearest “ forever young “ you gave me courage . Deepest love and respect .
Kate Harrison Brill, LCDT company dancer
Sir Bob, No other man has caused me so much pain.
I was invited to join LCDT in 1972 .Bob was now my boss. On my first day he was dressed in a long black leather coat, silver platform boots (We all remember those!) with his long flowing hair. I was terrified of him!
But Bob created his company with love. He was a brilliant choreographer and masterful teacher who extended our limbs further than we thought possible, and pushed us until we dropped.
I have one particularly special and recent memory. In 2015 Bob came to San Diego, California with Yolande and dancers where I had arranged a celebration performance for his 90th birthday.
Bob and company arrived late that night and came straight to my house for dinner. I felt overwhelmed. This amazing artist who I had admired and idolised with such respect
and awe was sitting in my kitchen, drinking wine, as a friend. It felt unreal! A few moments later Bob turned to me and said ‘ i can’t believe I’m here with you, sitting in your kitchen,
in San Diego!”
I will treasure this moment forever.
I love you Bob. Safe journey.
Eva Lundqvist, Windwitches Dance Company, Stockholm, Sweden
The news of Robert Cohans death sent a wave of sorrow through me. Tears came to my eyes through the days. I was very surprised at the strong emotions his departure brought up in me, since my time at The Place and with the company was a long time ago now. Being in contact with Jenny Henry and Anca Frankenhaeuser made me realise that these feelings are felt by so many, even if we have been elsewhere in the world for a long time working with dance. I understood that my roots are with The Place and that Robert Cohan - studying with him, working with him - shaped me, gave me my foundation. All this knowledge that he so generously shared, be it in the dance studio or how to groom the fur of an Afgahn dog! At The Place with Robert Cohan and all the mixture of wonderfully creative people, I became curious, brave and strong enough to live a life in contemporary dance as a dancer and a choreographer. For this I am so happy and so grateful!
Robert Cohan was a magical mystery, a beautiful man!