News & Blogs

9 July 2020
Author: The Place

Alumni Portraits - Anthony Van Laast

To celebrate The Place's 50s anniversary - and the resilience, passion and strength of the dance community - our series of portraits will feature some of our amazing LCDS alumni, showcase their career paths, their experinece and what they have learned about being a dance artist.

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

I was one of the first students at the school when The Place opened 50 years ago. I had been looking for somewhere to train and had read an article about Martha Graham that fascinated and intrigued me. I auditioned for the school and to my surprise, as I had never danced before, I was accepted.

Tells us a little bit about what happened since! What are the key moments in your career?

I went on to perform with the London Contemporary Dance Theatre for 10 years. The highlight of this period was working with Bob Cohan. He was one of the greatest teachers of dance, theatre and choreography. He was also a very wise man.
I have since choreographed many shows including Mamma Mia, Sister Act and Tina. I have also choreographed many films including Beauty and the Beast and the Mamma Mia films. In 2019 I received an honorary doctorate from Kent University. I was amazed and thrilled as I had only achieved 3 O Levels and left school at 16.

What did you take away from your creative education? What lessons did you carry with you through your career?

The important things to me as an artist are to keep learning, looking, inquiring, exploring, discovering, watching, questioning and remaining inquisitive.

How has dance shaped your life? What were the challenges you had to overcome to keep dancing or to remain in the dance industry?

Dance has become and is my life. The hardest time in many ways was making the transition from dancer to choreographer. Earning enough money to support a family was always difficult in my early career. I nearly gave it all up to direct in television but the job I was going to do collapsed and the following week I was asked to choreograph Siegfried and Roy’s show in Las Vegas. Money problems solved !

What are your hopes for the dance community? What will it look like to be a dance artist in the future?

As I write this we are firmly in lockdown and the future of all the performing arts is under discussion. However I believe there will be a future which may be a little different from the past but perhaps this will encourage us to solve problems differently. I also believe now is the time to keep reality in your head and your dreams in your heart.


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