May Featured People:Janis Claxton

May 14, 2013


Interview &Translation / Alice Dong

1. Welcome to, you are the first choreographer featured in Xindanwei People! Would you mind to introduce yourself a bit?

Sure. I am a choreographer, originally from Australia but I am based in Edinburgh, Scotland. I have been working in contemporary dance internationally for 30 years in areas spanning professional, educational and community dance. I have lived and worked in several countries and over the past 4 years I have worked on several projects involving dancers from Scotland and China.

2. Can you tell us about Janis Claxton Dance the award winning contemporary dance company you are the artistic director for and what you do for it?

Janis Claxton Dance is a contemporary dance company supported on a project to project basis by various stakeholders in Scotland including Scottish Government, Creative Scotland, British Council and Confucius Institute for Scotland.
We make work for touring in small and mid scale venues and specialise in work created for unique public spaces such as zoos, museums and galleries. All of our work is research based. This involves various levels including movement, space, concept and science based research. Some of our most recent projects have been based on human/animal and mathematics/dance connections.
The company has a core team of 4 dancers including myself and we work with different artists for various projects including musicians, actors, costume, set, lighting and sound designers as well as dancers from China. We also consult with people such as zoo keepers and mathematicians as part of our research.
For the company I am the Artistic Director which involves wearing many hats and delivering at all levels of the process. On an artistic level I am involved in training (and inspiring) the dancers, igniting concepts, initiating and carry out research, directing rehearsals, choreographing the work, gathering and coordinating collaborators etc. I also am very involved with the management, publicity and production areas and work with my team to book tours, fundraise, write grants, produce publicity materials, manage budgets and deliver project reports. It is a large job remit and even though I am at the helm of it, it really involves a lot of collaboration and team work. Since being at Xindanwei I recognise a lot of parallels with the concepts of coworking, cocreation and Design Thinking. For example even though I initiate the concepts and research area, it is together with the dancers that we develop the movement material.

3. You have had an on-going relationship with Chinese dance artists and organizations and could you tell us about the experiences you had in collaborating with Chinese dancers for the Shanghai Expo, and with BeijingDance/LDTX ?

Over the past 4 years have worked with Chinese dancers on numerous occasions for projects in China and the UK. All of the experiences have been rewarding and exciting but my favorites have been when I bring dancers from the UK and China together for extended periods to cocreate together. The culture clashes and convergences inform the entire creative process and contribute to the work we make and over time we have developed layers of understandings, interpretations, misunderstandings that have been poetic, sublime, amusing, confusing and we have even developed our own Chinese/English dancers sign language!

4. As a contemporary dance practitioner what were the circumstances that lead you to coming to Xindanwei? What are your future steps?

I came to Xindanwei because I was a very lucky recipient of a fantastic fellowship called ICE ( )This is a fellowship that identifies 5 leaders in the arts and offers us the opportunity to be placed in an organization outside of the UK for a 3 month period to work with inspiring leaders and entrepreneurs out-with of our usual filed of work and leadership. It is a fantastic to learn outside of my own field which I have been immersed in for 45 years! The fellowship offers opportunities to learn about leadership and entrepreneurship from a totally different perspective.

5. Thanks again for providing this opportunity to interview you. Any final thoughts for our readers?

I feel very privileged to be working with Liu Yan who is such an inspiring leader, initiator and creator. Xindanwei is a great space to work in and through Liu Yan’s latest project Ask Lab, I am learning a lot. It’s very interesting how a choreographer can fit into Xindanwei and Ask Lab! I am excited about transferring skills back into my own creative process and hopefully creating new ideas and projects from this experience.


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