This month's Alumni Story is with Reece McMahon, who danced his way from children's latin and ballroom competitions to his current post as Executive Director at Chisenhale Dance Space.
In our Q&A Reece tells us about how creative skills learned through dance can be applied daily in all kinds of situations - from being in the studio with artists to working at a desk. And he calls for a dance revolution!
The Place: When did you study at LCDS? Why did you decide to study contemporary dance? Any highlights of your time studying here?
I studied on the BA course from 2014-17 after toying between choosing contemporary dance or musical theatre. Ultimately, I wanted to study at LCDS as it was in the heart of London and I wanted to open myself up to as many new experiences as possible. I have particularly fond memories of the ‘Interarts’ course (ran by Katye Coe and Frank Bock), it was one of the first opportunities where I’d really experienced what ‘dance’ and ‘art’ could be and was that moment that REALLY opened my awareness up to a whole world of creativity and possibility.
Tells us a little bit about what happened since! What are the key moments in your career?
After graduating, I took a left turn into producing and never looked back! I spent two years at The Place cutting my teeth as an Assistant Producer before turning freelance & working with companies including OutdoorArts UK & taking part in the Old Vic 12. In 2020, I co-formed The REcreate Agency, a multidisciplinary creative agency that develops the potential in independent artists, producers & projects across dance, theatre, live art, outdoor arts and musicals. From 2020-2022, I was Producer at New Diorama Theatre (Fringe Venue of the Year 2022) and currently, I’m Executive Director at Chisenhale Dance Space (CDS) an artist development organisation that makes space for artists to lead, experiment and create.
What did you take away from your creative education? What lessons did you carry with you through your career?
I think training as a dancer gives you a level of resilience and discipline that sets you up for life. In my career as a producer, it also has given me a real empathy and understanding of the art making process and so I use skills learnt at LCDS every day! Also, I think there’s a misconception that producing isn’t a particularly creative career…but I’m constantly using the creative skills developed from my time a LCDS in my job – whether that’s in the studio with an artist or at my desk creating a programme of artist support.
How has dance shaped your life? What were the challenges you had to overcome to keep dancing or to remain in the dance industry?
I started dancing when I was 7 and was a competitive child ballroom and Latin dancer for 10 years – so dance has constantly been with me. Dance has always been my first love but throughout my career, I’ve moved between theatre and dance and now work broadly across the art forms. I keep coming back to dance as it's just something I’m incredibly passionate about – its ability to transcend language and bond people. I hope I’ll always find a way of staying connected with it.
What are your hopes for the dance community?
I wrote recently about how dance doesn’t get the resources or attention it deserves in comparison to theatre and I think a dance revolution is long overdue. At CDS, we’ve recently launched our newly imagined Artist Community, an invitation for 200 artists to join us - offering them an opportunity to develop their practice, invest in peer-to-peer learning and form the collective artistic leadership of the organisation. I think the dance community needs to keep innovating and finding ways of creating new work, investing in new artists, and pushing for a more equitable dance, performance and cultural sector. Not much to ask right!?