Press Story

22 Jan 2024

We were sad to learn of the death of Dan Wagoner, former Artistic Director of London Contemporary Dance Theatre (1988–91), the company founded in 1967 at The Place, playing a pioneering role in developing the art form in the UK.

Coming to professional dance late in his life, Dan Wagoner performed with Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor. He choreographed his first work in 1968, and in 1969 formed his own company, which toured the US, South America, and the UK. His works, choreographed for Ballet Rambert and London Contemporary Dance Theatre as well as for his own company, frequently employed American vernacular music and themes. For twenty-five years he directed his own New York-based company, “Dan Wagoner and Dancers,” before taking over London Contemporary Dance Theatre as Artistic Director.

Those who danced for Dan will remember him fondly.

If you would like to connect with us and share your memories of Dan please get in touch with

I was very sorry to hear the sad news that American dancer, choreographer, teacher, Dan Wagoner had passed away a few days ago.
Dan danced with Martha Graham, very briefly with Merce Cunningham, and most especially with Paul Taylor; he also ran his own company in the US until 1994 and was also Artistic Director of London Contemporary Dance Theatre from 1988-1991.
I’ve not read anything official anywhere yet. The news was passed on to me by a former LCDS student Eliot Smith, who was informed by the Paul Taylor Dance Company, who in turn asked that the news be passed on to former LCDT people. Eliot has been working to stage the Paul Taylor piece ‘Duet’ with his own company. He told me that Dan Wagoner and Elizabeth Walton (who passed in 2017), were the original two dancers of ‘Duet’.
It’s funny what stays with you. Those who danced for Dan will almost certainly remember some of his sayings and witticisms in the studio. Here, more than three decades on, are a few I still remember fondly:
If he thought a dancer was flagging in class, he would ask with concern “Did you have a two egg breakfast this morning?”.
If he wanted you to be more assertive, for example, in doing tendues, he’d say: “It’s just like saying your name - Arabella! Arabella! Arabella!”
He recalled how one day teaching down South in the US, he had wanted the dancers to work barefoot and asked them to take their ballet shoes off. Most of them, if they wore tights, had tights with stirrups, but one young lady had tights with feet in, and when asked by Dan to remove her ballet shoes, she replied defiantly, (and here you have to imagine the thick Southern accent) - “I can’t, I’ve got my pantyhose on!”
But the one saying I treasure most, because it had an added profundity to it, was when one day, in the studio, he said quizzically: “You know dancers, none of us can solve all of life‘s mysteries; the only thing that we can do is to participate DEEPLY in them...” and then quickly added “...and that means getting your pelvis down and doing the movement, one two, one, two…”
I still have the beautiful antique cuff links Dan gave me when he left LCDT, with Navajo Indian designs engraved on them. He gave each of us, his dancers, a hand-picked present, which I was and remain very touched by. Although he could appear troubled at times, I will remember Dan above all as a very kind, warm hearted, generous man. I learnt much from him in the studio and really enjoyed dancing his works.
Farewell dear Dan. Fly ‘free as a bird’

Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp CBEFormer dancer with London Contemporray Dance Theatre (1982-1994), and former Chief Executive of The Place (2007-2016).

He choreographed Changing your mind for me and Patrick Harding-Irmer.
Dan believed in me at a time when I didn’t believe in myself.
He played a very important part in my dancing years.
I hold his wisdom in my heart always.

Cathy Lewis, former LCDT dancer 1974-81

So many lovely memories and life-long learning experiences working with Dan ( Randy, Janice and Gwyneth) re: LCDT. Particularly personal and memorable to me was dancing ‘Flee as a Bird’ – this was the last piece I danced with LCDT –- it was at the time of my leaving the Company to concentrate on the transition to another stage of life.

Dan was such a warm, personable and supportive person-an individual that could, ‘see/ be aware’ of so much.’ My heartfelt respect for the transmission of knowledge, legacy, rigour, skills and empathy that Dan imparted.

PS. Dear Dan - I have planted an Azalea Japonica – Geisha Red (in memory – and colour (ish) of the dress I wore in ‘Flee as a Bird’ - once it blooms, I will send Pictures. I am not the best gardener …BUT have a good feeling this Azalea will be there for years x

Anne Donnelly (Went), former dancer with LCDT, Co-director of RCDL