The Place honours Sir Robert Cohan

Published: 16 March 2023
Reporter: Vera Liber

Robert Cohan in 1988 Credit: Anthony Crickmay

Two performances at The Place will honour the legacy of Sir Robert Cohan, the founding father of UK modern dance, on 24 and 25 March.

In 1967, whilst a dancer and co-director with the Martha Graham Company, Cohan was invited to London by the philanthropist Robin Howard to become the founding artistic director of The Place, London Contemporary Dance Theatre and London Contemporary Dance School. Cohan was a powerful advocate and a much-loved teacher as well as an influential choreographer who was creating new work until the day he died aged 95 in January 2021.

Cohan would say, “the dance happens on the and” whilst counting “and one, and two…” as he choreographed or rehearsed dancers. The phrase was carved in stone as his memorial epitaph.

The programme for the evening features two London Contemporary Dance Theatre works from the 1970s and three newer works created for Richard Alston Dance Company and Yorke Dance Project in 2015 and 2019.

Dancers from the Rambert School will perform a section of Cohan’s 1975 work Class, based on the exercises of a dancer’s daily class. The re-staging is being overseen by former members of LCDT Paul Liburd MBE and Darshan Singh Bhuller with additional coaching by former company dancers Linda Gibbs and Anita Griffin.

Also choreographed in 1975, Stabat Mater, performed by dancers from The Royal Swedish Ballet School, who first re-staged this classic work with direct input from Cohan and the guidance of former LCDT dancer, Anne Donnelly (Anne Went), Associate Professor and current Director of Dance Programmes, Middlesex University, is a response to Vivaldi's score of the same name.

In 2013, Cohan returned to London from France and began working with dancer and choreographer Yolande Yorke-Edgell. He created Lingua Franca for Yorke Dance Project in 2015, his first new work in over a decade. In 2015, he created Sigh for Liam Riddick which was performed as part of Cohan’s Middlesex University professorial inauguration and at his own 90th birthday celebrations at The Place. 2019’s Communion is the sixth work he created for Yorke Dance Project set to an ambient score by Nils Frahm. Dane Hurst performs his solo from the piece.

A filmed section of the duet from Cohan’s Forest performed by dancers from the Martha Graham Dance Company will round out the evening. Lighting will be under the supervision of Cohan’s long-standing creative associate John B Read.

These evenings will launch the Sir Robert Cohan Dance Legacy CIC, formed to manage and support performances of Cohan’s works, sponsor workshops, seminars and master classes and engage in a broad range of activities honouring Cohan’s significant legacy.