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A continuous flow of change
Date posted: 06 February 2020
As Scilla Dyke MBE takes up the position as People Dancing’s new Chair, Scilla shares some reflections on a continuing life-long journey in and through dance

‘I’d like to echo my deep appreciation to Dr Sara Houston for her inspirational leadership as outgoing Chair…’

I am deeply humbled… can you imagine - 2020 marks my 6th decade as a dance artist, choreographer, artistic director, author, professor, educator, coach, campaigner, champion.

One of five Founding Arts Council of Great Britain Dance Animateurs (Dance Artists-in Residence) with Marie McCluskey MBE, Veronica Lewis CBE, Molly Kenny and Linda Jasper MBE; I became Founding Director, DanceEast; editor, Animated Magazine (1996-2002), and appointed an Honorary Life Member of People Dancing in 2016. 

I have walked through many lives, danced through many lives … inhabited Classical ballet (Karsavina, Cecchetti, de Valois, Rambert, Fonteyn, Bicknall, Bull); American contemporary dance (Humphrey, Limón, Ailey, Cunningham, Graham); the pioneering X6 Dance Collective (Claid, Dupres, Early, Lansley, Prestige); British contemporary dance (including Cohan, Davies, Alston, Dilkes, Van Laast, Bergese, Clarke, Smith, McGregor); Black British and dances of the African Diaspora (including Joseph, IRIE!, Kokuma, Adzido, H Patten), South Asian dance in many forms (including Jeyasingh, Sarker, Dutta, Banerjee); European dance (Laban, Jooss, Leeder); dance as education instigators, agitators, provocateurs (Madden, Brinson, Primrose, Meier, Semple, Carlisle); and pioneers for inclusive dance (Dandeker, Benjamin, Greenland, Lee). All enthralling heritages - and most crucially informing the emergence of community dance and People Dancing (and its previous incarnations!). The genius of pioneering dancers who dared to dream… 

My journey travels from counter to mainstream culture. I challenge polarised viewpoints, prolifically, passionately, philosophically, professionally; through invidious poverty, as pioneer, provocateur. So many lives… some of them my own. Public and private as one; scattered across 87 countries. Nothing that I share stands alone or is complete in the present: it has roots in the past and feelers into the future.

Today – here/now – with YOU – represents a culture of possibility, not limited or determined by constraints or synthetic constructs of a specific narrative … to reimagine the possibilities, “cultivate” courage, compassion, and connection … embrace … lean into the discomfort… to reposition, walk, dance… 

A continuous flow of change. Wonderful exhilarating change.



From counter to mainstream culture - the full names of a few of the pioneering artists mentioned - a small part of my life in and through dance and crucially informing the emergence of community dance and People Dancing:

Adzido Dance (Pan-African Dance Ensemble), Alvin Ailey , Sir Richard Alston CBE, Peter Badejo OBE, Sujata Bannerjee MBE, Adam Benjamin, Micha Bergese, Mari Bicknell MBE, Peter Brinson, Deborah Bull, Baroness Bull CBE; Anna Carlisle MBE, Enrico Cecchetti, Emilyn Claid, Gill Clarke MBE, Sir Robert Paul Cohan CBE, Mercier Philip "Merce" Cunningham, Siobhan Davies CBE, Celeste Dandeker OBE, Irene Dilkes, Madee Dupres, Sanjeevini Dutta, Fergus Early, MBE, Dame Margaret Evelyn de Arias DBE: stage name Margot Fonteyn; Martha Graham; Penny Greenland MBE; H. Patten; Doris Batcheller Humphrey; Beverley Glean MBE (IRIE!); Linda Jasper MBE, Shobana Jeyasingh CBE, Kurt Jooss, Elroy Joseph, Tamara Platonovna Karsavina, Molly Kenny, Kokuma Dance Company, Rudolf Laban, Jacky Lansley, Rosemary Lee, Sigurd Leeder, Veronica Lewis CBE, José Arcadio Limón, Dorothy Madden, Russell Maliphant, Marie McCluskey MBE, Wayne McGregor CBE, Walli Meier, Mary Prestige, Lorn Primrose, Dame Marie Rambert DBE, Bisakha Sarker MBE, Maggie Semple, OBE, FCGI, Janet Smith MBE, Anthony Van Laast CBE, Dame Ninette de Valois OM CH DBE.


Main photo Scilla Dyke MBE. Photographer: Gary John Norman


Made in Suffolk. Directed by Mel Horwood

Between 1982-1993 Scilla Dyke founded and directed what would become a sea change in the UK Arts world. Made in Suffolk is the story of Suffolk Dance / DanceEast and one woman's lasting impact on dance.