Jonathan Goddard – Freelance Dancer, Mover and Shaker

Jonathan Goddard as Dracula.© Colin Hawkins. (Click image for larger version)
Jonathan Goddard as Dracula.
© Colin Hawkins. (Click image for larger version)

Mark Bruce Company are touring Dracula across the UK, with Jonathan Goddard in the lead, from 26 September until the 4 December. 15 theatres in all: Tour Details. + Mark Bruce interview about Dracula

5 Questions to Jonathan Goddard
on Dracula and more…

The National Dance Award-winning Jonathan Goddard is about to reprise a character he’s made all his own – Dracula – in Mark Bruce’s critically-acclaimed production. It’s a big tour visiting 15 theatres over 30 dates and, for sure, we wanted to know more about the teeth role, but also what else he is up to…

So what’s it like dancing Dracula? Did you have any doubts about doing it – either the first time or touring it again?

A dancing Dracula is an interesting challenge; I didn’t have any doubts about doing it, but it’s definitely quite a fine line to walk, (or dance!) something so iconic, I guess it could be truly terrible or not scary. Mark (Bruce) mentioned at the beginning of last year that he had been considering doing it for a while and I found the idea really exciting. I knew his aesthetic and passion for theatrical imagery would make it unique and I felt that he was definitely the right person at the right time to pull it off. I was intrigued by the chance to create a narrative role; Mark was originally planning to use an actor, but once he saw me in rehearsal (during a particularly busy working period, so probably looking quite like the undead already) he changed his mind and asked me if I’d be interested.

Jonathan Goddard and Kirstin McGuire in Dracula.© Colin Hawkins. (Click image for larger version)
Jonathan Goddard and Kirstin McGuire in Dracula.
© Colin Hawkins. (Click image for larger version)

I am looking forward to touring the production again; it’s a lovely group of people and there’s a real sense of team effort. It’s quite a dark role for me to do night after night which can be a bit mentally taxing, but I am proud of what we have all achieved and would like to make sure as many people who want to, have the opportunity to come and watch. Saying that, I don’t think I’ll want to do the role again after this; it’s one thing to look a bit like Dracula and quite another to have to dance him every night

How did you go about creating the role and do you play with it – is it different every night?

I think playfulness and curiosity is part of the character so I try to keep that fresh and alive. I’m quite obsessive about the actual dancing so I try to make the timing and delivery better every night which leads to small shifts, for better or worse. Other than that I think I’m fairly consistent; my Dracula doesn’t like to try wild new things, he’s been around far too long for that I’m afraid…

I didn’t really have any idea how to properly create a role or character; it’s not something I’d ever done before, I didn’t watch any Dracula films, I read the book to get a feel of the era and researched the links between the theatre world, Bram Stoker and Jack the Ripper to get a better understanding of what was swirling around London at the time.

Jonathan Goddard.© Marcus Renner. (Click image for larger version)
Jonathan Goddard.
© Marcus Renner. (Click image for larger version)

I said to Mark I’ll go for something (character-wise) in rehearsals; please tell me if I’m looking ridiculous! I’m pleased to report there weren’t too many moments though that required a quiet word.

In some ways I actually found tapping into Dracula quite easy. I think it might have something to do with the demanding physicality of a career in dance. I had a period of not dancing this year whilst working as a movement director and started to feel like I might not be able to recreate the role again. The minute I was back full-on dancing, I thought, ‘ah yes, the feeling’s back’ – I can definitely find the Dracula mindset if I need to when tired from a full day in the studio.

Besides freelancing you are part of Goddard Nixon and NMC (New Movement Collective). How’s it worked out juggling all this freedom and having both artistic and financial responsibility? Do you ever lust to run a company like Rambert?

I am enjoying my freedom; artistically it’s great. I get to really push into new areas and work with brilliant interesting people. To be totally honest if I just dance now it’s financially pretty challenging, especially as I get older (the wages haven’t changed much since I left college and I don’t get paid anymore than anyone else). I guess modern dance or dancers would need a big shift to become a lot more popular with the public for that to begin to change.

I have recently been doing some movement direction at the Royal Shakespeare Company and for the National Theatre which is something have found I really love and also rather brilliantly I’ve found the pay subsidises the dancing projects I care about, so I can keep performing.

Jonathan Goddard and Gemma Nixon in New Movement Collective's Nest.© Barnaby-Steel. (Click image for larger version)
Jonathan Goddard and Gemma Nixon in New Movement Collective’s Nest.
© Barnaby-Steel. (Click image for larger version)

I’m not sure if I lust after running a big organisation like Rambert; at the moment I’m happy to explore different worlds, loading up on new methods, ideas and experiences, if there was space to do things differently maybe….who knows what will happen in the future.

What’s this DanceSpinner thing you are part of? What other projects are on the horizon?

Ah… DanceSpinner is a teaching tool I developed and used during many years of teaching young people earlier in my career. I worked with Joe Walkling to better its design and it is now used as a teaching aid in over 300 schools in the UK and abroad.

It was an attempt to demystify and make accessible the choreographic process by using aleatoric methods to quickly free up any blocks whist creating movement.

Basically it is a board that consists of three wheels (movement, direction and body part) that can be spun in any combination to provide a movement idea or choreographic starting point. I wanted to get people making choices and decisions by providing existing suggestions. It’s a very simple idea but it works. I’ve used it for many years with dancers of all ages and abilities, non-dancers and even architects. It’s great to see people realise they have an opinion about movement and start to talk in their own choreographic languages. It’s open to everyone and I’m really keen that dance making and creativity is not just explored by the confident few.

Jonathan Goddard in New Movement Collective's Casting Traces.© Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)
Jonathan Goddard in New Movement Collective’s Casting Traces.
© Laurent Liotardo. (Click image for larger version)

I have a few new projects on the horizon; after the Dracula tour I am going back to working with Bob Cohan as part of Yorke Dance Project, (he has been re-choreographing something which we will perform next year). It’s such a pleasure to work again with him, I danced the duet ‘Eclipse’ for his 80th birthday celebrations ten years ago with Ino Riga. I am now much less nervous about the movement style than I was and am enjoying the return to a Cohan/Graham based training class.

In January next year I am doing more movement direction at the National Theatre, working with director Simon Godwin on Man and Superman with the actor Ralph Fiennes.

There is also some exciting NMC work in the pipeline; we are performing at the Southbank Centre in November with a show I helped develop and performed in Valencia earlier this year, but won’t be dancing this time in, called ‘Please Be Seated’. The Collective has also shortlisted for the Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Award this year so we will be making a small something for that too, shown at around the same time in the Barbican Pit.

Jonathan Goddard in New Movement Collective's Please Be Seated.© Simon Tomkinson. (Click image for larger version)
Jonathan Goddard in New Movement Collective’s Please Be Seated.
© Simon Tomkinson. (Click image for larger version)

I am sure there will also be more things choreographically to come with Gemma Nixon; happily at the moment she is having a baby so we are resisting flinging each other around the studio for the time being.

What is your greatest dance wish?

That’s a hard one…for me or the dance world as a whole? For the dance world I hope we can keep moving forward, breaking barriers between forms, opening to finding new formats and engaging people by not just retreading what already works in different ways. For myself, my dance wish, selfishly, is that I hope people might come and actually watch me while I can still do it!

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