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Dam Van Huynh is an award-winning dancer and choreographer with his own company in East London. His contemporary dance projects and movement operas have toured the planet, and he now teaches workshops to budding dancers. He’s lived in Britain for almost two decades.
All my works begin with the artist and my self within the space. I believe a work already exists within a space between the collaborators. My job is to pull everything out into the open, then remove the elements that don’t belong. Whatever is left, regardless of whether I feel it is good or not, must be the honest reveal of where each collaborating artist is in their lives.
There’s a school of thought that says choreographers aren’t born but (self-) made. That may well be true of Dam Van Huynh. Originally from Southern Vietnam, but raised and educated in the United States, this British-based dance-maker claims to have had no particular urge to pursue such a career in this branch of the arts. “I thought my calling was to be a doctor,” he says, “or so my mum had hoped. But one chance encounter with a dance class when I was 14 threw that notion right out of the window.”
I think for me, the idea of being a choreographer always started with a question – a why has she/he done that? I never had the notion in my head that as a dancer I would end up as a choreographer, it just happened through working with many different choreographers. I always questioned why and how choreographers worked and then one day, the questions of why and how overshadowed the activity and I decided to take some time to explore the answers.
The choreographer Dam Van Huynh is an Associate Artist for Dance United and recently returned from a two-year residency at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Here the dancer-turned-teacher-turned-choreographer talks about how to set up your own company and why being a director is a little like being a therapist…