Internationally acclaimed dancer, choreographer and inspirational teacher Nigel Charnock was very much his own man. He hated the word dance, was frequently scathing in his criticism of most contemporary choreographers and wanted ‘ordinary’ people rather than dance critics and dance audiences to see his work. When interviewed he said: “I’m more of an entertainer. I make shows. I don’t make work.”
Born in Manchester on May 23, 1960, Charnock studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and then trained at London Contemporary Dance. He began his performing career with Ludus Dance and then Extemporary Dance Theatre.
Australian dancer Lloyd Newson saw Charnock performing at a Dance Umbrella event, they introduced themselves and that meeting resulted in the formation of DV8 Physical Theatre. They shared a disdain for mainstream dance, its elitism and pretentiousness, and decided to create a duet about male friendship – My Sex; Our Dance (1986). The two worked together for the next six years, pushing dance theatre into new areas and creating issue-based work. Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men (1990) and Strange Fish (1992) emphasised the totality, both physically and intellectually, of Charnock’s dancing.
After leaving DV8, Charnock created solos for himself and then formed his own company, Nigel Charnock and Company, in 1995. He continued to create work for other companies, such as Candoco and National Dance Company Wales, collaborated with jazz musicians and was artistic director of the Helsinki Dance company from 2002 to 2005.
At this year’s British Dance Edition, in February, Charnock’s company showcased an excerpt from Ten Men, his most ambitious work to date. It was received with great acclaim.
Nigel Charnock who was diagnosed with stomach cancer in June this year, died at St Christopher’s Hospice in south London on August 1, aged 52. He is survived by his partner Luke Pell.