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Movement tutor Kirsty McFarland: ‘Listen, not just with your ears, but with your body too’

Kirsty McFarland. Photo: Jack Shanks Kirsty McFarland. Photo: Jack Shanks
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How did you start off in dance/performance?
At school I struggled with dyslexia but dancing and drama made me feel that I could say something. I trained at the Laban Dance Centre and later at the Oxford School of Drama. Then I worked as a professional actor before teaching movement and movement directing.

What is the best piece of advice you have for students today?
Play, invest in your imagination and enjoy your physical expression.

What would you change about UK training?
That all universities and training providers were completely honest about what their courses offer and whether they are a route into work and sustaining a career in the industry.

What is the best part of your job?
Working with students who have the courage to explore and be playful – watching confidence in physical expression grow. Seeing their development both here on the course and then in how they evolve their creative voices after graduating.

And your least favourite?
Seeing graduates who have worked really hard and can offer something special go unrecognised by the industry.

Which practitioners do you admire most?
I’ve been inspired by the creativity of many people, recently: Akram Khan, OSD graduate James Meteyard and the creatives in Wildcard Theatre’s Electrolyte, Paul Hilton, Cecilia Noble – the list goes on… I’d invite students to seek out their own inspiration and be curious about what has touched them and stimulated their creative imagination.

What one skill should every successful theatre or dance professional have?
Listening, but not just with your ears, with your body too – it’s a skill worth developing.

In addition to physical technique, you feel the use of colour is very important in movement work. Why is that?
Colour is a fantastic stimulus for the physical imagination. My own favourite colour is orange.


Kirsty McFarland is senior movement tutor and head of courses at the Oxford School of Drama. She was talking to John Byrne

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