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Movement director Natasha Harrison: ‘My biggest challenge was not understanding how to get into the industry’

Natasha Harrison. Photo: Amit and Naroop

As she joins the latest intake for professional development scheme the Old Vic 12 in London, Natasha Harrison tells Giverny Masso about the challenges of coming from a working-class background and why she believes a summer school in movement direction is vitally needed…

What does being a movement director involve?

Creating the physical landscape of the play, working on any sequences that require movement. Whatever the script requires, I think the movement director should be involved from the beginning of the process, as it sometimes feels as if movement can be stuck on at the end.

How did you get into movement direction?

I trained as a dancer at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance [1]. I did a module there with Rod Dixon, director of Red Ladder Theatre Company [2] – we found a way of working together that just made sense. I’m now an associate artist with Red Ladder. I did an MA in movement direction and teaching at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama [3] in London.

What are some of your career highlights so far?

I worked on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s touring education production of Julius Caesar [4], which was amazing. Opera North and Leeds Playhouse’s co-production of Not Such Quiet Girls was another highlight. I was Leeds-based for six years and really liked working in the north. At the moment, I’m particularly interested in female-led stories and hope to do more work linked to that. In physical and ensemble theatre, my inspirations include companies like Gecko, Frantic Assembly and Lost Dog.

How does the Old Vic 12 work?

It’s a professional development scheme – I applied for it three years running before being successful. This year there are three writers, three directors and three producers, as well as three collaborators (including me), working as consultants.

What has been your biggest career challenge?

Being a working-class movement director who didn’t understand how to get into it. I was lucky to get a scholarship to do an MA – it broke down a huge barrier for me. I’d like to see more funding to support working-class movement directors. The MA was brilliant, it’s really pioneering, but there isn’t really a step before that like a foundation course or a summer school. There aren’t initial schemes for people to find out whether movement direction is something they’re interested in.

CV: Natasha Harrison

Training: BA in contemporary dance, Northern School of Contemporary Dance (2012-15); MA in movement – directing and teaching, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London (2015-16)
First professional role: Blackthorn, West Yorkshire Playhouse (2016)
Agent: Karen Baker at Associated Art

Click here for more information on the Old Vic 12 [5]