Leah Fox

Photographer | Projects Assistant | Dance Administrator

Leah Fox grew up in South London training in gymnastics from a young age. Pursing a career in dance, she graduated from the University of Surrey with first-class honors and the faculty’s award for best exploration of Dance Analysis for her book detailing her findings on capturing the liveness of dance through a camera lens. Leah completed an administrative placement with Tavaziva Dance before joining Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures in December 2017. Her professional roles have included Projects Assistant and Administrator. At New Adventures, Leah’s duties cover social media content and supporting artistic operations: with recent credits including co-production of the short ‘Play Within Film’ capturing creativity in lockdown.
I chatted with Leah in October 2020. We discussed London’s dance scene, her passion for capturing movement in photography and how the industry is adapting to a digital boom.

© Leah Fox

*

Do you feel there were enough local dance opportunities growing up in South London? 

I was very lucky to have a wide range of opportunities available to me and the support of my parents to access them (thanks for the taxiing around, fee paying and cheerleading)! I went to several dance schools (Dance Unlimited, Elite & Sutton Dance Academy), all within 15 minutes’ drive where I had the opportunity to dance in various styles and gain a wide knowledge of different approaches to dance. I trained in Ballet, Tap, Disco and Street and also tried Ballroom & Latin, Contemporary and Jazz through Momentum Dance Company. I spent many weekends at local and national dance competitions, did GCSE dance at school and also took yearly graded exams so I was fortunate in that if I wanted to do something, I could more or less access it.

Being close to London’s world-leading performing arts scene, did you travel regularly to the city centre to watch performances? 

I did! I love musicals and specifically remember taking my friend to see Legally Blonde for her birthday and just loving the theatre world from then on. Our school took us to see Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker at New Wimbledon Theatre and I was expecting them to burst into song, little did I know there was no speaking in ballet performances! My family spent a lot of time on the Northern line travelling up from Morden to enjoy a show almost every birthday, but I never got to enjoy the interval ice cream due to a traumatic experience of bringing it back up at an early panto show haha.

Unfortunately, dance isn’t always seen to be a viable career decision. Did you face any judgement when choosing to purse it more seriously?

Definitely, I went to an all girl’s grammar school and therefore they focused on getting students into Oxford and Cambridge. As such, there were very few school teachers that supported my decision to study Dance at university. My parents, whilst they were supportive of my decision, were nervous about job prospects, which is why it took me a long time to decide on pursuing this career, so I cannot imagine how tough it is now to justify this choice! However, luckily, I had a lot of encouragement from my dance teachers and specifically a family friend that studied at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance who was (and still is) a huge role model to me.

With broad training across modern, classical and cultural dance forms, which styles have you found you enjoy learning/performing most?

Although I loved performing when I was younger and disco dancing was my jam, I have become a more internal dancer and my favourite form coming out of university was Contemporary African. This is because I love the music and the ability to use the whole body in a rhythmic and expressive way. To be honest, I have never really enjoyed ballet as it feels too serious and now I really enjoy just moving my body in any way that feels good and puts a smile on my face!

Do you feel your background in gymnastics helped support your technical dance training?

Yes, it definitely helped as I was a strong and athletic dancer, but it was very restricting when competing in Street Dance. Us gymnasts struggle to loosen our stiff bodies and this is when I really learnt that versatility is so important if you want to be a skilled performer! I was braver when it came to tricks but struggled to release into the floor, letting gravity be my friend and staying grounded in my movement.

Which modules within your BA(Hons) Dance degree did you engage with most and subsequently helped to define your ambitions?

I’m a very practical and hands-on person, therefore the Contemporary Dance Practices, Choreography and Design Dialogues were the ones I enjoyed the most. These involved actually being in the dance studio or video editing suite, collaborating with other students to create visual performances. I never thought I’d have an office job however that’s where I’ve ended up! However, I love witnessing the production of high-quality dance performances and help contribute to community projects whilst managing to maintain my fitness levels through running, yoga and dance classes.

When did you first become interested in photography and which photographers inspire/d you?

I loved taking photographs from an early age and won a local competition when I was 11 which I think prompted me to explore it further. Throughout GCSE & A level Photography I always loved using dancers as models as they knew how to ‘work the camera’. Barbara Morgan and Jordan Matter were the artists I chose to study for my dissertation because I love how Jordan’s vibrant photographs reflect the body’s strengths and show dancers alive in the everyday world. These are in contrast to Barbara Morgan’s black and white images of Martha Graham which take you on a journey of raw emotion, capturing the essence of her dances and the body as poetic drama.

What is it about photographing movement you find most captivating?

 I have always found dance photographs captivating because of the process of recording one art form through another, it’s facinating! I also just love freezing a moment in time and making it last forever: capturing that spark and allowing the viewer to read into the emotion and be in awe at the body’s ability to create beautiful art.

What projects have you seen, produced under COVID-19 restrictions, that you feel demonstrate ambition and resilience within the industry as it adapts to a more digital market?

I saw Rambert’s Draw From Within choreographed by Wim Vandekeybus, live-streamed from their Southbank studios. It was exciting to watch something in real-time as it had the excitement that you feel watching a live performance when something could go wrong at any time – not that it did! It was awesome to see dancers displaying their incredible body physicality and recognise the relationship between dance and film. I also engaged with Creative Coalition festival 2020 which left me inspired by the rest of the creative industry and motivated to continue creating work with passion and to continue to strive to make the arts more diverse and accessible. In general, I’ve found that dancers and artists are very determined individuals, so I think the industry is doing an amazing job at overcoming challenges and adapting to the film world. Unfortunately, dance on screen is just not the same as viewing a live performance in a theatre, and therefore it will never replace this experience, but it has opened up new formats of capturing this beautiful art form. 

When managing the digital content for New Adventure’s social platforms, what considerations are there to audience engagement and interaction with each post?

It’s important to understand what audience you are targeting with each post, as we promote both the Take Part aspect and Production side of New Adventures. We have to think about who would be interested in each post and how best to engage them visually. It’s good to be really clear about the message being portrayed on each channel, simplifying it for people to easily digest and encouraging them to interact and share. Online platforms have been really important this year as people haven’t been able to go and see live work, therefore getting virtual engagement has been key to keeping audiences interested in your artistry. They are significant for gaining new followers and fans and a great way to give an insight to your brand and promote your work to everyone in an accessible format.

Whilst completing a work placement with Tavaziva in 2017, what did you learn about the industry as a whole?

As I hadn’t worked in an administrative role before, I learnt so much about what has to happen behind the scenes to get a show on stage. I was fortunate to join the company at the beginning of Bawren’s new work, Izindava, therefore I witnessed the whole creation phase and got to acknowledge how all the artistic elements come together and discovered how hard professional dancers train. I learnt a huge deal about touring from my company manager and really enjoyed being part of a small team in an office surrounded by other dance organisations.

What do you hope to achieve professionally over the next 5 years?

I would love to discover more about dance in other cultures and continue to help support projects that inspire more people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to get into dance! I would also like to learn more about the impact of dance and yoga on mental health and assist in communicating the wider benefits of this art form with people in different industries.

Share This