Jason Beechey Leitung Tanz ZHdK

 Jason Beechey you have been a passionate dance teacher with over 30 years of experience and the Rector of the Palucca University of Dance Dresden since 2006. Starting this August you will be the Head of Dance of the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (ZHdK). What does this mean to you?

It means a great deal to me. I am very excited to be joining the team of the ZHdK and hopefully this will be an inspiring new chapter for dance at the ZHdK.

Jason, you pursued an international career. What was the common ground in all the stages of your career and what inspired you to want to make a change in the dance world?
The common ground was my passion to discover, explore and to help others reach their full potential in dance. Since I was a young child, my dream has been to run a dance school. I was always coaching and teaching my classmates. My drive was to see if I could help them achieve things, they didn’t believe they were capable of. I have always found joy in both the creative processes as well as performing. However, I view this journey as a full circle – being a student, evolving into a professional dancer, and eventually a teacher. I can’t say that I set out to make a change, but if what I have accomplished is seen as a change for the better, than that is great to hear.

In an interview, you said that you will aim to strengthen the voice of dance inside the ZHdK and to offer a clear voice for ZHdK dance that can play a lead role in the dance world. What exactly can we expect from that and will the longevity of a dance career play a role in the curriculum of a professional dancer?
Yes, there is a clear desire from inside the ZHdK to establish a unified field of study in dance and the creation of the Head of Dance position serves as a catalyst for this new phase. We aim to enhance our existing programmes by fostering synergies and collaboration with local stakeholders such as Ballet Zurich and Danse Suisse with the goal of developing an education hub, which offers broad and comprehensive fields of study across the entire spectrum of dance. For me it is crucial that we refocus dance education towards nurturing a person ́s growth as an autonomous and empowered individual through dance. Only then can we effectively equip individuals for a more expansive and enduring career.

Furthermore, you stated that your vision for dance education in Zurich is to become a ”best practice example” of a strong, inclusive, progressive, and diverse landscape of dance education, on all levels and styles and a model of progressive innovation and cooperation. Are there any ideas you want to share with us now?
We have already taken first steps, such as expanding the HEC (Health, Excellence and Career Development) programme from the BA Contemporary Dance into the taZ, created a health team, a parent’s council and a student council. Additionally, we have initiated a global network for pastoral care in professional dance education and joined networks that unite many of the world’s most progressive dance educational institutes. Furthermore, we have
initiated a series of workshops, education opportunities and collaborative events for both staff and students. The aim is for ZHdK to become a hub for “lifelong learning”, catering to individuals from a young age, continuing through their studies, and extending to dance professionals as well as the public. Study programmes like our Master programme “Teaching and Rehearsing Dance Professionals”, as well as our Master programme in “Choreography” are important pillars in our quest for building ZHdK as a centre for dance education on a broad and inclusive basis, as we set out to educate dancers, teachers, ballet and dance directors, researches and choreographers.

At the Palucca University of Dance Dresden, you successively realized and constantly developed your vision of a progressive and forward-looking dance education.  At the moment there is a great shift into being more inclusive and a big focus on the importance of health and wellbeing in training methods. Still, the question of how to systematically improve health and well-being in the dance world is a challenge for many companies. How will you approach this at ZHdK? Are you also searching for collaborations that support you on that journey?
Yes, fostering knowledge exchange through the establishment of strong relationships and maintaining longstanding partnerships are crucial steps in developing dance education further. I appreciate the work the BA and MA programmes of ZHdK have already achieved in this field. This is an exciting time as the Ballet Zurich also welcomes a new leader and our collaboration with Dance Suisse holds significant importance. Furthermore, we are actively connecting with other institutions, aim to host conferences and to support and encourage an approach that embraces research, the questioning and evolving of our methodology and didactics on a permanent basis.

When the career of professional dancers comes to an end, dancers face the inevitable challenge of considering what to do next and how to do it. Will there be a focus on transition in the education program to provide the resources and support dancers need to make a successful transition from dance into a new career already in the early stages?
The solution is to not wait until a dancer is about to retire, but to address this already during their education and to enable them to prepare for their transition while still performing. This is very clearly addressed and included in the HEC Programme. We see a great necessity in developing further education opportunities that would enable a dancer to qualify for their next career, while studying. For example, the “MA Dance Teacher” programme in Palucca is hugely successful and we need such opportunities for dancers in Switzerland too. We also want to make sure that the present ballet education EFZ is compatible with international degrees (where also a Bachelor in classic ballet is offered).

We are very much looking forward to welcoming you to Zurich soon. What was the crucial moment for you in deciding to come to Zurich?
Thank you for the warm welcome! For me, the deciding moment was after being involved for almost two years now at the taZ, to really feel the strong desire from inside the ZHdK to invest in dance and set course for a whole new chapter and I am very excited to be a part of it.

Bild  – Copyright: Djamila Grossmann / Zürcher Hochschule der Künste

Das Interview führte Dr. Monika Gugganig.