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Page last updated at 12:58 GMT, Thursday, 8 October 2009 13:58 UK
Come dancing at a new 9m centre
By Andrew Woodger
BBC Suffolk

The 8.9m DanceEast centre opens

A new £8.9m dance centre is celebrating its official unveiling with an open weekend of free events.

DanceEast's new headquarters on Ipswich waterfront includes a 200 seat theatre, three studios, cafe, fitness suite and dancewear shop.

DanceEast, which was based at Northgate School in Ipswich, has been planning the new centre for 10 years.

The Jerwood DanceHouse will have a varied programme of drop-in classes and performances by famous dance stars.

"There's loads of young talent out there," said Emma Gibbons, DanceEast's marketing manager.

"We now have 50 in the academy and these are all exceptionally talented young dancers between the ages of 10 and 16.

"We hope that as it progresses we'll really see some emerging talent coming out of the region."

On the waterfront

At the Stoke Bridge end of Ipswich's ever-changing waterfront, you can now find the multi-million pound Jerwood DanceHouse.

Jerwood DanceHouse and The Mill on Ipswich waterfront
The Jerwood DanceHouse is at the bottom of The Mill block of flats

Funding has come from the National Lottery, Ipswich Borough Council, Suffolk County Council as well as private sponsors including the Jerwood Foundation.

The open weekend on 9-11 October 2009 offers an open-top bus parade from the Cornhill, a range of free workshops and live performances from the Royal Ballet, Bonachela Dance Co., Srishti and more.

You can find out full details on the DanceEast website.

Emma said spending that amount of public money is justified:

"Even in a recession, people need to enjoy themselves and it's these sorts of things that get people through difficult times."

An alternative to sport

12 year old Bradley from Essex takes part in the Boyz United workshop.

"You meet tons of people. In football, you exercise all your limbs and you do that with dance as well.

"This building is fantastic. It's going to have tons of stuff in it. Our dance studio is ginormous with ginormous mirrors each side.

"Our dance is a mixture of ballet and street dance that we call contemporary.

"I don't have to wear a leotard - I'm fine, thank you!"

The drop-in classes programme includes ballet, jazz, tap, belly dancing and urban.

There are classes for all ages and abilities including some for people with disabilities.

There's also a 'wellbeing' programme featuring yoga, pilates and pre-natal pilates.

Contemporary dance tutor Victoria Hocking said:

Victoria Hocking at the Jerwood DanceHouse in Ipswich
Victoria Hocking also teaches dance to people with learning disabilities

"The size of the studios is much bigger, the sprung floors help you to jump and the mirrors help you to do things like correct alignment - it's not vanity!

"I think there's more opportunity with this building and, because it's on the waterfront, more people will see it and it becomes more available - and the doors are always open."

Prestige performances

DanceEast will still have its annual showcase gig at Snape Maltings and they've got a gala show at the Jerwood on 7 November 2009 featuring ballet stars Sylvie Guillem, Russell Maliphant and more.

Tickets for that show in the theatre cost £150.

Susannah Burke, DanceEast's special projects officer, said it's a one-off price:

"We're not an elitist organisation, but we do need to raise money to keep ourselves going.

"You won't normally see the likes of Sylvie and the other artists in such an intimate setting and people are willing to pay.

"Other events will be priced accordingly and you've only got to look at our website to see how accessible everything else is."

Degrees in dance

DanceEast officer worker Emma had dreams of stardom herself once:

"A dance career's hard work. It's very competitive especially after things like Strictly Come Dancing.

"There's a huge amount of contemporary dance groups and a lot more administration jobs.

Emma Gibbons on Ipswich waterfront
Emma Gibbons has worked at DanceEast for four years

"I think every young girl who dances dreams of becoming a professional. I went to university to do dance, but decided that wasn't for me.

"I was just really lucky to come back to my hometown and get a job with one of the best dance organisations in the country."

The DanceHouse itself offers a degree in Dance in the Community in association with its waterfront neighbour University Campus Suffolk.

And Emma will still be cutting a rug: "I'll be working in the office and then taking part in classes myself.

"Come along and find me!"

Mark Murphy's Saturday Show on BBC Radio Suffolk will be live from the Jerwood DanceHouse on 12 October 2009, 9am-12pm.



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