Featured Choreographer: Rachel Catherall

Interviewed by Laura Dodge

Rachel Catherall trained at Merseyside Dance and Drama Centre in Liverpool. After graduating, she danced professionally all over the world for many companies and cruise lines, before becoming Resident Artistic Director for the European leg of the Irish dance show, Spirit of the Dance. Rachel currently choreographs in dance styles including ballet, commercial and folk dance as well as running the Elsber School of Theatre Dance in Flintshire, Wales.

Tell me about your most recent choreographic work.

I have just finished working on a new musical, Sky Hawk, directed by Tim Baker, at the Clwyd Theatr Cymru. It was for four actors so my role was more movement direction than choreography. I also recently choreographed The Winslow Boy, directed by Terry Hands. I had to create a ‘bunny hug’ routine. I’d heard of it before but had to study to get its origin, history and steps right. It’s an early 1900s dance that was done in clubs in California, similar in music style to the Charleston. It was considered outrageous at the time as men and women danced so close together!

You work in such a diverse range of dance styles, including Irish dance. How did that come about?

I did Irish dance at college – only a little bit, but I loved it. So after I graduated, I went to lots more classes and developed my technique. Then I became the Resident Artistic Director for the Spirit of the Dance European tour. The show is like a Riverdance for smaller venues. Riverdance is only suitable for large theatres and arenas but Spirit could tour much more widely (although as the show grew we did play some pretty massive venues!). I still love Irish and continue to teach and choreograph it. In my dance school, I teach a mix of the traditional technique and the more commercial side, using modern music. I love choreographing and I love being diverse as life never gets boring.

How would you describe your choreographic style?

It depends what I’m doing! The music always comes first. The music paints a picture in my head and the movement come from there.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

I own theElsber School of Theatre Dance and a career highlight has to be when my choreography was selected as one of 19 dances to be performed in Dance Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. That was fantastic.

What are you doing next?

My school is doing a show very soon so I’m living and breathing that at the moment. Then I’m off to teach the choreography for Britain Rocks, a show I created last year for performance on Fred Olsens 'Bouddica' Cruise Ship - for Mirage Shows and Productions. After that, I’ll be working on Othello for Chester Performs.

You can read Rachel Catherall’s full choreographer profile at www.danceuk.org/uk-choreographer-directory/ukcd/profile/1204/