Rebecca Skelton (1968-2005)

"I delve into the thickness of the world by perceptual experience" (Merleau-Ponty, 1945 transl. 1962)

After completing a BA in Dance at University of Chichester in 1991, Rebecca performed and choreographed works, often site-specific, in London and New York where she took workshops with Joan Skinner. She started attending classes given by the Expressionist dancer Hilde Holger in Camden, eventually becoming a valued teaching assistant and friend. Hilde introduced Rebecca to her daughter Primavera Bowman (originator of Alignment Therapy) with whom she studied in London and New York leading to her organising and assisting in AT workshops in the UK. Rebecca had an ambition to start an Alignment Centre in London but this did not come to fruition.

After gaining her MA in Choreography at Middlesex University in 1999, Rebecca pursued her training in Skinner Releasing Technique in Seattle also performing and choreographing works there. Her doctoral research at University of Chichester, exploring the unique values of Skinner Releasing Technique for dancers and choreographers, was nearing completion at the time of her death. Indeed whilst she was being treated for cancer she made the film Daphne performing a solo which shared her research findings. It encapsulates her typically imaginative, engaging and provocative choreography and her memorably beautiful, lyrically sensitive, fluid dancing.

Of her experience of Skinner Releasing Technique Rebecca wrote:

"Whilst dancing in the purest releasing state, I appear to be cultivating no-self. The paradox is that in becoming the dance (moved by an image) so I become more myself, and yet lose my sense of self at the same time. The "I" disintegrates. I am dancing "me-ness" which is brought about through the channel of the imagination, and thus the dance itself enables the complete integration of the psycho-physical being. This paradoxical and intertwining of one with "other" is also an aspect I relish. Inside becomes outside and vice versa. The paradoxical nature of suppleness as strength, - of less as more, are other philosophical approaches to being, that for me, tap into a spiritual connection."

Rebecca’s choreographic and performance work with her creative partner Andrew Deakin (at least 12 substantial pieces over 12 years) was full of contrasts: spirituality and play, structural logic and emotional candour, relative convention and daring. Ultimately her work was about ’space’ - an abiding concern which became explicit in her later work and was leading to new forms of expression and presentation which will now have to be explored by those who worked and studied with her.

Rebecca was also instrumental with others in encouraging performers and choreographers particularly in improvisational work. She founded and curated with Kate Brown various performance series of LIP - London Improvisation in Performance and she promoted dance research, choreography and performance particularly of new artists through her committee work at Chisenhale Dance Space.

Rebecca was also an utterly dedicated teacher whose concern for her students was paramount, sharing Skinner Releasing Technique through performances, improvisation and workshops. Her teaching throughout the country, and especially at University of Chichester and Middlesex University, was an influence on countless dancers and emerging choreographers. As one of the few qualified Skinner Releasing teachers in this country, she was an outstanding pioneer in the field. Her influence will be timeless. She will be sorely missed.

"I am interested to create fictional worlds that deal with the psychophysical experiences of space as a dancer and as a choreographer" Rebecca Skelton

A Trust Fund in Rebecca’s name has been set up, to benefit future dance students, as was her wish. Donations (cheques made payable to University of Chichester) can be sent to The Dance Department, c/o Kate Newberry, Research Administrator, University of Chichester, Chichester, PO19 6PE.

Valerie Briginshaw, Professor of Dance, University of Chichester