Kane Husbands has got a big job on his hands: he's the National Youth Theatre's choreographer for the London 2012 Welcome Ceremonies. Here, he talks about early mornings, the importance of staying healthy and how he found his way into theatre...
Full name/age/job title:
Kane Husbands, 24, National Youth Theatre of Great Britain’s Choreographer for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Team Welcome Ceremonies.
Please give us an overview of your average day…
At the moment my days are very long. We have just started the performances, welcoming athletes from 204 countries to London and the Olympic Village. When we were rehearsing the days were always very different. We did lots of physical training and movement approaches, looking into yoga-based practice, contemporary dance, Feldenkrais, circuit training etc. I would try to introduce the cast to different approaches to moving and keep them on their toes.
Rehearsals were great fun and it’s so exciting seeing the whole thing come together. Now we have moved to the performances, my day is slightly different. I wake up at about 5.30am and set off on a 45-minute cycle to the Olympic Village. After passing through security I meet the 70 actors performing that day and take them through a 40-minute physical warm up. I then help out the make-up team as the cast changes and dresses and applies their face paint.
We pre-set and then begin the performance, welcoming four countries at any one time. After the performance we all meet and go through notes from the performance and then get ready for the next show. At lunch we sometimes change cast if it’s a particularly heavy day and I go through a similar process again. Some days we have up to 11 shows. We exit the village at about 8pm and head to the pub to debrief. I then cycle home and do the whole thing again the next day. I really love seeing it all come together, and to think a month ago we were only just starting.
What is the most common misconception about your job?
Some people think a choreographer or movement director merely makes dances – I would argue this is a tiny part of my role. I look into the whole aesthetic of the entire picture. Therefore, I work closely with the director on staging, blocking, and the architecture of the space, the use of props, costume, sound and also the movement. I try to bring all the components together through a physical language. Everything is movement; the way you scratch your head, for instance, could be done a million different ways. The role of a movement director or choreographer therefore isn’t only about making dance-theatre.
In this role, with the National Youth Theatre, we are working with young people who aren’t necessarily dancers. I really want the cast to learn new approaches and to take something from this. In many ways it’s an experience-based training, where the company learns on the job. Rehearsals were really exciting as you could see individuals progress and feel more confident when it came to moving and physically interacting. I really like seeing the cast develop and surprise themselves by doing something they initially thought they wouldn’t be able to.
What is the hardest thing about your role?
Sometimes the days can be really long and physically very draining. Finding the stamina to keep going or even to stop can sometimes be hard. As I’m working with two companies at the moment on the same performance, we often would call one group in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Sometimes doing circuit training twice a day would make me so tired. It’s great though, and everyone is so enthusiastic that it just keeps you going. I have to take care in aiming to have good health, eating well and looking after myself, as I don’t know how I’d keep going if I was feeling ill or injured.
When did you decide what you wanted to do with your life and how did you set out to achieve it?
When I was younger I did a lot of physical activity – I swam competitively until I was 17 and a lot of athletics. I had no interest in theatre and really hoped to become an athlete, but this always seemed like a long shot and I didn’t always enjoy it.
When I was 16 I auditioned for National Youth Theatre and got in. I thought I’d try out the course and I absolutely loved it. It made me re-think what I wanted to do and I looked into studying theatre and drama schools. I trained at Rose Bruford College on the BA European Theatre Arts Course and looked deeper into movement practices in European theatre. I kept an active involvement in National Youth Theatre while I was studying.
The last thing I performed for NYT was at the Beijing Olympics for the Handover Ceremony. After graduating I came to work for NYT on their regional and creative learning social inclusion programmes. Over the past two and a half years I worked on lots of different pieces across the UK and internationally. More significant are the thousands and thousands of young people I have had the privilege to work with along the way. What keeps me going is looking back to my own experience, and how a few very lovely people made me reconsider what I wanted to do with my life. Perhaps my practice may offer a different route to other young people who are unsure about what they want to do when they are older.
What can you do to get a head start?
The very best head start is to always be learning. I learn new things every single day from the people I work with. The day I think I know it all is the day that I’ll have become out of touch with the people I work with. I think this curiosity has taken me far and has allowed me to learn from so many different people from a whole range of backgrounds.
Could you describe the creative element to your job?
My job is incredibly creative, whether it’s planning the physical warm-up for that day, painting one of the cast member’s faces, changing the choreography, making new stage pictures or even just meeting new people. I’m constantly thinking of ways for the cast to have fun and to keep spirits high. Sometimes this is harder than it seems but on the whole our days are very playful and fun. My job never gets boring and with a cast of 150 people, there is always someone to be talking to or something new to find out – they are way more interesting than me and always come up with such interesting ideas that start the ball rolling.
What’s the one thing you wish you had known at the start of your career that you know now?
I learnt that the process is so important. If the cast have had ownership of the material, if they have created it and invested in the process, the performance will almost always be interesting. I now plan approaches to getting the cast to create material themselves. I never want to turn up and teach my ideas. I’d much rather collaborate. That way the performance belongs to all of us.
Which organisations/websites/resources do you think would be useful for people entering your industry?
National Youth Theatre provided me with the most exceptional opportunities. I will always be one of their biggest advocates. I honestly believe it’s been a huge influence and stepping stone in making me who I am today. IdeasTap has incredible opportunities – I once went to Dubai and Abu Dhabi through applying for an opportunity with NYT through IdeasTap. I think there is so much incredible free theatre out there for young people and the more theatre you can see, whether good or bad, will provide invaluable learning. I would check out NT entry pass, Donmar Warehouse and Barbican freeB.
For more articles, jobs and opportunities, visit the Performing Arts hub.