Dancer and choreographer Paul Liburd spent a week at RCS to work with the Modern Ballet students on their graduation performance. Linda Robertson sits in on a class and watches the dance master at work.

The slow, hypnotic beat of a drum fills the room as dancers begin to move – stretching, flexing, contracting – their eyes locked on the teacher ahead.

As he winds his way through the bodies, he gives a word of encouragement here, an adjustment there, while delivering a steady stream of instructions.

This is Paul Liburd MBE, world-respected dancer, choreographer and teacher who is here to work with the students on their technique. Paul is exacting but fun, his face often breaking into a wide smile as he joins in with the plies and tendus.

The pace soon picks up as the students travel across the floor: “This should be one of the best parts of dancing – filling the space,” Paul says, as he takes flight.

It’s special to get visits like this – guest artists who come to RCS to share their passion and professional practice with the next generation, giving them unique industry insight.

Paul danced with companies including Scottish Ballet – where he was a soloist – Rambert and London Contemporary Dance Theatre, and has performed the works of some of the world’s most prominent contemporary-modern choreographers.

When he retired from performing after an award-winning 24-year career, he moved into teaching and is currently contemporary dance tutor at Rambert School. He was awarded the MBE in 2009 for services to dance.

It’s important for dancers to be exposed to different styles and teachers, and ways of working, because they have to be as versatile as possible when they go out into the professional world.

Paul teaches Graham-based technique, the contemporary movement style created by dance pioneer Martha Graham.

“Graham is an intense technique but the students have jumped on board with me, which is great, and they’re all working hard.”

What does he hope they’ll take away from it?

“Just being open to this new experience, more than anything. I always say to myself ‘be a sponge’, take it all in, you may not use it today or tomorrow but you may use
it in five years’ time. A sound technique gives you a foundation to explore many, many things.”

The qualities he looks for in a dancer are passion and an openness to learn and evolve.

 

There’s wonderful talent at RCS, the students are very receptive and very expressive. They have a great place to train here in Scotland and have one-to-one time with their teachers, so they should count themselves very lucky.