Stepping up to the challenge

Sitting with her legs curled up under her on her office chair as only those with the flexibility of a dancer can, Alice Marshall (nee Vale) confessed that she has the most perfect job in the world as far as she is concerned.

And it’s true to say that it is almost as if the job description for her post at the University of Derby – Programme Leader for the BA in Dance based at Déda – could have been written with her in mind.

When the job was created four years ago, Alice was already the resident artiste at the Derby centre for dance from where she produced work for her own professional company Adaire to Dance and she was tutoring students at a variety of community groups and workshops as well as lecturing at Lincoln University.

“When I heard that the university in Derby wanted to launch a dance degree course I knew it was the job. What could be better than working with students here in Derby at this fantastic professional dance house and also being able to continue with my own practise. I just love this job,” she said enthusiastically.

The 30-year-old dancer, who was brought up in Matlock, started dancing at an early age at the Elizabeth Chamberlain School of Dance.

When she realised her dreams of being a ballerina would be thwarted by her lack of inches height-wise she decided to devote her already-honed talents to contemporary dance and after completing a foundation course at Chesterfield College she obtained a 1st class degree from Winchester University.

After working with other dance companies she eventually formed her own company.

Her choreography often mixes humour with pure movement and she regularly works with film and lighting artists Illuminos, who also happen to be her brothers Matt and Rob.

They were the inspiration behind the amazing illuminations projected on to Chatsworth House a few years ago and are now in hot demand for events around the world.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have time for smaller projects and, of course, their sister. Last summer the Adaire To Dance show Icarus, inspired by the Greek myth of the boy who flew too close to the sun, used digital animations to interact with the choreography truly bringing the performance to life.

Alice says that she and her siblings are currently working on an idea for a much larger scale piece that they want to perform in site-specific spaces such as cathedrals.

“We enjoy working together and I am really excited about this project and how it will evolve,” she said.

Her choreography all adds to the experience that Alice brings to the university course that she heads up, which is exactly what her bosses wanted, as one of the important aspects  of the course is its links to the professional dance industry.

Alice is delighted that since it was launched in 2014 the numbers of students enrolling on her course has steadily increased and proudly points out that last year they had their first batch of graduates.

“What is so fantastic about this three-year degree course is that it is based at Déda and the students get to experience working alongside professional companies. The feedback we are getting is excellent and I am hoping that the course will continue to grow and develop.”

If you are interested in the course go to For details about Alice’s company click here.