Pioneering Choreographer Lea Anderson MBE to Launch her New Book at the University of Exeter

Lea Anderson at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum. Credit Steven Haywood

2024 marks the 40th anniversary of The Cholmondeleys dance company, founded in 1984 by Lea Anderson, Teresa Barker and Gaynor Coward. To celebrate, one of the founding members, renowned choreographer Lea Anderson MBE, is headed to the University of Exeter on Thursday 30th May to launch a new beautifully illustrated book.

The Cholmondeleys, alongside their brother company The Featherstonehaughs (founded in 1988) made over 87 works, both live and on film. As well as touring extensively throughout the UK and overseas, the companies are renowned for their pioneering work in non-theatrical spaces and venues. In 2002 Lea was awarded an MBE for her services to dance, and in 2006 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from Dartington College of Arts. She is also Regents Professor at the University of California, in Los Angeles which she was awarded in 2014.

Entitled ‘Lea Anderson’s The Cholmondeleys and The Featherstonehaughs: 40 Years of Style and Design’, the book offers a unique artist led perspective of the evolution of these companies and their collaborations with artists such as costume designers Sandy Powell, Emma Fryer and Simon Vincenzi, composers Drostan Madden and Steve Blake, and lighting designer Simon Corder. Edited by Mary Kate Connolly and designed by Pep Sala, the book includes stunning images by photographers such Chris Nash, Pau Ros, Pete Moss, Eddie Monsoon, Douglas Brothers and Matilda Temperley among others.

Lea Anderson said: “When we started The Cholmondeleys we wanted to create something that would interest our friends and their friends. We didn’t know how to start a dance company or how to get gigs in theatres, so we made it up, working with friends, designers, musicians, and photographers. We called ourselves The Cholmondeleys like it was a band. This book is a celebration of The Cholmondeleys & The Featherstonehaughs. Of the people that made them.”

The book launch isn’t Lea’s first time to the University of Exeter. Throughout 2019/2020, she collaborated with the University of Exeter’s Professor John Plunkett and staff at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum on an Arts and Culture Creative Fellowship, exploring new and innovative ways to bring the museum’s collections to life. Her time at the museum directly inspired her new show ‘Zoetrope’ which premiered at Wales Millennium Centre in December 2023 and is due to tour later this year. The show is a collaboration with National Dance Company Wales and uses the idea of a pre-animation zoetrope viewing device to playfully explore the evolution of man.

Professor John Plunkett said “We’re delighted to welcome Lea back to the University of Exeter. This book is a unique documentation of Lea’s innovative and distinguished career; join us in conversation to hear some of the stories behind her company archives and how she worked with the museum collections at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum.”

Lea added It is wonderful that the University has been so welcoming, being the first place to invite me to share The Cholmondeleys’ 40th birthday book. I had a very special experience researching at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum and I am excited to be returning.”

Hosted by the University’s Arts and Culture team, the book launch is taking place on Thursday 30th May between 5.30pm – 7.30pm at the Streatham campus, Exeter. Starting with celebratory refreshments at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, there will be an opportunity to see artefacts in the museum that inspired Lea’s piece ‘Zoetrope’ and a film screening of the work itself. This will be followed by an in-conversation event at Roborough Studios (just opposite the museum) where you can join Professor John Plunkett and Lea Anderson for a discussion about her distinguished career.

Lea’s book will be available to purchase on the night and Lea will be there to sign your copy. This event is free and open to all. Spaces is limited so we ask that you please register in advance here.