In November this year Exim will be 5 years old! Conceived over a bottle (or two) of wine in a kitchen is St Austell in the August of 2011, myself, Stacey Weeks, Sarah Buckingham and Jessica McMunn had all finished university and decided the best way to go forward as graduates was together. We believed we would be stronger together. By supporting each other and sharing our skills and knowledge we would have a better chance of making it as artists in this new post recession world. Five years later and I believe strongly that we have stayed true to this. The name Exim means ‘next’ in Latin, which seemed appropriate as this is what we would do next.
Over the last five years the company has grown from strength to strength. The years I have spent first as Co-Founder and General Manager and later as Artistic Director have been some of the most difficult, joyous, terrifying and rewarding in my life so far.
To date we have worked with over 4500 young people, provided employment to 36 Artists most of whom the majority have been recent graduates, with Exim being their first paid position. We have taken work to Resolution twice, toured the South West and thanks to the continues support from Arts Council England the company will be heading off on its second tour at the end of the year!
I have always known that there would be a time for me to move on from Exim, and today I am formally announcing that I will be stepping down as Artistic Director as from November 2016.
This was not an easy decision for me, however Exim has always been about learning and taking the next step in dance at whatever level you are at and for me to remain in this position would risk blocking those who come behind me. I remember reading somewhere that a dancer must know when to leave the stage. That seems quite fitting now.
At our first audition in April 2012, I agreed to take on a 2nd year Plymouth University student, that dancer was Laura Henry. Laura has grown and flourished with the company over the last 5 years into the incredible performer, teacher and leader that she is today. Earlier this year she was appointed Co-Director of Exim, a role she had been performing for some time. I know under her direction, Exim will continue to go from strength to strength and that her energy and commitment to dance and young people will help Exim reach new heights.
I feel that I couldn’t write this without saying a few thank you’s. So first and foremost I would like to say thank you to Exim’s Co-founders, without whom there would be no Exim.
To all of the dancers, students, company members and teachers who have been a part of Exim over the 5 years, thank you for being on this journey with me. There are too many of you to name you all, but I have to mention Emma Pendle, Jade Poole, Zoe Mote and Kerrie Walker you were all there at the start when there was nothing, and I’m so proud of where you are all at now in your careers and Tammy Mildren who I grow prouder of each day.
Thank you also to our fantastic Board of Directors past and present. Andi Higginson, Clifford Edwards and Lucy Gomer thank you for everything. I would also like to thank Plymouth University for your support, most significantly Adam Benjamin and Ruth Way, words cannot express what you both mean to me and how eternally grateful I am for your support, guidance, teaching and friendship.
Gillian Dale was the first person I spoke too in dance; before I had even applied to University when Plymouth Dance did not exist and Gillian offered me support and guidance. That support and guidance continued and ‘Dance in Devon’ employed me straight out of University. This helped me transition from student to professional. Dance in Devon’s various professional development programmes also supported EXIM.
I would like to personally thank June Gamble. To sum up in one sentence how much both Plymouth Dance the organisation, and June Gamble personally has done for both Exim and me is just not possible. June has been my teacher, mentor, employer, advocate and friend for 7 years. To say I am where I am today because of June would be an understatement. I know June and Plymouth Dance will continue to support Laura and Exim long after I have left and I know that in June I have made a true friend and trusted colleague.
Finally to Laura, it fills me with pride to have watched you grow and develop over the past 5 years, I know Exim will be safe in your hands, and I look forward to watching you continue to grow and develop. I feel blessed to call you my friend and I feel genuinely excited to be able to step aside and watch you and Exim flourish.
I will be leaving the UK in December this year in search of a new adventure. Although, I’m unsure if any adventure I have in the future will ever match up to the one I have been on since 2011.
Co-Founder and Artistic Director
Exim Dance Company CIC
Claire has been a superb advocate for dance in the South West and in Plymouth in particular. She has been an inspiration for young people in Plymouth providing creative opportunities particularly for disadvantaged young people. Her enthusiasm, positivity and belief that all can dance have boosted the confidence of young people, enhanced their social skills and above all provided self worth for them. She is a natural teacher who listens, develops and enhances creative ideas.
We, as a board of directors, are very sorry that Claire has decided to move on with her life but respect her decision and know that whatever she does in the future will ensure the world will become a better place. We all wish her well and hope that she will keep in touch as her dance organisation will continue to flourish in Laura’s capable hands.
Interim Chair of the Board of Directors
Exim Dance CIC