Anda Winters is moving heaven and earth to make Notting Hill a centre for dance – and she’s going about it in the most exhilarating way. We caught up with her in the old Coronet Theatre in Notting Hill to find out more…
Anda Winters is a woman certainly not short of a pinch or two of bravery. As Artistic Director of The Print Room and owner of the Coronet theatre in Notting Hill Gate, Winters took on the enormous task of rejuvenating the old theatre/cinema to make it a new home for The Print Room in July 2014 – but she’s not content on stopping there. Instead, she has a passionate vision to bring dance back to Notting Hill and to make the Coronet the new London contemporary dance destination.
This is no easy feat. ‘It was like opening Pandora’s Box,’ says Winters. ‘My friends, Tom Dixon and Richard Thomas, came round with a flashlight and it was so damp that they went the colour of that grey wall behind you! But they still said I had to take it.’ As I found myself ascending a spiral staircase to Winters’ beautiful office space in the rafters, it became immediately clear that she has the vision to make this a success, something which her friend and Print Room choreographer Hubert Essakow will vouch for.
Essakow, a former Royal Ballet dancer, Rambert dancer and BalletBoyz cast member, is Winters’ right-hand man when it comes to the creations that happen within the walls of the Coronet. ‘Everything you see here,’ he exclaims, ‘it’s all Anda.’ Think old-fashioned opera houses, with rooms of different rehearsals and genres happening at the same time, and you’ve got an accurate image of the vision you imagine when talking to Winters. ‘That’s exactly the feel we want to go for,’ agrees Winters. ‘We want to bring dance here on a larger scale, so we’re growing in many ways.’ One of the points that both Winters and Essakow make is that, although the arts have moved away from the area a lot, the foundations are still there. ‘You can feel it in Notting Hill, the creative vibe. There are a lot of artistic people living here and it’s really exciting,’ says Essakow. ‘But dance needs to come back.’
It is for all of these reasons that Winters is so passionate. ‘West London really does need something for the arts,’ she explains. ‘It’s got a strong community for it and we’re trying to go further into that with our ideas. We are working closely with Brixton prison, for example.’ Essakow goes on to tell me how there used to be so much in the area when he first moved here, a hub for creative people and dancers, but now ‘there’s nothing here at all’. It’s perhaps a nice foreboding that the hugely successful Rambert started its life in Notting Hill, but now has a RIBA award-winning studio. ‘I see Anda as the modern-day Marie Rambert,’ enthuses Essakow. ‘We’re really lucky to have someone who truly values championing dance in a theatrical space.’ Winters would like to develop the venue to a point that instead of only doing one month-long dance show each year, dance can run alongside theatre shows in one of the other rooms. ‘You’ve got be brave and take risks with it,’ says Winters.
You can feel it in Notting Hill, the creative vibe. There are a lot of artistic people living here and it’s really exciting. But dance needs to come back
The debut choreography at the new venue, Terra, will be made up of six dancers and is the third piece in Essakow’s trilogy exploring ideas of earth and finding a place here. As the first dance show to be performed in the main auditorium of the Coronet, both Winters and Essakow wanted something relevant, something that would touch people and allow for personal interpretations. ‘Most people in London have migrated in some way or another and this idea of mass migration is really topical,’ says Essakow. ‘Earth is something personal to everyone – it’s an idea of finding space, finding a place of refuge and a place where we feel safe.’
For me, a thought has been slowly growing throughout the length of the interview and I can’t help but feel inspired by the space and the people within it. It seems that not only is the choreography exploring the ideas of belonging, but that this dance is a symbolic opening to the new space. ‘It’s the end of the trilogy from Hubert. First we had Water, then Fire,’ explains Winters, ‘it would be perfect to finish that trilogy here.’ After all, as Winters goes on to tell me: ‘It’s all about what you feel inside. It’s the seeds of something; it’s about growth and shows ideas can go on forever.’
The Print Room has migrated, developed and found a new home within the Coronet and, with that, is bringing a new life to Notting Hill and its creative inhabitants. ‘I’m slowly building it into a home,’ Winters smiles.
Terra runs from 23 February-12 March. The Print Room at the Coronet, 103 Notting Hill Gate W11 3LB; 020 3642 6606; the-print-room.org