Musings from Sir Dave

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Last year Dave became very unwell, and now he’s back at home recovering, adjusting and coming to terms with some new ways of life (all whilst in the midst of this pandemic). We’re bringing you a few reflections from Dave, as he reflects back on his career highlights, dance and a little bit of politics.

Performance photo from Bill and Bobby. Dave Toole, dressed in a white shirt and black evening suit, is lying on his right side the floor, in front of an old-fashioned bathtub. His left arm is lifted straight up, his gaze is directed downwards, to his right hand on the floor. On the far rim of the bathtub, with her back to the camera, sits a female dancer in a white dress, her brown, curly hair falling to her shoulders. Behind the bathtub there is a brick wall, some green shrubbery with red roses and a wooden bench.

ID: Performance photo from Bill and Bobby. Dave Toole, dressed in a white shirt and black evening suit, is lying on his right side the floor, in front of an old-fashioned bathtub. His left arm is lifted straight up, his gaze is directed downwards, to his right hand on the floor. On the far rim of the bathtub, with her back to the camera, sits a female dancer in a white dress, her brown, curly hair falling to her shoulders. Behind the bathtub there is a brick wall, some green shrubbery with red roses and a wooden bench.

Could you give us three of your career highlights?

So many to mention…

Although it was the biggest thing, the Olympic Opening Ceremony doesn’t actually rate that high in respects of pride… so hardly makes my list when asked

Dance wise, Back to Front With Side Shows with Candoco was a turning point. Our first outside choreographer, Emilyn Claid, gave me a chance to be more creative and put a bit more of myself into something…

Next of course would be DV8. Dream job at that time and I guess put me out there more than anything. But mostly it was working with these legends I’d watched for years, and there I was, this dodgy postman mixing with them…

Of course, no list would be complete without Stopgap… I’ve been fortunate to work with people I “get”, and it also feels like a family. Creatively, working with Lucy has been a joy and I’d always be willing to try anything she asked… Personal highlight in the SG years, selfishly would be my solo at the end of Artificial Things. It was such a personal thing and could only have had happened with the support of Lucy and the rest of the team.

Outside of dance, Blasted was the acting work I was most proud of with Graeae. More so than working with the RSC, it was nice, but two lines wasn’t that much of a challenge, although the Irish accent was…

There are so many moments, so hard to pick three but that gives you an idea

What did your family think of you beginning a career in dance?

My family were a little mixed when I told them. My sister, Cath, knew how miserable I was so thought it was a good idea. My mum, of course could only see the safety in the Post Office job so wasn’t quite as keen. My friends mostly encouraged me to try for it as most of them knew I needed to get out the place I was in…

How has dancing changed for you over the years?

The last few years have been very frustrating as far as dancing is concerned. Obviously, we all get older and the body can’t do all the things it used to do, and I found that hard to deal with. I was always pretty agile but have been slowing down over recent years and had to focus more on the smaller things and the detail… Ironically, that’s something I used to drill into pupils in workshops. It wasn’t the big stuff that impressed me I’d say, it’s the detail… Now that’s come back to haunt me.

Obviously, recent events have changed everything and right now I don’t see me ever dancing again, at least in a way that I would find worked for me. I don’t want to be in a chair, either manual or electric…That’s not me and I’d rather retire than do that… Maybe that will change over time, who knows?

Where’s the OBE?!

Ah the famous OBE!! No word on that for a while and it feels weird chasing it up, so will just have to see… Not quite ready for the trip anyway…

We asked Dave a bit about his politics, if he had anything to share right now…

I’m not really that political if I’m honest. I’ll moan without actually being proactive

I did have a weird thought the other day though while I was watching Ben Kingsley play Ghandi. Could that film be made now with a white actor playing the part? I think not…

Anyway, this made me think about Kenneth More playing Douglas Bader in Reach for the Sky. I’ll concede in that era, there probably were not many choices of disabled actors to play the part but if they remade the film today without a disabled actor in the main role, would there be an uproar from anyone outside the disabled community? I think we know the answer…


Thank you to Dave for offering his thoughts…

You can catch Dave in the film adaptation of Artificial Things on BBC (UK only) and on our YouTube channel (worldwide) from 18 November 2020.

Stopgap are helping Dave’s family collect donations in his name to support the next generation of disabled artists. Click here to find out more.