Sir Robert Cohan, brought modern dance to British audiences – obituary

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Robert Cohan had always had a wild side – he was an enthusiastic drug-taker, for self-discovery purposes – and he took accessibility to its limits in his contribution to Kenneth Tynan’s erotic West End revue Carte Blanche (a successor to Oh! Calcutta!) in 1976.

In Cohan’s section two men and two women stripped naked while riding two motorbikes, ending in a bike crash – the item was considered by The Daily Telegraph’s Frank Marcus to be the low point of a risky show.

The BBC filmed many of Cohan’s early LCDT works, such as the amusing Waterless Method of Swimming Instruction (1974), which was set in an ocean liner’s swimming pool, and he choreographed for a television staging of Strauss’s opera Salomé, and a dance conceived for television, Men Seen Afar.

Over nearly 20 years Cohan made 33 dances for LCDT, but could not secure its success in the explosion of British modern dance that he himself had generated. His company was obliged to spend so much time touring that its superb dancers could not develop major new pieces, and would leave in order to do so.

Meanwhile it faced competition from companies founded by alumni, from the more avant-gardist Dance Umbrella, and from a rapid development in modern dance schooling at the Laban Centre and at universities. He retired in 1983 and the company was folded in 1994.

From the late 1970s Cohan taught at international choreographic seminars, becoming artistic adviser to Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company, writing a book, The Dance Workshop, in 1986, and editing the magazine Choreography and Dance from 1988 until 2000.

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