The fabric of Ann Dewey’s life has been a garment long constructed, the warp and weft coming together to create a whole. Well-known modern dancer and choreographer Martha Graham once said, “The body is a sacred garment.” Ann has embodied that sentiment. Movement has always defined Ann's life.
Ann first became hooked on dancing through children’s roles in New York City Ballet summer productions while living in the U.S the excitement she found during those performances led her to Canada’s National Ballet School, and she studied with them until her family moved back to the UK. In the UK as a teenager, she ended up at the Rambert Academy (now called the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance). The curriculum was demanding. She needed something to relieve the stress of her workload, so she turned to knitting. Ann had been taught to knit as a child, and she found it kept her hands busy and helped her to relax. As her career as a dancer matured, and she started choreographing her own dance pieces, the knitting always came with her. “There’s a lot of waiting around in airports and sets, so knitting is brilliant.” There is a symmetry and rhythm to both dance and knitting that has captured the imagination of Ann throughout her life.
Trained in classical ballet, Ann found herself more drawn to modern dance and performance, “I found out it’s more fun.” She toured globally with modern dance companies from the UK until 1990. Meeting and marrying a fellow company member, a Kiwi, Ann moved to New Zealand shortly thereafter and started dancing for the Douglas Wright Dance Company. “The marriage didn’t last, but I loved New Zealand, so I decided to stay.” She eventually settled in Leigh and used the community as her homebase, always premiering her new dance works there. Ann spent the following fourteen years in New Zealand dancing and choreographing award-winning productions while developing her own dance company, Spinning Sun. But injury put a halt to her career. She was diagnosed with avascular necrosis on her femur, and her initial prognosis was not positive, “I was told I would end up in a wheelchair.” She saw the diagnosis as a time to figure out something else to do, even after her bones had, thankfully, healed themselves. She had always knitted, so she began exploring the best direction for her to move forward.
As a dancer, Ann found personal expression through her dancing, “ dancing is very fulfilling, spiritually.” But she was also waiting in the wings, knitting. Eventually she started creating her own knitting patterns, sometimes crediting the colour and texture of the wool itself for inspiration. She holds up her current project, a lovely blue wool, cast onto three needles she had diligently been working on, “It’s the wool. It says legwarmers to me.” Knit, purl, knit, purl.
Although Ann has left choreography behind for the moment to focus on her brick-and-mortar wool shop, The Knitting Truck, and her independent pattern designs, she still has ideas for another modern dance performance to put together when the timing is right. “Dance is beyond the three-dimensional,” she explains. On the other hand, she’s “been to almost every country in the world and performed. It’s exhausting. I’m happy to just be here and knitting.” She keeps herself in the dance world by teaching dance to eager students in Leigh. An adult class in the morning and children’s classes in the afternoon, one day a week, keeps her mind churning on the possibilities. “I never quite know what I’m making. It’s just a question of refining.”