• Bill & Bobbie
  • Tracking
  • The Enormous Room
  • Bill & Bobbie
  • Paralympic Opening Ceremony

Dave Toole back to listing

Along with so many of his friends and colleagues, OAUK is so sad to hear that the dancer and actor, Dave Toole, has died aged 56. From his celebrated work with DV8 Physical Theatre, he went on to become a staple part of many repertoires, but from the Outdoor Arts perspective, it was his performances with StopGap Dance Theatre that made a major impact – perhaps only capped by that famous flight over the Olympic Stadium during the Paralympic Opening Ceremony.

Dave’s movement was extraordinary and he used his body with power and precision to create some memorable and unprecedented physical images; his movement meant that every choreographer he worked with had to rethink their dance vocabulary and this was a great benefit for everyone.

The fact that much of his work was seen outdoors in the public realm made a particular impact. As outdoor performance is often many people’s first or only encounter with culture, seeing a dancer like Dave taking a central place in a festival was an eye-opening experience. For StopGap, Dave cavorted in and around a phone box in ‘Tracking’ and he was a riot dancing in a bathtub in ‘Bill & Bobbie’, with the demeanour of a wily Fred Astaire. He was also part of the early days of the inclusive circus company, Extraordinary Bodies.

His work was incredibly extensive, and it was absolutely fitting that he received an OBE to recognise this contribution to our world.

Lucy Bennett, Artistic Director of StopGap Dance Company, said:

“Dave was comfortable about being an ‘inspiration’. He knew it was not because he was disabled, he knew it was because he was doing a job he was born to do. From the moment the lights came up to the moment they faded to black, he held the audience in the palms of his giant hands.”

Read more: StopGap Dance Company

Lloyd Newson, Artistic Director of DV8 Physical Theatre, said:

“David Toole was a truly remarkable performer and person. He personified the concept of ‘differently able’, or perhaps more appropriately, ‘exceptionally able’. David made you marvel at what a body, his body, could say and do.
He was funny, irreverent, droll and direct with an openness of spirit that meant he was up for anything – and that’s
what made him such a joy to work with.  He had no time for pretension or middle-class waft.”

Read more: DV8 Physical Theatre

Jenny Sealey, Artistic Co-Director of the London 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony, said:

“Dave was so many things, our darling, wonderful, opinionated, glorious, silly, funny, kind, sexy, loving and wise friend. The most unique and leftfield man ever and funny beyond words. And of course, an extraordinary performer and a unique brilliant dancer.”

Alan Lane, Artistic Director of Slung Low said:

“We are all so sad to hear of Dave Toole’s passing. It was such a privilege to make so many adventures with him. He had an extraordinary talent; he was a brilliant actor and the very finest dancer we’ve ever seen.”

Read more: Alan Lane Blog

Angus MacKechnie, OutdoorArtsUK Executive Director writes:

“I’ll miss his work hugely, of course, but right now, I’ll really miss him on Twitter. Some accidental algorithm always put him at the top of my Twitter feed, so most mornings I would awake to some caustic words about his healthcare provision, or the inconsistencies of Bake Off, or the joy of flowers, or the incompetence of the government, or, most pressingly, his partiality for a variety of biscuits. It was like a fruit machine, you never knew what was going to come up next. Alongside the crazy gifs, he used this public voice to call out certain failings of medical funding, delivery and distribution, humanising these important matters – but always with his signature burning wit and passion.

I first encountered Dave with StopGap – a company that always feels like a family – and saw him dancing in ‘Tracking’. Having booked the show for a festival, I was quietly gutted that he was unavailable for the gig – and while the production worked really well, he was definitely an absent component of its clever collage of movement. Later on, having seen him gliding across the floor in a top hat in a Graeae Christmas show, I had the opportunity to commission StopGap to make the first iteration of ‘Bill and Bobbie’. Seeing Dave dancing in and out of the tub with Lucy for the first time will remain one of my favourite outdoor memories: a mixture of disbelief, admiration and hilarity.

And then there was the banter – on the one hand, caustic and dismissive and unrepeatable; on the other, informed, supportive and utterly engaging. I remember being stuck on a crowded train sat on the floor beside his chair for hours, rolling my eyes at each new story. I also remember him gently and clearly offering advice to one of the other dancers at an early rehearsal of ‘Artificial Things’.

As a producer and programmer, Dave – along with his StopGap family – taught me so much, in what were my very first experiences working with disabled artists; basically, I learned pretty quickly that it was just like working with any other artists. Simple.

For that, I’m hugely grateful. I’m equally grateful for his brilliant work. And the grumpy tweets.

Rest well, fine fella and thank you”.

‘Bill & Bobbie’ premiere, WTS, 2014: Lucy, Angus, Sho & Dave


StopGap: Tracking

StopGap: Bill & Bobbie

BBC Leeds: Dave Toole

Sky News: Dave Toole