Having lived in Dubai for seven years, UK dancer Suzanne Clandon considers the emirate home. It is here she established Dubai Desert Dance, a platform for dance education and performances in the UAE’s schools, and taught physical education at Deira International School, Dubai Festival City.
However, the movement artist has had to say goodbye to the region for the next few years, as she recently beat thousands of applicants and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study at The New School in New York City.
The US-UK Fulbright Commission was created by treaty on September 22, 1948. The Fulbright Commission offers grants at postgraduate and post-doctoral level for study in any discipline and at any accredited institution in the US and UK, as well as a number of special exchange programmes for shorter projects or for younger scholars.
Suzanne was shortlisted for interview from a pool of 60,000 British applicants and is the only recipient who currently resides outside of the UK to gain the award for the 2015-16 cycle.
We spoke to Suzanne from her new home in The Big Apple to find out more.
How does it feel to be awarded the scholarship?
It is a real honour to receive this award, and become part of the global Fulbright family. Fifty three Fulbright alumni from 13 countries have gone on to win the Nobel peace prize!
What did you have to do for the panel of judges? What does the scholarship entail?
The award provides a $45,000 study stipend and a J1 Visa to travel to the United States for a sustained period of time in order to conduct study or research in one’s chosen field. In addition to this, it is also an important opportunity for myself to share aspects of my British & UAE culture in order to foster mutual understanding and respect amongst people and our countries. I was shortlisted to attend an interview from a pool of thousands of UK applicants. I flew to the UK to attend a 20-minute interview with a panel of four judges. The applicant pool was highly competitive, and contained some very deserving people. I believed that my application provided a unique angle, due to my various experiences, particularly my time spent in the UAE, and my work with Dubai Desert Dance. I was fairly confident that if I were to receive an interview this would provide a good opportunity for communicate my ideas and project my passion to the panellists.
Did you ever think living outside the UK would count against you?
Yes! I was also very aware that I had been removed from the UK for a while and therefore this could have swayed the decision against me. I tried hard to convince the panellists of how my work in the arts in the UAE is deeply rooted in my UK culture, which is a incredibly prosperous part of our heritage and how this was benefitting people from a wide variety of nationalities, cultures and religions, embedding something unique in that part of the world.
How will this opportunity enhance your career and will you move back to the UAE once it’s done?
I see this as an opportunity for me to further my expertise outside of my chosen field and also consolidate new information with established experience. I am planning to remain connected with the UAE during my time in the US I am very passionate about the work that I have done and the connections I have established there. I am committed to continuing my work there. I have been fortunate to have considered Dubai my home for the past seven years, it has a very special place in my heart. I am excited to see what other opportunities will unfold in the UAE over the forthcoming years within the arts and education.
Have you got a message for your former students here in Dubai?
My message is simple… ‘Dream, Believe, Achieve!’ My motto has always been, ‘Where there is a will, there is most certainly a way.’