A new hat for a familiar face! We are delighted to announce Sheena Kelly joins the team in a new capacity as DU Dance (NI)’s first Community Engagement Artist. In this exciting role, she will be responsible for developing community links, reaching out to new audiences and increasing participant numbers from Northern Ireland’s most challenged communities.

Sheena has worked with DU Dance (NI) for a number of years as Director of Sutemos Youth Engagement Project and as freelance contemporary dance artist. With an long-standing inter­est in com­mu­nity dance prac­tice, she says of her appointment, ‘I am delighted to start 2022 in the role of Community Engagement Artist with DU Dance (NI). The last few years have been challenging for everyone but it has highlighted the necessity for connection and creativity. I look forward to collaborating with communities across Northern Ireland to develop exciting workshops and projects and continue to raise the profile of the incredible work the company does.’ Welcome Sheena!

A festive throwback on this wet Thursday afternoon in January to the first sharing by our new intergenerational dance group. This took place at the Ramoan Community Centre in Ballycastle on 14 December. It was truly joyful to watch and we very much look forward to seeing more from this group.

At a time when there are few situations that bring people of different generations together, this project seeks to address this lack of connection, advocating the power of dance as a vehicle for personal, social and community cohesion.

Meeting once a week, the group is led by Philip Johnson and will devise performances and events that resonate with people of different ages.

If you would like to get involved or find out more please contact us at info@dudanceni.com or 028 9023 0877.

This project is supported by The Arts & Older People Programme, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and The Baring Foundation.

We have an exciting programme of dance coming up this month. Firstly, on Tuesday 14 December, Alternative Energies is delighted to be giving an informal performance to friends and family at the Ramoan Community Centre in Ballycastle. This new intergenerational dance project in Ballycastle brings together 6 young people aged 15 – 18 years with 8 elders aged over 65.   Under the guidance of renowned dance facilitator Dr Philip Johnston, this group work, talk and create together to devise performances that resonate with people of all ages.   (This project is supported by The Arts & Older People Programme – Arts Council Northern Ireland and The Baring Foundation.)

Then on Sunday 19 December our annual Day of Dance will be bringing five of the youth engagement programmes together for a sharing workshop and performance. Over 90 young people and their families will travel from across Northern Ireland to The Lid in Crawfordsburn Country Park.  We will be joined by the junior and senior Belfast Boys groups, Suteminis and Sutemos from Dungannon and Alternatives from Ballymoney. 

Our Day of Dance is always a fun and lively showcase of the hard work and energy the young people have put in at the weekly classes.  This year we shall embrace the beautiful outdoors and have lots of festive fun with hot chocolate and treats! We look forward to producing this event with our team of dedicated freelance dance artists and facilitators and the support from lighting, sound and photographic professionals. 

Today we were delighted to be announced by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland as one of seven projects in Cultural Bridge, a new pilot programme promoting partnerships between the UK and Germany which foster artistic collaboration and cultural democracy.

Along with Belfast-based Beyond Skin, we will be working with community arts organisation Die Villa in Leipzig on an exciting youth cultural exchange project.

Artistic Director Mags Byrne said “At this time of climate emergency I am more than pleased to hear the news that members of our Youth Steering Group will have the opportunity to engage and create work on this important issue during our project – Ode to Earth. Thank you to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for putting us forward for the Cultural Bridge programme.”

For more information: http://artscouncil-ni.org/news/du-dance-and-beyond-skin-take-part-in-uk-germany-collaboration

The Youth Steering Group came together in person at The MAC on 19th September and welcomed new members representing Belfast Boys – Archie, Jed, Leo, Noah & Rory.

The group shared information about what they had all been focusing on in their sessions, and had a lively and interesting discussion on current issues.

Alternative Energies spoke about “exciting plans to start a new intergenerational group in Ballycastle”.

Belfast Boys said they were keen to “select their own music playlists for sessions and that they had a new member”.

Sutemos reported that “the move to leisure centre was good, they were looking forward to it and it allowed the older group to meet at the later time.”

With regard to future company projects the group members are to be involved in the Young Carers end of project Jamboree and peer-to-peer evaluation.

During discussions on the new Environment Project the group were clear that they want to be involved in more direct awareness raising, campaigning and practical action.  They are keen to use nature, the beaches and music to convey how they feel and to call out those adults in positions of power who don’t act.

Over the summer, six commissions were awarded by DU Dance (NI). The opportunity was offered to young people aged 16 and over taking part in the company’s Youth Engagement Programmes. With the help of the group leaders, five young people were chosen. (You can read more about them on our social media). The sixth commission was a little different as it facilitated six of the older Belfast Boys members to develop their skills over a choreographic weekend. The group headed to Bushmills and much fun ensued. In between sea dips, they worked hard on a devised piece that formed the basis of the showing.

All six resulting pieces were revealed at an informal showing on 13th August 2021 at the Hill of The O’Neill & Ranfurly House in Dungannon to a highly appreciative audience.  Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Drama and Dance Officer at Arts Council NI, expressed her joy after attending the showing “My jaw always aches after a DU Dance (NI) sharing – I grin from ear to ear at the power of young dancers finding self-expression in dance. Their bravery & good grace in embracing the vulnerability of standing up & sharing creative work is inspiring. Each one of them is amazing.

This programme is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland – Stability and Renewal funds.

Sharing some pictures from our Summer Sessions in August. These were really well attended with visits from Belfast Circus School to Sutemos and Suteminis and Belfast Boys were back at The Crescents Arts Centre – happy days!

Following an informal showing at The Hill of The O’Neil and Ranfurly House to friends and family, our dancers from Dungannon and Belfast were delighted to join in the fun at the Belfast Maritime Weekender in September with pop up performances at the buoys.  It was great to perform live and our drunken sailors made quite an impact!

All our Youth Engagement Projects are up and running with a BRAND new junior group of Belfast Boys.  It has been great to see so many new faces. Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram pages for highlights and live videos from the groups as they work towards our ‘Day of Dance’ in December. (More detail on this to follow.)

Young carers and their families from across Northern Ireland came together in Magherafelt on Sunday 26 September to celebrate the on-going ‘Building Bridges’ project which is being delivered in partnership with Barnardo’s NI.

Building Bridges’, running over the past three years, uses dance and film for young carers to creatively tell their own stories.  Five short, arts-based films featuring young carers were screened at the Jamboree for all to enjoy whilst the sixth film, made in August, premiered with a live performance from local rapper Jay Sutton. Jay had collaborated with the this group of young carers to devise a powerful and catchy soundtrack to their film.

At the fun-filled Jamboree young people and their families enjoyed arts and crafts, old time games, bouncy castles, graffiti wall and a surprise visit from an ice cream van.

Speaking of the Young Carers’ Jamboree, Fionnuala Walsh, National Head Northern Ireland at BBC Children in Need said: “After a period of immense challenge and uncertainty for young people, we’re very proud to support partnership projects like Building Bridges, which provide a lifeline and also help participants navigate through the current impact of the pandemic”.

We are thrilled to see the lovely new dance floor, kindly donated earlier this year by Harlequin, is getting lots of use by young dancers from the local kebale (township) at the Meseret Yirga Dance Centre in Addis Ababa. Meseret’s extremely talented youth dance group are loving the new floor and the developments in technique classes which are now possible to work on. As part of our on-going work with community dance in Ethiopia, we now plan to help the centre with studio mirrors. Watch this space!

Elsewhere in Ethiopia, our colleague Shiferaw Tariku is just about to launch his book – The Unfortunate Art – which talks about what the art form of dance has “…inside, beside the movement”. It has been a long haul to raise the funds for this but thankfully we are in the final stages and the book will be launched on 23rd October 2021 at the Ethiopian National Theatre.

The 11th September was Ethiopian New Year (2014 rather than 2021) and to celebrate another colleague who we support, Andualem Amare, took his students to Mount Entoto Park to dance. He reported that two great days were had by one and all.

For more information on this important area of our work check out this page.

We are excited to welcome back our Suteminis and Sutemos classes in Dungannon during Good Relations Week 2021. Involving young people from many different countries and cultural backgrounds in intercultural dance work, this programme of work has successfully used dance to provide a safe environment to build connections and celebrate differences for the past six years. New members are always welcome. Visit this page for more information on the classes or to book a place.