The Primary School Dance Festival is a flagship event for DU Dance (NI), so after a two-year hiatus, we were delighted to bring back the annual festival in May. We had missed the excitement of the build-up to the festival each year, popping into schools to deliver workshops and then sitting back and watching the creativity, energy and talent of each child performing on stage.
Our 12th festival brought together over 100 young people from Holy Rosary, Finaghy, Glenwood Primary Schools and Penrhyn Prep performing an exciting mix of dance in the professional settings of Belvoir Players Theatre from Disney classics, to Hip Hop and creative and contemporary dance.
There were plenty of nerves that morning when the children arrived as for many of them it was the very first time in a theatre, never mind performing onstage. However it was all made easier through the non-competitive and celebratory approach of the festival which values the input of each child. As one child shared, “I loved when everyone applauded for us as I was so nervous. Then I wasn’t nervous.”
As an art form, dance is rarely part of the school year and for many children their exposure to it is limited and often competitive based. Therefore it is important that our festival gives each child a positive experience of dance and performance which empowers them and breaks down the stereotypes of dance. It was wonderful to hear from one teacher, “Many of the boys commented that dancing is actually really fun.”
Sheena Kelly, DU Dance (NI) Community Engagement Artist explains “It has been a difficult few years for teachers and students alike so for DU Dance (NI) it was important to be able to launch our Primary School Dance Festival again and bring dance and creativity back into schools. The festival is non-competitive and celebrates every individual who takes to the stage aiming to create a safe environment for children to express themselves. For many of the children particularly the younger ones this was their first time inside a professional theatre never mind on the stage so for us it is important that that experience is positive.”
Have a look at these wonderful photos (credit to Jim Corr Photography) which capture the sheer joy at performing. As one of teacher said, “They absolutely loved every minute of it. Developing not only the dance skills but their confidence and self-esteem.”
The festival is funded by The Honourable The Irish Society and Esme Mitchell with support for refreshments from Lidl. Thank you Marie O’Donoghue from the Education Authority for their ongoing support and Belvoir Players Theatre for hosting.
Following the success of the Summer Dance Sessions last year, DU Dance NI are delighted to be back in Dungannon for a fun filled week of dance. These will take place at the Square Box theatre, Hill of the O’Neill & Ranfurly Arts Centre in Dungannon from the 1st – 5th August 2022.
Suteminis (for those aged 7-11 years) will get together from 10am – 12noon (LIMITED SPACES)
Sutemos (for those aged 12-18) years will meet from 1pm – 4pm
The week will include learning different dance styles, creating your very own dances, a circus skills masterclass by Belfast’s professional circus company Circusful and a sharing for parents at the end of the week.
The week is open to everyone and no experience is necessary.
The fee is £10 for new members; £5 for current members.
Places booked up very quickly last year, so don’t miss out! To book your space click here.
If you have any questions, please email us at email@example.com
(The Summer Sessions are funded by Children in Need and Mid Ulster District Council.)
This year’s ever popular Belfast Boys Summer Sessions will take place between 18th – 22nd July 2022 in the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast BT7 1NH.
Boys aged 12 – 16 years will get together from 10am – 1pm and
Boys aged 7-11 years will meet from 2pm – 4pm (LIMITED SPACES)
The group is led by dance artist Sean O’Neill and throughout the week the boys will learn different dance styles, create their very own dances and most importantly have fun.
No experience is necessary, new faces are always welcome!
The week’s fee is £10 for new members; £5 for current members.
Places booked up very quickly last year, so don’t miss out…
To book a space please email firstname.lastname@example.org
We spent Tuesday 24 and Thursday 26 May in great company at the Belvoir Players Theatre in Castlreagh. Over the festival we were joined by 135 very eager children from Holy Rosary Primary School, Glenwood Primary School, Finaghy Primary School and Penrythn Prep.
For many it was their first school trip so the excitement levels were high. They enjoyed a backstage tour and took real delight in experiencing the lights, sound and vast stage in a professional theatre.
The children also got creative with dance-inspired crafts, enjoyed a healthy snack and joined an energetic warm up. Then, after they had taken a bow, they sat back to experience a performance by professional dancer and Belfast Boys director, Sean O’Neill.
Feedback from the teachers was positive, “They absolutely loved every minute of it. Developing not only the dance skills but their confidence and self esteem.” One young participant enthused, “My best trip ever!! It was so fun! It was just woah! I loved being on stage. I was so excited to perform in a big theatre. It was fun watching the other dances from other schools. I loved when everyone applauded for us as I was so nervous. Then I wasn’t nervous.”
Thanks to all the team at Belvoir Players for making everyone so welcome and to Marie O’Donoghue, DU Dance (NI) board member, who presented the certificates for her time and supportive closing words to the budding dancers.
The Dance School Safeguarding Working Group is a collective voice promoting high standards of safeguarding in the Dance School sector in order to protect children and young adults.
They have produced guidance notes for primary or secondary schools seeking to recruit a specialist dance teacher which can be downloaded here.
These notes can be used to support the application and interview process, relating specifically to the pedagogy of teaching dance as a subject. It is assumed that Safer Recruitment and ID checks are already operational, and this guidance is in addition to those checks.
For more support and resources related to safeguarding in dance, go to www.dsswg.org.uk
Ten youth dance groups from across the island of Ireland came together and returned to the stage at The MAC, Belfast, on Sunday 24th April for our 10th annual youth dance platform, Unanimous. We welcomed Belfast Boys, Ohr Dance Company (Laois), Rachael Kealey Dance Academy (Derry/L’derry) and Youth Action’s Rainbow Factory (Belfast) for the first time and regular participants Connect Youth Dance (Enniskillen), Dublin Youth Dance Company, FYI Dance (Wicklow), Laois Youth Dance Ensemble, Limerick Youth Dance Company and Sutemos (Dungannon) who were returning to the event after the break.
The excitement at returning to live performance (Unanimous was postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic) was very apparent with an electric atmosphere throughout the day. The young people took rigorous technical rehearsals in their stride, stopped for regular re-fuels in the green room, caught up with old friends and even managed a bit of sightseeing in the city centre!
As with previous Unanimous showcase events, the evening performance was a powerful and energetic showcase of work and the audience showed their appreciation throughout and in the feedback received. One audience member remarked, “I enjoyed Unanimous tonight because there were some great dance performances but even more because it showcased the value and joy of young people coming together to express themselves through art and movement. Bravo to all!”
Over the years, the Unanimous platform has continued to expand and help young people from the ages of 12-24 years from all over the island to get together in a professional theatre, develop skills, share their experiences and form new connections. Rachel Sheil, Artistic Director at Limerick Youth Dance Company said of this opportunity to get together, “Thank you so much for having us again and here’s to many more festivals together.”
The diversity of the line-up reaffirms DU Dance (NI)’s commitment to fostering dance talent and providing a supportive professional environment for dancers of all backgrounds. Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Acting Head of Drama and Dance, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented, “There was a great range of groups and styles and levels of dance. And the atmosphere was so positive and energising. I was thinking how remarkable it would have been when I was their age to perform in an event like that in a venue like the MAC. That kind of experience must have such a lasting impact on the young people.”
See below for a taster of the wonderful performances. Many more photos to come!
With thanks & credit to Jim Corr for the event photography.
The U.Dance National Festival is celebrating youth dance on stage, on screen and online this summer, and applications are now open for youth dance films to represent Northern Ireland and Ireland at this special event.
You can create and submit a screen dance piece on film for consideration and should abide by the following:
> Feature dancers aged 11-19, or disabled dancers up to 25 > Be of 2-7 minutes in duration > Have the rights to the music or use royalty-free music (There is no upper limit on dancer numbers)
Applications from Northern Ireland and Ireland should enter by 25 May 2022 by sending their completed films to Mags Byrne, Artistic Director at email@example.com or call DU Dance (NI) with any questions on +44 (0)28 9023 0877.
Selected films will form part of the U.Dance on Screen National Showcases which will be broadcast on digital platforms and at cinemas including the British Film Institute (BFI), London.
Further information and guidance notes can be found on the U.Dance website.
Just before Easter, DU Dance (NI) and Beyond Skin were delighted to host young people from our partner organisation VILLA as they travelled from Leipzig, Germany, to join us in a cultural exchange project, #CulturalBridge. The ten young people had met previously on Zoom to form plans for an environmental campaign but this was the first time they had met in person. Just look at those smiles!
After a look around Belfast, the young people hit the north coast to get creative on beach walks and even a trip to Rathlin Island. Inspired by the beautiful landscape, they used music, dance and visual arts to explore climate action strategies and created artwork (see below) in response to many discussions on the environment crisis. They also made three short films for use in the campaign, which will be completed when the group next get together in Liepzig this July. More exciting collaborations to come!
With Powerstone Entertainment and Tinderbox Theatre Company, and in partnership with Dungannon Youth Resource Centre (DYRC), we are delighted to be screening the ‘Little Stranger’ dance film in Dungannon on Wednesday 22 June.
This youth led event – planned to coincide with Refugee Week from 20th – 26th June – will include the young dancers from Suteminis and Sutemos and young people from DYRC. Following a screening of the film, there will be a workshop and discussion around the issues addressed in the film on the impact of migration on young people.
The press release can be found here:
Thank you to Mid Ulster District Council for funding this event.
Whilst this will be the film’s first screening exclusively in and for Dungannon, its premiere was at EastSide Arts Festival in Belfast in August 2021 to much acclaim.
Alternative Energies – our intergenerational dance project – started in Autumn 2021 and has gone from strength to strength. We are delighted to invite you to join them for a short performance on Tuesday 14th June, 4:45pm at the Ramoan Centre, 3 Station Street, Ballycastle.
This project brings young people aged 16 to 18 years together with the elders of the Ballycastle area to meet, to chat over a cup of tea, move, share ideas, explore and create dance ideas together.
A young person currently involved in the project, said “The dance class is loads of fun, I’m really enjoying meeting new people and building friendships, everyone is so warm and friendly.”
At DU Dance (NI) we firmly believe that age is no barrier to dance and Dr Philip Johnson who leads the group said “There is great richness to be gained in an intergenerational dance class. It is a place of sharing between the generations that rarely happens outside the immediate family environment. The intergenerational class brings people together from all walks of life to share in the commonality of dance through: the joy of moving together, keeping the body in good health and creativity.”
Email Debs to book a seat at the performance at firstname.lastname@example.org.