Read all about Primary School Dance Festival 2024

Over two days in May we delivered our 14th Primary School Dance Festival in partnership with Belvoir Studio Theatre.  Over 200 children from Belmont, Finaghy, Elmgrove, Glenwood, Holy Rosary Primary Schools and Penrhyn Prep took part and we were joined in the audience by the P3 class from nearby Belvoir Park Primary School.

During the morning, all the schools have time to become familiar with the theatre setting and learn the importance of lighting and sound, timing and spacing during their own rehearsal.  Then after much needed refreshments (thanks to a donation from Lidl NI) there is time to enjoy dance-themed crafts and outdoor games.   Before we know it,  it’s SHOWTIME!

Sheena’s fun warm up session (see above) is always popular – everyone has to get involved.  Then it is over to the children.  This year we enjoyed a wide array of dance styles, music and costumes and were mesmerised by hip hop dance and some fabulous Vogueing. On Day 1 we explored the globe with high energy performances from Bollywood and Waka Waka: This time for Africa and on Day 2 we met some ferocious lions, friendly Trolls and even travelled back to the Stone Age!

Once everyone had performed, the children could sit back and watch a uptempo jive from professional performer Mira Rendilheiro, captured below:

Each year we ask the teachers involved why the Primary School Dance Festival is important to them? Hear what they had to say:

To allow children to be creative and express themselves through dance and have fun! 

Dance is an important part of the curriculum and this is a great way to help children develop their skills. 

To increase a love for dancing in primary school aged children and boost confidence skills to perform in front of a crowd. 

We also ask what the legacy is for the children who are involved in the festival:

The children really grew in confidence and enjoyed every minute of it! 

Many were nervous but throughly enjoyed watching the other schools and saw how dance can be fun for all and not just girls!

The children’s confidence grew massively over the weeks that Sheena was in to visit our school and teach them the dance.

Their teamwork skills also progressed and it was a great sense of achievement for them to perform. 

And what about the children? Well, this participant sums it up perfectly:

I can actually dance! This is fun!! 

Thank you to Joe Fox for his wonderful photography.  Thank you to the volunteers who helped at the event, to funders Enkalon and Lidl and, again, to hosts and partners Belvoir Studio Theatre.

On the Saharan Plains with Belmont Primary School’s Lion King.

Glenwood Primary School’s P3 go back to the Stone Age.

Vogueing a la Finaghy Primary School.

Finaghy Primary School’s P1 all went on a ‘Summer Holiday’. Watch out for the shark!

Bollywood vibes with Glenwood Primary School’s P5.

Holy Rosary PS are full of joy as they perform Waka Waka: Time for Africa.

On Wednesday 5th June, the CRAIC Theatre in Dungannon will see our youth engagement project Sutemos mark the end of a great year of dance with a sharing of work for friends and family and the grand opening of a photography exhibition called ‘Seen / Unseen’.

The group of young people, along with dance artist Christine O’Neill, have been exploring through dance the important topic of what we see on the outside compared to what we don’t see going on in the inside.   Their ideas originated from experiencing first hand that social media can dramatically affect how we perceive the world and crucially how by portraying a bright and vibrant online appearance often we don’t see the real and dark lives behind the screen.

Together with the vast technical support and creative ideas of Jim Corr, a professional photographer who can take much credit for capturing many of DU Dance performances and events, Sutemos hope that the exhibition shows how even in the “unseen”  it is still possible to work together in the darkness.

After the opening in June, the exhibition will go on display in two other Dungannon venues over the next year.

Thank you to supporters Dungannon Youth Resource Centre and funders Children in Need.

If you would like to hear more about Sutemos or the exhibition, please contact deborah@dudanceni.com.


It was fantastic to see some great coverage of the latest phase of the Creative Schools Programme in the press last week.

This phase of the project has brought older people from Newington Day Centre together with  students from Blessed Trinity College in North Belfast for a series of weekly dance classes facilitated by our own Sheena Kelly and Sean O’Neill.

Watch this short film made by Arts Council of Northern Ireland on the project to hear what a real impact it is having:

 

 

Today is International Dance Day and so it feels apt to reflect back on our annual Unanimous platform held earlier this month.

Unanimous brings together some of the best youth dance groups from across the island of Ireland in a non-competitive arena. This year we were delighted that the National Youth Dance Company of Scotland performed as part of their UK touring schedule. We were also joined by Dublin Youth Dance Company, FYI Dance Club (Wicklow), Laois Youth Dance Ensemble, Youth Action’s Monday Night Club (Belfast), Ohr Dance Company (Laois) and High Points Youth Ballet (Belfast).  Of course our Youth Engagement Programmes Sutemos Youth Dance and Belfast Boys took to the stage too.

It was a fantastic evening compered by members of the Youth Steering Group.   Thank you to everyone involved; the commitment of every single young dancer – and the team behind each group – is just inspiring.

The feedback was really positive and the audience clearly enjoyed the evening:

“Gathering youth from different parts of the UK and Ireland to share their passion for dancing is so much more than just an event.”

“Wonderful to see the planning, practice, creativity, and collaboration that went into it.”

Unanimous continues to demonstrate how dance is a tool for facilitating personal and social development. When asked why youth dance is so important, audience members were keen to share:

“For friendship, expression, being themselves, exercise, and being involved in the arts.”

“It offers so many positive experiences from self expression, feeling good about oneself and getting good at something and feeling pride and new skills.”

“It gives them confidence, strength, ability and comaraderie amongst their peers. Our boy has completely blossomed since beginning with his dance troupe.”

Until next year!

Top left to right: Youth Action’s Monday Night Club; National Youth Dance Company of Scotland; Sutemos

Middle left to right: Dublin Youth Dance Company; Belfast Boys; Ohr Dance Company

Bottom left to right: FYI Dance Club; Laois Youth Dance Ensemble; High Points Ballet

Photo credit: Jim Corr Photography

Global Intergenerational Week – which aims to support the growth of links between young and older people – began yesterday and to celebrate it we are sharing the latest news from our intergenerational project Alternative Energies.

Earlier in April, the group (pictured above) performed Mobius, a new piece which explored whether we can experience time in a nonlinear way.   They have been working on this in the weekly workshops with the support and guidance of Philip and Rebecca and enjoy devising performances like this which resonate with people of different ages.

After the performance, the dancers shared how being part of this group has a positive impact on their health and wellbeing:

“Great for balance and mobility.”

“I am 83 years old and I can lift my feet more freely. Love it.”

“Great movement and music. Not to mention my only weekly exercise.”

and brings much joy to those who might otherwise feel socially isolated:

“Excellent craic. Great sense of community”.

“It’s like a second family.”

“Brilliant, great fun. 

“A very enjoyable experience.”

As usual the audience were full of praise:

“Best show yet – inter connectivity – free flow of actions – superb”.

“Very enjoyable. Beautiful, Brilliant. Well done everyone”.

“Beautiful to watch, quite emotive and most impressive performance of free flow movement”.

“Great performance, well done. Lovely dancing and good movements”.

“Inspirational and entertaining. Encourages me to join.”

Alternative Energies meet every Wednesday evening from 4pm – 5:30pm in Sheksburn Recreational Centre, Ballycastle.  Workshops are free.

If you would like to find out more about our intergenerational work, please contact info@dudanceni.com.

 

 

 

 

 

On Earth Day 2024, we are pleased to share how DU Dance (NI) are one of the steering group members of the Green Arts NI group.

Since 2019 the group has been collaboratively striving to diminish our footprint, exchanging insights and experiences through regular gatherings and collaborative initiatives, and supporting the city’s sustainability plans. The group will soon be setting up an Environmental Forum for the Culture Sector of Northern Ireland, looking at our own environmental impact, what needs to be done to improve and how the arts can impact this.

With a membership of almost 50 cultural and creative organisations and over 100 individuals across Northern Ireland including Oh Yeah Music Centre, Lyric Belfast, Stephen Beggs and Young at Art, Green Arts NI will be helping to shape the Belfast City Council Cultural Strategy for 2020-2030.

                                                                       (Mags Byrne with members of the collective.)

The group is calling for interested arts organisations and individual artists to join. To find out more, contact culture@belfastcity.gov.uk.

Check out the brand new website HERE and you can follow the group on Instagram at greenarts_ni; Facebook Green Arts NI and Twitter @GreenartsNI

There was no better way to round up our dance artist training programme than to invite DU Dance Artistic Consultant and long-time colleague and friend Royston Maldoom back to Belfast.

15 local dance artists joined us just before the Easter holidays to delve deeper into their community dance practise and learn from Royston’s extensive experience working across the world, often in places experiencing conflict and hardship.

Talking about the programme, Royston said:  “It has been over 35 years since I delivered the first Ulster youth dance project at the Kings Hall in Belfast and I am delighted to be back working with artists who are at the forefront of community dance in Northern Ireland. It was a great experience to work with people who are eager to learn and enhance their practice and the participants gave themselves wholeheartedly to the workshop.”

After introductions, Royston shared the pivotal moments in his esteemed career which have informed his practise. From his youth dance days in Scotland, through developing his signature choreographic style to the steep learning curves of working in Adunga, Ethiopia.  And with  recollections of working alongside our Artistic Director Mags Byrne in Gaza, Palestine, he brought us full circle back to the the origins of our own organisation.

What resonated most with the group was how Royston’s approach to the work is focused on the artform; when he walks into a room he is the choreographer, the artist and his passion for the work must come across.  Critically he believes strongly that everyone in that room has the potential to be extraordinary and he meets them human to human not with the labels society too often uses.

“Great to have long held beliefs and theories strengthened and confirmed. Heartened to see the life changing effect of dance in action.” (Participant)

Over the course of the two days, Royston spoke about the importance of bringing the group to where you are, challenging the participants to raise their expectations and experience new styles of music and movement they may not normally access. This gave the group plenty to reflect upon and left them excited to jump back into their own practise.

“Meeting new people with the belief that everyone has the potential to be extraordinary. Don’t be afraid to try something with a group that is new to them.” (Participant)

In each of the dance artist training programmes, it has been very apparent how community dance artists need to connect with each other. In a role that requires us to output all the time we often don’t get a chance to reach out to others. This programme has created an informal network of artists who can share and connect with one another independently of the work we as a company do.

“Enjoyed the two days immensely. Lovely to make choreography with the group, human to human. Royston is inspirational. A privilege to be here. Moments come from the heart. Great reminder!” (Participant)

It was important to DU Dance (NI) that we invited Royston to be a part of this training programme as Artistic Director Mags Byrne says:

“Having worked with Royston for many years both here in Northern Ireland and internationally it was very important to us to bring him back to Belfast to reinforce our unique style of delivery and the need for this type of work. We started Dance United together first following the Adunga Ethiopia project before DU Dance came about in Belfast. As Artistic Consultant for the company Royston’s philosophy and approach has heavily influenced the work of DU Dance so it was the perfect way to complete this part of the programme.”  

Finally, we would like to say a big thank you to all of the community dance artists who have taken part in the programme. Each one came in open and eager to learn, share and connect and that made for a very special experience!

 

 

 

At Saturday’s Belfast Boys workshop, family and friends were invited along to join the first ‘All Boys Can Boogie’ session.  First the younger boys performed their choreographed piece, followed by Sean and the older boys creating an improvised performance inspired by this dance. Then it was everyone’s turn to take to the floor. Aged from 3 years to over 60, there was no stopping the group’s shape throwing and energetic moves to Boogie Wonderland. Afterwards families enjoyed the chance to socialise over a much needed cup of tea!

Something tells us this won’t be the last time we hold this special session. Just hear what the families had to say:

Absolutely fantastic. Great energy. Great team!
Did a great job of encouraging parent/sibling participation in a new activity. Not easy to do!
I love dance and I think it is an important way to connect with ourself and someone else.”

Thanks to the programme funders:
Arts Council of Northern Ireland and National Lottery Good Causes

 

The CARE Women’s dance project is based in South Belfast and made up of twenty five women from different backgrounds.  The group were delighted to debut a new dance performance at Greenway Women’s Centre, Cregagh Estate in East Belfast at the end of February – the first stop on their Belfast tour!

A big thank you to Helen and all the ladies at Greenway Women’s Centre for their warm welcome and fantastic dance moves!

Next stop on 6th March was familiar territory to the group who meet regularly at Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich on the Falls Road.  It was a wonderful morning as we were joined by women from Colaiste Feirste, Irish Language classes at Cultúrlann and Whiterock Children’s Centre.

Then we are delighted to have been invited to the Windsor Women’s Centre in South Belfast on 8th March to perform and share with them as part of their International Women’s Day Celebrations.

Following a short workshop to get to know each other, the group will perform a dance piece before celebrating over more food, coffee and delicious Arabic sweet treats!

This project is funded by Clanmil Housing Association.

 

 

 

March heralds the next element of our community dance artist development programme as we warmly welcome back to Belfast internationally renowned choreographer, Royston Maldoom.

Royston has choreographed work for the Dance Theater of Harlem in New York, The Scottish Ballet, Irish Ballet, the National Ballet and Ballet San Marcos in Peru as well as numerous other dance ensembles in Great Britain and abroad.

In the mid 1980’s he spent three years as Dance-Artist-in-Residence for Fife/Scotland organising numerous workshops, summer schools and dance festivals, founded community dance groups for teenager and adults and developing his philosophy of Community Dance.

Listen to more on Royston’s approach here:

 

Since then Royston has directed dance projects in Lithuania during the independence movement in 1991, in Croatia and Bosnia during the Balkan War, in South Africa during Mandela’s election, and a myriad of other projects in Zimbabwe, Georgia and Oregon/USA, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Romania, Moscow, New Zealand, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands and Peru.

These international engagements led Royston to Ethiopia in 1996 where, together with his colleague and very own our Artistic Director Mags Byrne, he organized a dance project with 100 street kids. Following the success of this project, they established the Adugna Dance Company, giving young people the opportunity to be educated in dance, choreography, and teaching. On graduation the students were given accreditation by the University of Middlesex, London and have gone on to work in the internationally as well as in Ethiopia as choreographers, dancers and teachers.  Learn more here:

Over Thursday 28th & Friday 29th March, Royston will share his philosophy and vast experience as an initiator and leader of numerous dance projects over the past 40 years. He will delve into his very particular and strong held view on dance in community contexts as demonstrated in the award-winning film Rhythm is it!.

We are delighted that Royston – now resident in Berlin – continues to support DU Dance as artistic consultant.

Thank you to The MAC, Belfast for once again hosting the training.