From Berlin to Belfast- changing your life in a dance class with Royston Maldoom 

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!