We were pleased to receive support from the Bank of Ireland Begin Together Arts Fund in partnership with Business to Arts for our intergenerational dance project, Alternative Energies.

Meeting once a week on a Tuesday from 4pm to 5:30pm, the group is led by Dr Philip Johnson and meets at the Ramoan Centre, 3 Station Street, Ballycastle.

This project brings young people aged 15 to 18 years together with the elders of the Ballycastle area to meet, move, share ideas and create dance performances. If you, or someone you know, is interested in finding out more, please email Debs at deborah@dudanceni.com or give us a call on 028 9023 0877.



This week we’ve been busy printing and packing over one thousand Young Carers Information Packs with our partners at Barnardo’s NI Young Carers Service.  Next, they will be sent to every primary and post-primary school in Northern Ireland.

The pack – called ‘They Care. Do you?’ – has been created as a practical and straight-talking resource for teachers.   It explains who young carers are and highlights their specific needs, such as having someone on point to talk to and always having access to their phones in school.  Additionally, it provides recommendations for a school’s Young Carer Policy and a poster to introduce the school’s designated Young Carers champion.

Have a look here:  They Care Do You? leaflet

In the pack, teachers will find a range of creative ways to explore the issues faced by young carers with all their students.   As well as class-based activities and discussion points, the schools will receive a branded USB stick containing the series of six, short dance films we have made with Barnardo’s NI.  These powerful films have been widely recognised as giving voice and emotional expression to Young Carers.

Niki O’Kane, Schools Liaison – Barnardo’s Young Carers Service, said of the joint initiative, “Barnardo’s Young Carers Services believe that every child matters and so we wanted to partner with schools to support the Young Carers that we know are present and likely hidden. It is so important that we empower these young people to balance their wellbeing, caring roles and education so they can learn and achieve most effectively. We hope this information will help schools to ensure Young Carers feel confident they are in an environment where they are seen, understood and supported. At Barnardo’s, we care that you care.”

Thank you to The Community Foundation Northern Ireland and BBC Children in Need for their ongoing support.

Throughout the year our dance artists Sean and Sheena really enjoyed being involved with the Creative Schools Project with Blessed Trinity Belfast.

Working with the Year 9 students they devised workshops which explored emotions and positive mental health through the medium of dance.

Have a look at this wonderful film created by the students in which they talk about how the dance workshops were of real benefit and demonstrate exactly how involvement in a spectrum of the arts can impact positively on wellbeing:

Be Active, Learn, Give, Connect & Take Notice!

We look forward to our ongoing involvement in the project with Blessed Trinty in 2023 where the focus will be on intergenerational work and a new partnership with Newington Day Care.

The Creative Schools Project is delivered by the Arts Council Northern Ireland, Urban Villages and Education Authority.

As of March 2021 – over 23 thousand children across Northern Ireland were referred to social services as in some way needing support. Many were young carers, whose average age is 12 years.

Over the summer we worked on a dance and film project with young people which explores how some young people feel.

This was made in partnership with the Southern Health & Social Care Trust and SlackPress Productions.  The end result – a short film called THE EFFECT – was screened at The Market Place Theatre & Arts Centre, Armagh last week.

The feedback from the young people was unequivocally enthusiastic.  They really enjoyed taking part in the project and it has helped forge new friendships and given them more confidence in their relationship with support workers.

Covering themes of anger, calmness, reflection, prison and freedom, audience feedback on the film was really positive. There were comments such as, “You can tell the young people had a lot of input in the project”, “Poignant – made me think about the challenges of adolescence but ending on a hopeful note of joy and friendship” and “DU Dance have enabled soft voices to be heard, allowed young people to have an experience they would never have otherwise had. The film was incredibly powerful as was the experience for the children. Thank you.”

The young people will come together again in a few weeks to receive an information pack with sources of support plus other artistic programmes and youth initiatives in their area.

Thank you to BBC Children in Need and The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland for their support.

In July, nine young people and two leaders representing DU Dance (NI) and Beyond Skin on the exchange project #CulturalBridge, took part in a return visit to Germany.  Great connections had been forged with de VILLA, Leipzig, during their visit to Northern Ireland in April and everybody was looking forward to working together again.

The group flew into Berlin and travelled on by train to Leipzig where they were met by the de VILLA group. After catching up, the young people worked in the studio creating dance and music sequences and generating ideas for the environmental campaign they were collaborating on. The next four days were full of city tours and beautiful mountain walks which created backdrops and inspiration for the campaign film’s visual and audio content.

For most of the young people from DU Dance this was their first time in Germany and for several their first experience of travelling abroad. It gave the young people the opportunity to see, smell, taste and feel the cultural similarities and differences – and this had a very positive impact on both the creative and personal development of everyone involved. “We have new friends now and it feels like we’ve known each other a long time,” said one participant.

For DU Dance working with Beyond Skin and de VILLA has been organisationally very rewarding. Mags Byrne, Artistic Director, explains, “Although we all work slightly differently and with different forms of creative expression, I found our working ethos to be very similar. Both partner organisations were flexible, committed to the development of the young people and the exchange programme, and willing to put in the extra time and work necessary to ensure everything ran smoothly and the experience was positive for all. We are now actively seeking opportunities to work together again and developing future plans.”

The young people are now busy working remotely on editing the film which will explore how environment effects our culture. Once completed it will be released widely as a social media campaign. Watch this space!


We are excited to welcome back our Suteminis and Sutemos classes in Dungannon tomorrow, Wednesday 21 September, during Good Relations Week 2022.

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 seven years.

New members are always welcome. Visit this page for more information on the classes or to book a place.


The summer term ended with many fun opportunities for participants on our Youth Engagement Projects to perform and celebrate.

Sutemos and Suteminis invited their families to the Hill of The O’Neill and Ranfurly House in Dungannon for a very special Dance Picnic. As well as showcasing some of their favourite dance pieces, the young people enjoyed pizza and cake, games, art and even got their families up for a dance.

Also in June, Belfast Boys popped up at the Belfast Book Festival. In the sunshine outside the Crescent Arts Centre, the boys gave visitors a warm welcome to the festival venue with energetic performances, street dance and carnival props.

Earlier that month the Belfast Boys performed in the Atrium of the Ulster Museum using the iconic willow dragons as inspiration for an explosive battle between Viking clans.  The senior group also devised wonderfully poignant, short solos in response to paintings they chose from the museum’s fine art collection and performed these in the gallery itself.

Summer Sessions for both projects were well-attended and busy with new and familiar faces joining for the week.  As well as trying different dance styles, creating their own dances, having a go at circus skills with our friends at Circusful, the young people took part in a sharing for families at the end.   And, in a blink, we are back at it as the autumn terms starts this week.

In August, we were delighted to bring nine dancers from Palestinian company Diyar Theatre to perform as part of Féile an Phobail 2022.

“This was a huge undertaking”, said DU Dance (NI) Artistic Director Mags Byrne “and we were absolutely delighted they made it here, as were they. The response has been amazing and the dancers were blown away by the welcome they received from the public during the Féile carnival parade and the support from fellow performers.”

During the very hot week commencing 8th August, there were three performances at Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich, Belfast. These started with Debkeh, an exhilarating Arabic folk dance combining line and circle dance often performed at weddings and other joyous occasions.

After the interval, a moving contemporary dance performance called ‘Taken’ followed, based on the testimonies of Palestinian children who had been held or are being held (usually without any charges) in Israeli prisons.    The audience feedback says it all, “very brave and talented young people”, “so moving and emotional”, “worth watching twice”, “visually stunning”, “inspirational, powerful, beautiful” and “We need more of this to help cultures understand one another.”

Two Arabic Cultural Family Celebrations also took place hosted by the dancers, with short performances of debkeh dance, music, food, storytelling and conversation. There was fantastic audience participation and much laughter.

When not on stage, the group enjoyed sampling the local cuisine with fish and chips and pizza being a firm favourite. There were outings to the bowling alley, St George’s Market, city centre shops, a black taxi tour and a trip to the north coast and the Giant’s Causeway.

In this short film made by NVTV, you can hear directly from three of the young dancers on; how and why they became dancers, what it means to them to perform these pieces and what they enjoyed most about their stay in Belfast. It might involve something black, white and malty!

We look forward to further collaboration with our friends in Palestine in the future.

Mags receives a warm thank you from members of Diyar Theatre.

Alternative Energies – our intergenerational dance project – starts back this autumn on Tuesday 20th September and is welcoming new participants from the Ballycastle area.

Meeting once a week on a Tuesday from 4pm to 5:30pm, the group is led by Dr Philip Johnson and meets at the Ramoan Centre, 3 Station Street, Ballycastle.

This project brings young people aged 15 to 18 years together with the elders of the Ballycastle area to meet, move, share ideas and create dance performances and events that resonate with people of different ages. Of course, there is always time to chat over a cup of tea too!

For young people, the experience of being involved in this unique project supports personal development and a range of youth leadership programmes.   As one young person already involved in the project, said:

Throughout my time dancing and performing with the group, it really helped us all get back interacting with people after covid. It helped to develop my confidence and self-esteem as well as helping others with their own. The impact of working with older people helped me to grow my teamwork and the ability to help others that were in difficulty. I enjoyed interacting with the older group and looked forward to being in their company. The impact of having a mixed-age group allowed me to develop my communication skills also. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Phillip and DU Dance!

At DU Dance (NI) we firmly believe that age is no barrier to dance and if this project is of interest to you, or someone you know, please email Debs to find out more and get involved: deborah@dudanceni.com

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


We are so excited to share how ‘Little Stranger’, a dance-theatre film about a refugee child, co-produced by Powerstone, Tinderbox and DU Dance (NI), has been selected by the 33rd Cinemagic International Film Festival for Young People in Belfast.

It will compete in the official festival competition for Best Short Film for a Children’s Audience, to be judged by a youth jury on Saturday 8 October at 1.00pm on the Belfast Barge.

Book your tickets here!

The catalyst for the project was a conversation between Jane Coyle, creator of the film, and a homeless Syrian family on a Paris street in the winter of 2018. Jane’s storyline starkly underlines how this anonymous little stranger is one of thousands who arrive alone and friendless into our communities – a global human experience which is becoming increasingly urgent. Read the press release here:

The short film is performed by dancers aged eight to sixteen from our Sutemos and Suteminis groups who are based in Dungannon, a town which has welcomed families from many countries and encouraged them to build new lives, and choreographed by our very own Sheena Kelly.

We can’t wait for our red carpet moment next month!

Thanks to Community Foundation for Northern Ireland and Community Relations Council NI for their support.


(Photo credit: Neil Ritchie)