For the past thirty years, DU Dance (NI) have been committed to working with the Northern Ireland dance community to provide exciting opportunities for personal growth, support with developing creative solutions to artistic challenges and, perhaps most importantly, collaboration with fellow practitioners in community dance.

So earlier this year we were excited to announce that the first of our community dance training events would take place on 14th and 15th April 2023 with no other than the Yorkshire-based Gary Clarke Dance Company!

Sheena Kelly, DU Dance (NI) Community Engagement Artist, shares her motivation for creating this training opportunity:

“Community dance artists often feel isolated as they travel across the country to bring dance to diverse communities. With limited opportunities for them to connect with one another and develop their practise, DU Dance NI felt it was important to start those conversations and give community dance artists the opportunity to have time to be selfish and nurture themselves. We were delighted to invite Gary Clarke Dance Company to the first of our training programmes especially tailored for those working in the community. His philosophy of how he connects the community to his work is inspiring and left us all with much food for thought moving forward. We hope this is just the start.”

In April a small group of 13 community dance artists, each at different stages of their careers and working with a wide range of communities in Northern Ireland, joined Artistic Director Gary Clarke himself and GCC dancer Shelley Eva Haden in a short residency at The MAC. Over the two days, Gary and Shelley generously shared the company’s particular way of engaging with communities through their professional productions, explored issues artists may face and gave practical examples of how to bring real communities onto professional stages.

Community Dance artists are constantly giving to the communities they work with so this training was important for them to feed their practise, nurture themselves and connect with other dance artists working in the field. Feedback from the participants was really positive:

“I left the weekend feeling refreshed and energised, I gained lovely new energy to keep going, that I am on the right path and that there is a community of Artists working in NI, so I am not alone. I felt supported and encouraged.”

“I was able to reflect on my purpose, rethink what it means to interact and be a part of a community, and carry that with me even after the workshop.”

The legacy of these incredibly enriching few days will be felt widely as the training not only impacts the artist but each community they work with. Keep an eye on our website and social media for other opportunities for professional development coming up later this year.

Images: Jim Corr Photography



After more than 10 years in post as DU Dance’s Company Manager, Louise Dempster O’Neil has moved on to a new opportunity.  The team and Board wish Louise well in her new role and will miss her tales of life by the shores of Strangford Lough and love of the outdoors.

We will be recruiting for a new Company Manager within the next few months but in the meantime we are delighted to welcome Gina Donnelly as our interim Company Manager.

Gina is a freelance Theatre Maker and graduate of Queens University Belfast. Her practice includes work as a playwright, director, producer, stage manager and production manager. She is one half of the artistic partnership SkelpieLimmer with Seón Simpson, the multi-award winning team behind ‘Two Fingers Up’ and ‘Scaredy Fat’. She has worked internationally in many different roles including as a Stage Manager on Oona Doherty’s Award Winning ‘Hard To Be Soft.’

We are thrilled to share how well Unanimous – and our weekend of dance – went in April 2023.  114 young performers from ten youth dance groups joined us in Belfast, travelling from across the island of Ireland.

This year, for the first time, some of the young people arrived a day in advance for a workshop with the Gary Clarke Company who shared aspects of their work from ‘Wasteland’ which is currently on tour.  Gary and Shelley encouraged the groups to work together and really gel in advance of their social Ceili that evening.

On the Sunday evening, as with previous Unanimous showcase events, audiences enjoyed powerful performances from a range of enthusiastic young contemporary dance talent.  Their feedback says it all:

Amazing – so professional and inspiring, beautifully staged and such energy on stage from the dancers.

It was so well organised and such a fantastic display of the talent and creativity of youth.

Show was brilliant, enjoyed the whole evening from start to finish. Very well organised event, with amazing talent.

Alongside groups from our Youth Engagement Programmes Sutemos Youth Dance and Belfast Boys, Unanimous welcomed the following groups: Dublin Youth Dance Company, FYI Dance Club (Wicklow), Connect Youth Dance (Fermanagh), Laois Youth Dance Ensemble, Rachael Kealey Dance Company (Derry/L’Derry), Limerick Youth Dance Company, Youth Action’s Rainbow Factory (Belfast) and Ohr Dance Company (Laois).

Watch this space for more photos and film from the event.

Photo credit: Jim Corr Photography

On Tuesday 28 March, our Intergenerational Dance Project, Alternative Energies, gave a short performance at Flowerfield Arts Centre in Portstewart to a lively audience of friends and family.

This project is part of DU Dance (NI)’s focus on intergenerational work celebrating how age is no barrier to dance and reflecting how historically dance has been a social gatherer of people of different ages and genders.

Alternative Energies seeks to address the lack of connection between the generations. The work is physical, impacting on participants’ general health and also very sociable which helps with feelings of isolation and bolsters mental well-being.

The piece called ‘Teranga’ has developed out of work which the group has been engaged in over the past seven weeks.  Material for the performance began as movement ideas for the class that were then further expanded for the stage. As always members of the group have brought themselves wholeheartedly to the process of making and creating work.  The weekly classes at the Ramoan Centre in Ballycastle are filled with great energy.  Dr Philip Johnson, who has been leading the group since it started in September 2021, says of the importance of the project: “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.”

Let’s hear from some of the audience at ‘Teranga’:

“Inspirational, Warm, Truly special for Ballycastle, Encouraging, Uplifting.”
“It was good. My grandparents were in it.”
“I thought it was pretty neat and Rita was very good.”
“The performance was very enjoyable and really relaxing as well as entertaining. Thank you.”
“Well coordinated and choreographed.”
“I thought it was lovely to see all the different generations dancing and enjoying themselves.”
“The whole performance was filled with joy, I loved it!”
“Tonight was very good I enjoyed it.”
“What a wonderful performance. It was fun, a joy to listen to! Congratulations Philip, you make a real difference to Ballycastle and area.”
“A great experience seeing so many faces that I knew from Ballycastle, the performers have enjoyed their dancing immensely.  Impressive!”

This is the second of three performances the group will deliver in 2023 and they are working alongside a filmmaker to record the process and performances as the group develops.

Every Thursday, for the past five months, women living in West Belfast have come together with Mags, Sheena and Debs to dance, create, share and celebrate at Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich.  The women come from a diverse range of backgrounds and  from places such as Iraq, Syria, West Bank, Gaza, Pakistan and Egypt including the local neighbourhood.

At the end of last year, the group worked on a ground-breaking dance film project called “Ode to Gaia” which was premiered at a special event on Thursday 9th March, in celebration of International Women’s Day.

This was followed by a beautiful showcase of dance and poetry by the women, and then an opportunity for everyone there to dance, chat over a coffee and enjoy delicious homemade Arabic food.  The audience feedback says it all:

“A beautiful and very moving experience. Congratulations to all involved.”  Mary Shannon

“I enjoyed the music and dance so much I cannot express it. It was so moving and I felt emotional. The grace of the women was so beautiful.  It said so much nonverbally. The poetry and dance I love as well.”

“Really enjoyed the performance.  Nice to witness another culture. Music and video (were) very cinematic. We need more…”  Mary Harvey Molloy

“I love the show and I really had fun and enjoy.”

“It is so beautiful party.  Friendly people. Thank you.”

“My soul rose and my feet followed.”

“Thank very much. I love too much and happy women day for all women.”

“She was happy.”

“The warmth and hospitality at the event made it a truly wonderful experience and I was so impressed with the work being carried out to celebrate women of all cultures”, Dawn Mallon, Blessed Trinity Belfast.

This project has meant so much to this group of women and we thank you the Community Relations Council Cultural Diversity Fund whose generosity enabled us to continue the project this year.

(Due to cultural reasons we will not be showing photos from the women’s only event but instead some stills from the film.)




Belfast Boys and the DU Dance team had a fantastic day at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade last Friday.  The boys gave it their all with jumps, lifts, waves and fun freestyling.  We were so impressed with their energy and enthusiasm.  Hats off to Sean too who kept the choreography going the entire route and even threw in a few of his own handstands!

It was our first time joining the festivities and such a great experience.   The sun came out, the crowds were huge and welcoming plus the event was really well organised by Beat Carnival.

Hope to be back at it next year!



With one month to go, tickets have gone on sale for Unanimous 2023 today!

The energetic performance showcase of youth dance is being run in association with The MAC, Belfast, our host venue and is great event for families and individuals interested in the performing arts.

It will take place at The MAC on Sunday 16th April at 7pm.

Click here to buy tickets:

Tickets are £8 / £6 under 16s.

For group rates, please contact The MAC on 028 9023 5053.

Photo of Dublin Youth Dance Company’s performance at Unanimous 2022.

Photo credit: Jim Corr.


You may have noticed on our social media feeds this month, we have shared three incredible films made by the young people who took part in the ‘Ode to Earth’ project.  This was the collaboration between ourselves, Beyond Skin and VILLA Leipzig as part of the #CulturalBridge pilot programme in 2022.

The project brought together young people from Northern Ireland and Germany who combined their skills in music, dance and civic engagement to create these videos reflecting on our cultural relationships to the land around us: how we find balance, how we appreciate its beauty, and how we protect it.

Watch them here. let us know what you think and please do share!


Thank you to Cultural Bridge funders Goethe Institut, Fonds Soziokultur, National Lottery, Arts Councils Northern Ireland and Arts Council England.

We are excited to announce the first of our community dance training events will take place on 14th & 15th April 2023 with no other than the Gary Clarke Dance Company! Join Artistic Director Gary Clarke himself and GCC dancer Shelley Eva Haden as they share their toolkit for working within communities.

Gary Clarke has developed a wealth of choreographic experience in creating site-specific works (in pubs, clubs, graveyards and galleries) as well as full-length productions for stage.  He is currently regarded as one of the UK’s leading independent dance artists who has received great appreciation for his work as a Choreographer, Director, Performer, Mentor, Teacher and Facilitator.

These events form the start of an on-going relationship with the Yorkshire-based project highly renown for producing contemporary dance theatre that comments on both popular and political culture.

The workshops are aimed at Northern Ireland based community dance artists looking to enhance their practice in sharing skills in a community context.  It will be a great opportunity to network too.

They will take place in The Factory at the MAC Belfast at 10am-4pm on 14th April and 10am-2pm on 15th April

If you are working with community groups using dance and are interested in attending please get in touch with

Gary Clarke