News: Dance Umbrella Announces Virtual Festival for 2020

2020 marks the 42nd year of Dance Umbrella and Emma Gladstone’s 7th and final year as Artistic Director and Chief Executive for the organisation before she will step down. On this year’s digital-only programme Emma said ‘Although the festival in its usual format has not been possible this year, we had to find a way to celebrate the work of contemporary choreographers. In Dance Umbrella Digital this November we are bringing together artists from across the globe for intimate conversations; taking a behind the scenes look at the choreographic process; debating the pressing topics of the day; running choreographic workshops for different ages and closing it all with an almighty digital disco.’

Choreographer’s Cut
Ever wondered how a performance evolves? Step inside the mind of a choreographer as leading artists give an in-depth commentary on a recent work. This is a unique opportunity to go behind the scenes with Oona Doherty (Northern Ireland): Helium from Hard to be Soft and Eun-Me Ahn (S. Korea): Dancing Grandmothers; as they discuss their creative process with Dance Umbrella’s Artistic Director and Chief Executive Emma Gladstone.

Continental Breakfast
Join creatives from across the globe as they settle down to breakfast with a special guest of their choice. These intimate conversations bring together artists from different sides of the world to discuss culture in the current climate and share how recent events are shaping their creative processes. The programme features Abby Zbikowski (USA) in conversation with Bebe Miller, Gregory Maqoma (South Africa) in conversation with Alfred Enoch; Akram Khan (UK) in conversation with TBC; Arundhathi Subramaniam (India) in conversation with Alarmél Valli and Lucy Guerin (Australia) in conversation with Amrita Hepi.

Home Made
For people who enjoy dancing and creating their own moves around the kitchen, living room or bedroom, Home Made is Dance Umbrella’s first ever digital dance residency available to a range of ages. Over five days, each Home Made group will work with a world-class choreographer to explore, play and create their own brand-new choreography.

The Home Made groups will include: Families (6yrs+) working with choreographer Satchie Noro; Adults (18yrs+) working with choreographer Annie-B Parson; Adults (60yrs+) working with choreographer Kenrick Sandy.

Participants will be able to join in from the comfort of their own homes via secure Zoom meetings (set up support available) and take the opportunity to be part of a final film showcasing the project that will be created throughout each residency. It’s free to take part and no previous dance experience is necessary. See listings for how to apply.

Music to Get You By
They have asked everyone involved in Dance Umbrella Digital to share the tracks that have got them through 2020. We hope these selections spark creativity, lift spirits and prepare us for whatever comes next.

Studio Sessions
Studio Sessions returns for 2020 as twelve UK and Ireland based artists / companies share a live stream presentation of a work in progress. Connecting national and international industry professionals with creatives, these three informal presentations enable presenters, funders and supporters to see work well before it hits the stage. Studios Sessions are curated for Dublin Dance Festival by Oona Doherty; for Dance4 (curator to be confirmed); and for Dance Umbrella / ResCen Research Centre at Middlesex University by Seeta Patel. Participating artists to be announced.

SystemsLab Debate: Shifting Ground – Reset / Reconnect / Reinvigorate
Shifting Ground follows last year’s insightful discussion Tick Box/ Break Glass/ Look Pretty, which explored the experiences and opportunities for women of colour in the arts. We revisit this subject to discover what has changed on a personal, local and global level for each of the original panellists. This discussion investigates how the events of 2020 have impacted on their lives as they explore shifts in perspectives, identities, values and priorities, reflecting on what their relationship to the arts looks like today. As we seek pathways that lead to solutions, we also share what challenges have been faced and the tools cultivated that enable us to be adaptable, resilient and learn to trust in ourselves.

Shifting Ground is facilitated by Dawn Estefan (psychotherapist, writer, trainer & speaker) and features panellists: Julia Cheng (Dancer, choreographer & Creative Director House of Absolute); Tracy Gentles (Director, Something To Aim For) and Nike Jonah (Creative Producer) and is curated by Anthea Lewis/ Blulilli Projects presented by Dance Umbrella in partnership with SystemsLAB.

Across our festival week they will also be sharing long-form articles from writers on pressing topics surrounding the Dance sector and how the current climate is affecting our industry. Read articles from Tim Joss, Chief Executive & Founder of Aesop, the charity and social enterprise finding artistic solutions to society’s problems and Italian artist Chiara Bersani on COVID-19 and disability. Further details to be announced.

Documentary Screening
Last year the opening show of the Dance Umbrella 2019 Festival – Crowd by Gisèle Vienne – was nominated for an Olivier Award. This year Dance Umbrella is thrilled to screen a documentary about the making of the piece If It Were Love (French: Si C’était de L’amour) directed by Patric Chiha. The film was streamed at 70th Berlin International Film Festival where it won the award for Best Documentary from the Teddy Award program for LGBTQ-themed films. Further details to be announced.

Friday Night Dance Party X Let’s Have a Kiki
PUMP DA BEAT – The legendary Jay Jay Revlon returns to Dance Umbrella following 2019’s The Big Pink Vogue Ball with a virtual version of his ‘community-centred club night’ (Huck Mag), Let’s Have a Kiki. Party from the safety of your own home to Jay Jay’s signature mix of House, Afro House, Classics and Ballroom beats alongside a curated bill of DJs and voguers. Featuring faces from the ballroom community, join us to celebrate the closing of Dance Umbrella’s first digital festival and Let’s Have a Kiki!

Speaking of her departure, Emma Gladstone said: ‘The time has come for me to hand over the DU baton to someone new. It has been an amazing seven years and I want to thank all the artists, audiences, venue partners, supporters, funders and staff team past and present for making it such an exhilarating ride. I am proud of what has been achieved artistically without question. But also geographically, as we are now touring more widely across London than ever before in DU’s long history.

Numerous things have combined leading up to my decision, both personal and professional, including my belief in the need to keep programming views rolling, the sense of being at the end of a particular era, the strength of the current team, and the fact that we are at the start of another reinvention of DU with our first digital festival this autumn.

From the New Year I will be focussing on specific areas of programming including talent development projects in the UK and Europe, whilst continuing as Chair at Siobhan Davies Studios, and in Trustee positions at Aesop and Dartington Hall Trust.’

Chair of Dance Umbrella’s Board Jake Ulrich said: ‘Emma brought her formidable array of skills to DU in 2013 with the explicit goals of expanding the definition of contemporary dance and reaching out to new audiences. She has done a phenomenal job accomplishing both of these. She has the rare ability to identify and nurture new talent. As a result Emma has both transformed DU and become recognised as a global leader in the dance world. On behalf of the Trustees and staff I can say how much we have enjoyed working with her and we will miss her humour and insight. We wish her the very best going forward.’

Dance Umbrella Guest Programmer 2016-19 Freddie Opoku-Addaie added:
‘Emma Gladstone’s commitment to actioning and widening the ‘movement’ in dance for our global/local experiences is unparalleled. A key part of my success when I worked with Emma as the Guest Programmer 2016-19, is her innate care in being present whilst giving and holding open spaces for other innovative possibilities. I have seen the respect for her work championed by many peers across the globe, along with added warmth/smiles whenever her name is mentioned. With her incredible passion, knowledge and humane intelligence in our sector, the arts and beyond has more glimmers of hope in these unprecedented times for many to flourish In and ‘Out of the System.’

For more information visit

Illustration by

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: