ResCen: Dance Umbrella at 40 emerged from a partnership between Dance Umbrella and ResCen, Middlesex University in the context of the 40th Anniversary celebrations of the festival in 2018. It consists, on one hand, of documentation designed to share the creative journeys of commissioned artists, and on the other, a space to provide a broader frame and further insights through interviews with people related to Dance Umbrella, and the documenting of talks, lectures and events that were part of the festival.
Prof. Christopher Bannerman, Head of ResCen
Welcome to the ResCen: Dance Umbrella at 40 web site. It is a privilege and a delight to be involved in this historic 40th anniversary Dance Umbrella Festival and to capture some of the artists’ processes and reflections at this significant moment. Dance Umbrella has always played a key catalytic role in an international, interconnected and dynamic network and this 40th festival both celebrates its past achievements and reaffirms its role as a channel for dialogue and exchange. DU’s breadth of vision is evident not only in compelling performance works that extend the art form, but also in events focused on participation, discussion and professional development.
This rich offering reaches into many areas of interest for ResCen as it allows glimpses into creative processes, artistic curation and the practices of those who might be termed ‘cultural operators’ — all woven into the matrix of relationships that make up the landscape of the arts and cultural sector. In these pages we hope to explore this weave of relationships to demonstrate the ways that DU engages audiences, participants and society more broadly.
These web pages also include interviews with the three directors who have led Dance Umbrella over the past 40 years: Val Bourne the founder (1978-2006), Betsy Gregory (2007-2013) and now Emma Gladstone (from 2014). As Betsy remarks in her interview, it is remarkable that over the forty years there have only been three directors, all women and all former dancers – and in my view, all visionaries with the added, enviable ability to get things done. DU’s back catalogue mirrors the development of contemporary dance and the remarkable growth of this eclectic, constantly evolving form is both reflected in, and was led, by DU. And DU proves the aphorism that ‘life begins at forty’ as this festival already conveys the vitality and excitement that has been its hallmark. Ideas are fizzing and swirling — in, about, around and through the choreography, the curation, the discussions, the performances, the participation events: of course, it’s Dance Umbrella.
Emma Gladstone, Artistic Director & Chief Executive of Dance Umbrella, September 2018
We work with artists who are explorers, people who test out the choreographic unknown. They need courage to do their work, to invent vocabularies and investigate new worlds without knowing where they are going; they also need time and space to test out their ideas. My excitement about this new Dance Umbrella / ResCen partnership with Professor Chris Bannerman is because together I know we can provide those artists with some of the time and space they need.
The benefit of the partnership takes various guises, but one of them is the flexibility of what we can offer. ResCen has academic rigour with researchers, alongside studio space and digital resources, whilst we at Dance Umbrella have evolving relationships with a range of contemporary artists, producing knowledge, and professional programming opportunities. We both offer feedback and advice alongside the practical and financial support, meaning the combined impact for the artists we invite in to work with is considerable.
In running an annual dance festival, two of my core goals are helping artists make the best work they can, and connecting audiences to that work at venues across the city. Unless we invest in the artists neither the audience or the art form will grow. They are the α alpha and Ω omega of every art form, and I believe through this special partnership we can provide some artistic compost for the seeds of their creative ideas to flourish.