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
September 2018

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.

Talks & Events

DU 2018 talks, panels and events

Friday 28 September
Voices Off: A conversation with Annie-B Parson and Emma Gladstone
The Old Vic

Tuesday 2 October

Motive Force: performance and the social body. Ruth Little in conversation with Vicky Featherstone.
The National Theatre

Thursday 4 October

Meet the Artists: Wen Hui
Southbank Centre

Tuesday 9 October

Open Forum: Future Facing. With panelists Siobhan Davies, Shobana Jeyasingh, Alexandrina Helmsley & Paul Hughes.
Siobhan Davies Studios

Wednesday 10 October

Panel Discussion: Out of the System. Chair Oluwatoyin Odunsi and panelists Mina Aidoo, Dr Olu Taiwo and Jenny Sealey.
Shoreditch Town Hall

Saturday 13 October

40th Party + Talk with DU Artistic Directors hosted by LIFT festival founder, Rose Fenton.
Somerset House

Tuesday 16 October

Meet the Artists: Dimitris Papaioannou
Sadler’s Wells

Thursday 18 October

Meet the Artists: Colin Dunne
The Pit, Barbican Centre


A series of interviews with artists and creators involved in Dance Umbrella to glean insights into their creative processes.

DU Directors:

In conversation with Emma Gladstone, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Dance Umbrella, July 2018

In conversation with Anu Giri, Executive Director of Dance Umbrella, July 2018

In conversation with Val Bourne, Artistic Director of Dance Umbrella (1978-2006), September 2018

In conversation with Betsy Gregory, Artistic Director of Dance Umbrella (2007-2013), September 2018

Re-Search Artists:

In conversation with Aakash Odedra, DU Re-Search Artist, September 2018

In conversation with Janine Harrington, DU Re-Search Artist, September 2018

In conversation with Freddie Opoku-Addaie, DU Re-Search Artist, September 2018

In conversation with Oona Doherty, DU Re-Search Artist, October 2018

Re-Search Artists

The Dance Umbrella Re-Search Programme provides time and space for artists to test choreographic ideas and collaborations before committing to starting in on creating a new project. This year DU invited four new Re-Search artists — Oona Doherty, Aakash Odedra, Janine Harrington, Freddie Opoku-Addaie — and for the first time will document and share their processes with the public.

Four by Four

It’s odd to remember the fact that forty years ago the artists who are now such familiar names in the dance scene were unknown. In Dance Umbrella’s first decade alone (1978–1988) choreographers such as Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham, Compagnie Cre Ange, Steve Paxton and Mark Morris were among the international artists invited to perform in London, together with the UK’s Siobhan Davies, MAAS Movers, Rosemary Butcher, Richard Alston, Michael Clark and Shobana Jeyasingh among many more.

Over the years DU has gone on to provide an astonishing eighty artists with essential funds to make shows, acting as a catalyst by investing in their visions, enabling audiences to see truly pioneering dance.

DU’s belief in the power of helping artists this way still burns bright, and to celebrate our 40th year we have launched Four by Four — a programme inspired by the four decades of artistic growth, a way of moving forwards by looking back. In Four by Four all three of DU’s Artistic Directors — Val Bourne CBE, Betsy Gregory and Emma Gladstone — have invited an established artist from their time at the helm to nominate a ‘choreographer of the future’. We’re delighted that Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Akram Khan, Stephen Petronio and Rocío Molina have agreed to take part. Each of the young choreographers they nominate will receive funding from Four by Four to create a show to be performed in future festivals.

On Saturday 13th October 2018 Dance Umbrella announced the artists selected for Four by Four:

Georgia Vardarou – nominated by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker
Abby Zbikowski – nominated by Stephen Petronio
Mythili Prakash – nominated by Akram Khan
Jon Maya Sein – nominated by Rocío Molina