Category: Blog

International Dance Day 2020

Today is 29th April and it marks a special day in the dance calendar as its International Dance Day

IDD 2016 Taciturn, photo: Dava Jonah

I first began to celebrate International Dance Day (IDD) in 1999, when as the Artistic Director of MDI (Merseyside Dance Initiative) a dance organisation based in Liverpool, I worked with the City Council and their Healthy City Campaign which was all about creating active ageing by 2000! We focussed on bringing communities together in the City Centre and in the latter years the project was led by Maxine Brown the organisations’ Community Dance Artist.

This day has a very special place in my heart and I wanted to share with you and explain what it’s all about.

IDD 2018 Men Dancing, photo: Dava Jonah

What is International Dance Day (IDD)?

IDD is a day where across the globe, people celebrate dance, be they organisations, institutions or individuals. It was originally created by the dance committee of the International Theatre Institute (ITI), who partnered with UNESCO. It takes place each year on 29th April which is the anniversary of Jean-Georges Noverre’s birthday, the person who created the modern ballet, born in 1727. The day encourages participation and the organisers always include a message from a prolific dance maker.

Why is it so important ?

The day strives to encourage participation and education in dance through events and festivals held on the date all over the world.

I know when I was at MDI, and before that really, I always had a belief that dance could make a difference to all people regardless of ability, gender, age or ethnicity. The whole top and bottom of it is, that dance is good for you, it improves your wellbeing, it’s a brilliant physical undertaking and it can be a powerful creative force in making a case for change and telling stories.

According to ITI “It’s a celebration day for those who can see the value and importance of the art form “dance”, and acts as a wake-up-call for governments, politicians and institutions which have not yet recognised its value to the people and to the individual and have not yet realised its potential for economic growth”.

Thus, ITI with the Dance Committee set out some particular goals for this event:

• To promote dance in all its forms across the world
• To raise awareness in people of the value of dance in all its forms
• To enable the dance community to promote their work on a broad scale, so that governments and opinion leaders are aware of the value and importance of dance in all its forms and support it.
• To enjoy dance in all its forms for its own sake.
• To share the joy of dance with others.

Credit: nik-radzi-tsVrM8Bq32I-unsplash.jpg

What is the Message?

An important part of the day is the message that is written by an outstanding choreographer or dancer and broadcast around the world. The author of the message is selected by the International Dance Committee of ITI and the Executive Council of ITI. The message is translated into numerous languages and circulated globally. (2020)

For 2020 the chosen artist is Gregory Vuyani Maqoma, from South Africa. Maqoma is a dancer, actor, choreographer and dance educator and is well respected for his collaborations with artists such as Akram Khan, Vincent Mantsoe, Faustin Linyekula, Dada Masilo, Shanell Winlock, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Nhlanhla Mahlangu and Theatre Director James Ngcobo. In 2019 Maqoma collaborated with Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah in the production “Tree” produced by Manchester International Festival and the Young Vic.


Here is what he has to say:

“It was during an interview I had recently that I had to think deeply about dance, what does it mean to me? In my response, I had to look into my journey, and I realized that it was all about purpose and each day presents a new challenge that needs to be confronted, and it is through dance that I try to make sense of the world.

We are living through unimaginable tragedies, in a time that I could best describe as the post- human era. More than ever, we need to dance with purpose, to remind the world that humanity still exists. Purpose and empathy need to prevail over years and years of undeniable virtual landscape of dissolution that has given rise to a catharsis of universal grief conquering the sadness, the hard reality that continues to permeate the living confronted by death, rejection and poverty. Our dance must more than ever give a strong signal to the world leaders and those entrusted with safeguarding and improving human conditions that we are an army of furious thinkers, and our purpose is one that strives to change the world one step at a time. Dance is freedom, and through our found freedom, we must free others from the entrapments they face in different corners of the world. Dance is not political but becomes political because it carries in its fibre a human connection and therefore responds to circumstances in its attempt to restore human dignity.

As we dance with our bodies, tumbling in space and tangling together, we become a force of movement weaving hearts, touching souls and providing healing that is so desperately needed. And purpose becomes a single hydra-headed, invincible and indivisible dance. All we need now is to dance some more!!!! “

More information about Maqoma can be found here:

How do people take part and get involved?

Anybody can take part its open and accessible to all, however ITI recommends that individuals or institutions who want to celebrate the day to coordinate it with the ITI Centre or Cooperating Member in their country or region.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

What types of dance can be seen?

All dance forms are represented from all over the globe covering lots of styles – anything goes and over the years I have witnessed so many dances: Jazz, Street, ballet, traditional African, Caribbean, Chinese and South Asian; alongside Contemporary, Breakdancing, Tango and Vogue, and many more. Performances have taken place in theatres but mostly outdoors, shopping malls and shop windows. Showcasing performers from the communities from aged 5 – 85 year old alongside dance students and professional artists was absolutely key and I believe totally represents the goals of the day, bringing people together and creating social impact.

There are so many ways to celebrate be that live or online, however at the time of writing most countries are in lockdown, as governments enforce a social isolation strategy in order to combat the Covid-19 virus. Thus everyone celebrating this year will do so virtually, so please check wherever you live and find a way to take part maybe through writing a blog like this, reading the message to others, recording it or distribution through online platforms such as:

• Facebook
• Instagram
• Twitter
• Youtube channel
• Tik Tok

IDD 2016 Charlene Kaliyati Photo: Dava Jonah


To see what is happening locally today for IDD 2020 Check my platforms:


Twitter: @kg_associates
Facebook: @KarenGandAssociates|
Instagram: kg_associates

And those of the Arts Centre at Edge Hill University who will create an online dance festival from 11 am

Arts Centre

Twitter: @ArtscentreEHU and @EHUPerfArts
Facebook: /theartscentreEHU
Instagram: artscentreEHU

Use this day as a real chance to dance and in the words of the late Bruce Forsyth….. “Keeeeep Dancing!”

#dance #internationaldanceday2020

International Women’s Day (IWD) 2021

As I contemplate and celebrate IWD this year I was so grateful to have been able to create an event at a time when we have all managed and negotiated such change in our lives through living in a Pandemic, adhering to lockdown measures and basically surviving as best we can. At a time when its felt that art and culture was sidelined with venues closed, live events cancelled and constantly postponing projects it was wonderful to work with Dr. Sarah Black- Frizell and produce Our Dance Democracy 2 (ODD2) conference in February 2021. It was not a surprise that the majority of our speakers, contributors and performers were women, local, national and international women who have a real sense of how the world is working for them, negotiating change with a real sense of humanity and care. We had some very insightful men also, but it being IWD 2021 on 8th March and its theme #ChoosetoChallenge I thought this a great opportunity to celebrate and shine a light on some extraordinary female and non-binary identifying thinkers and creators that contributed to the event and I wanted to celebrate what they are achieving through their practice.

Here is just a snippet of what took place at ODD2 on 11th and 12th February 2021, compiled by Dr. Sarah Black -Frizell

Day 2 of the conference offered a strong artist voice that began with the film RED, see news section on this site:

The wonderful choreographer, dancer and writer Alexandrina Hemsley (YEWANDE 103) created a beautiful reflection in relation to enacting agency and finding a space between, where we consider shelter and a call to healing. Her thoughts resonated the whole day.

This was followed by a filmed conversation below: The Body and Pandemic, Liz Lea, Tammi Gissell and Hanna Cormick

Drawing on 70 years of combined arts practice working across Australia and the world these leading artists discuss how boundaries and displacement have impacted their lives and practice. The talk will draw on lived experience of disability, chronic illness, displacement giving rise to creativity. Hanna’s call to consider that we don’t just return to ‘normal’ but engage in a new way of connecting as we find ways to present live and online in equal measure.

Dr. Sarah Black-Frizell brought together a group of artists and academics who have been in an ongoing dialogue as part of Domestic Spaces and come together to share the ways they have adapted and developed their existing arts making practice and research methodologies during Covid-19 and ensuing Global Lockdowns. One of those works is shared below. “B.O.D.Y. is an intimate exploration of the domestic space following Melbourne’s lockdowns, from my point of view as an expat and a temporary resident in Australia. The COVID emergency redefined body-space relationships and ideas of belonging, mobility, and migration. What can I, or cannot, call “home” and why?

B.O.D.Y. The Bureau of Domestic Yearning is a series of performances for the camera resulting in photography and video documentation. This project has been realised as part of “Domestic Spaces”, an international project curated by Dr Sarah Black-Frizell (Liverpool Hope University, UK) on performances created at home during the pandemic. Photos have been taken at my current place in Naarm (Melbourne, AUS) in collaboration with Sabrina Talarico in October 2020″.© Angela Viora

Although not presented in the conference I asked Sarah to share some of her practice that she had be deliberating and creating over the last few years and very much informs Domestic Spaces. Watch Trace (2016) below:

“Trace is an older piece of work, and sharing this is a moment of reflection. In my research I establish the home as a place where performance can happen. I work on a mother’s timetable; when the children are asleep, are at school, whilst daily life happens, and at the same time these daily occurrences have prevented me from working. I developed a curatorial sense of caring and responsibility for my children, family and art practice in a relational and ethical way. Trace is a dance film and photographic enquiry”. Dr. Sarah Black Frizell. Film/photography – Wes Storey Music Andy Frizell

One of the many highlights of the event was a sharing of practice by Patricia Carolin Mai, Yinka Graves and melissandre varin, who is non-binary. All working from what would appear to be very different perspectives but as they shared their practice and processes, they came together in conversation with such connectivity and similarity in thought and action. What I took from their work was how they were all negotiating who they are through what they produce, all considering transformation on some level, physical and emotional, talking about the importance of identity from their perspective, and ensuring authenticity. Transforming who they are: Body as an archive; transitioning, taking care and reinterpreting through care and resistance. Below is as short version of KONTROL (Patricia Carolin Mai) and Disappearing Act (Yinka Graves) and of flour and Earth 1/3 (melissandre varin).



Huge thanks to all the wonderful creative thinkers and makers – let us all never stop choosing to challenge!

For further information regarding Our Dance Democracy check out the page on this site:

Our Dance Democracy 2

With the impact of Covid-19 and the cultural sector facing unique challenges of our time it is with regret, yet tethered with a sense of curiosity and excitement that Dr. Sarah Black- Frizell and myself have made the decision to postpone our conference, Our Dance Democracy 2 (ODD2, November 2020 0and produce an online event for February 2021.

Save the date: 11th and 12th February 2021

Recently with Dr. Sarah Black-Frizell (Liverpool Hope University), I held a conversation with supporters and contributors of Our Dance Democracy 2 : Chris Stenton (People Dancing); Alicia Smith (Culture Liverpool) and our opening keynote Professor Victor Merriman (Edge Hill University) as part of save the date for the conference giving a brief insight to what to expect from the event and why they are involved. Watch the short recording below.

Building on the success of Our Dance Democracy (ODD) in 2018, this conference will further the debate, extending the dialogue of how artists and academics interrogate the function of dance in the 21st Century.

ODD 2 will consider the notion of our world as an ever-challenging and changing global society, in which social media facilitates the circulation of opinions and prejudices rooted in intuitive, and frequently unexamined narratives of contemporary societies. These are increasingly taken up, legitimised, and recycled as common-sense master-narratives across the discursive circuits of established media and political debate. A real expansion of inclusive public space is one outcome of this and introspection another. These tendencies expose boundaries in human relations, always constituted – contradictorily – as zones of exclusion which are always also points of contact. The UK as a bounded and bordered territory, demonstrates that perceptions of (in)visibility, identity and belonging have real-world significance, and the importance of interrogating assumptions underpinning them cannot be over-stated.

Artists and cultural workers perform a critical public role in exposing inherited and novel ideas and practices to examination and re-examination. ODD 2 sets out to explore the proposition that, because dance lives by contact across boundaries, borders, and frontiers, it has proven capacity to enable critical understanding of the human and historical contingency of even the ‘hardest’ borders, erected in the name of immutable, non-negotiable, traditions, beliefs, and value systems. Dance as a ritualistic act can perform difference as historical defiance, our art form is also practised in creative ways that can name – and, therefore, resist – complex contemporary forms of oppression, not least by promoting and supporting social and political activism. Dance and dancers can model, rehearse, and embody ways of living together for mutual flourishing, thus reinvigorating democratic concepts, practices, and structures for a fractured twenty-first century.

What is ODD2?

In ODD 2 we propose dance and dancing, pedagogy and performance making, writing and critical discourses, as dynamic sites for critical thinking, progressive social intervention, civic engagement, ethics and activism – both established and emergent.

We announce a space for ethical action, beyond borders imposed on our creative worlds: a platform for artists to make visible, and test the viability of, ideas of equity and embodied principles of collective endeavour.

ODD 2 will be a two-day conference, dedicated to deliberating on the role of dance artists and scholars.

We will have 20-minute papers, experimental formats including performative lectures, workshop/seminars and provocation.

Papers were received we have now created 4 key areas to consider these responses:

· Dance and Culture
· Dance in Pandemic
· Dance and Protest/Resistance
· Dance and Feminism

Opening Speaker

Victor Merriman: Professor of Critical Performance Studies, Edge Hill University

Victor Merriman is Professor of Critical Studies in Drama at Edge Hill University. He is Director of the Performance and Civic Futures Research Group (2013-), and a founder director of One Hour Theatre Company (2016-). He publishes on Irish theatre, postcolonial criticism, public policy, pedagogy, and cultural theory. He has published two monographs, Because We Are Poor: Irish Theatre in the 1990s (Carysfort Press, 2011), and Austerity and the Public Role of Drama: Performing Lives-in-Common (Palgrave Macmillan, 2019). He has edited special issues of the on-line journal Kritika Kultura (; Issues 14; 15 (2010); 21/22 (2013), and co-edited ‘Cultural Responses to Crises in Urban Democracy’ (30: 2018)). He was appointed a member of An Chomhairle Ealaíon/The Arts Council of Ireland, by Michael D Higgins, now in his second term as President of Ireland. In that capacity, Professor Merriman chaired the Review of Theatre in Ireland (1995-6). He is a member of the international advisory boards of Unitas, Perspectives in the Arts and Humanities Asia, and the British Association for Irish Studies. He has credits as a performer, director and dramaturg, including David Lloyd’s The Press, performed at the University of Ateneo de Manila, in July 2009.

Who are the keynotes?

Alexandrina Hemsley: Choreographer, dancer, writer and facilitator

Alexandrina has recently founded her own organisation Yewande 103. Yewande 103 formalises the past 10+ years of Creative Director Alexandrina Hemsley’s work in the contemporary dance field as a choreographer, performer, writer, mentor and educator.

Alexandrina Hemsley’s practice is shaped by the morphing disciplines of dance, dance for camera, live art, theatre, mentoring, creative and critical writing. Driven by an interest in fracturing, connectivity, displacement & emotionality, they hope to find and share ways of expressing felt, lived realities. They work with intricate improvisation scores and vivid performance environments which insist on conjuring embodied enquiries into a multiplicity of voices. This includes work within organisations around anti-racism, anti-ableism and embodied advocacy. It is a life-long, nuanced undertaking. Alexandrina is Associate Artist at Cambridge Junction, Board Member of Chisenhale Dance Space and International Associate Artist 2020/21 at Dance Ireland.


Elena Marchevska: Dr. and Senior lecturer in Drama and Performance, London South Bank University

A practitioner, academic and researcher interested in creating work that can help us to think through new historical discontinuities that have emerged in post-capitalist and post-socialist transition. This is ever more relevant at a time when the Eurozone is fragmenting, and right wing populisms are on the rise. In addition, A researcher, she writes extensively on the issues of belonging, female body and the border and intergenerational trauma. Her artistic work explores borders and stories that emerge from living in transition. Ultimately, she is interested in creating and researching work that provides means by which people can meet, human to human, in all their differences, in the most sensitive and sincere way possible.

Dylan Quinn: Artistic Director, Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre

Dylan Quinn and has been working as a Choreographer, Dance Artist, performer and facilitator for over 26 years. In 2009 he established Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre (DQDT) and has operated as Artistic Director for the last 11 years. Dylan has created numerous company performances and commissioned works for a range of dance and theatre companies and was Irish Times Theatre Award Nominee 2018. Dylan’s work has been presented nationally and internationally across Europe and the US.

Dylan has performed and undertaken a wide range of community and education projects across the UK, Ireland and Internationally. He has development a particular focus on creating work that explores the context around the border in Ireland, i’s impact and highlighting the experiences of these living in border communities. He has undertaken a range on innovation projects involving performances on the border in live and film formats.

What else can we expect?

In addition to key notes the event will include papers, conversations, and performances, featuring work from artists and academics. Here is a taster of who is joining us:

Professor Thomas F Defrantz – Black thought in motion

Choreographer, dancer, and scholar Thomas F. DeFrantz has a joint appointment as Professor in the dance program and African and African American Studies department at Duke University. His first book, entitled Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African American Dance for the SDHS series Studies in Dance History, won the Erroll Hill Award for Research in Black Theater. His second book was the riveting Revelations: Alvin Ailey’s Embodiment of African American Culture, and his widely cited articles and essays on the black body in dance constitute some of the most exciting work in the area today. He served as archivist for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and organized the dance history program at the Ailey school for many years. Creatively, he has created music for the Dance Theatre of Harlem, choreographed the play for young people Paul Robeson, All-American, written by Ossie Davis, and collaborated with Ballet Hispanico on Border Crossings. For years he was also active with the Theater Offensive of Boston, who produced his original musical play, Queer Theory: An Academic Travesty. The intersection of academic work and dance practice also manifests itself in his role as founder and artistic director of artistic director of SLIPPAGE: Performance|Culture|Technology. DeFrantz is a founding member of the Collegium for African Diaspora Dance.

Sharon Watson DL – Displaced positivity and the power of voice

After studying at London Contemporary Dance School, Sharon graduated from the BPA (Hons) in Contemporary Dance at NSCD in 1997.

Sharon Watson is the fourth Principal of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Prior to this she was the longest-standing Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre. Her journey with the company began when she was one of the first female Principal Dancers invited to join the all-male award-winning company, touring from 1989 to 1997 and choreographing Never Still and Shaded Limits. Having left Phoenix to pursue a number of other ventures including setting up her own company ABCD, Sharon returned in 2009 as the new Artistic Director. Sharon choreographed numerous works for the company including the celebrated Windrush: Movement of the People and Black Waters.

In November 2020, Sharon was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire.

Michael Douglas Kollektiv and Dana Caspersen – The Polarity Party

MichaelDouglas Kollektiv are based in Cologne and focus on research and collaborative art production with the development of collective creation methods in the performance context. By means of an independent and responsible structure, the collective faces the challenges of its artistic decisions, such as working as a non-hierarchical structure, reducing the usual temporal parameters for artistic process development (One Week Stand), and advancing a dialogue and fostering exchange at the interfaces to disciplines and themes such as communication, architecture, sociology, psychology, and conflict resolution.

Dana Caspersen has an MS in Conflict Studies and Mediation, an MFA in Dance and has received several international awards for creative achievement. Her book Changing the Conversation: The 17 Principles of Conflict Resolution has been translated into 8 languages and is widely used as a training tool by organizations, schools and individuals worldwide. In her work integrating conflict engagement strategies with choreographic methodologies, she has designed numerous large-scale public dialogue models addressing topics such as immigration, racism and violence, bringing together thousands of people from diverse communities across the world– from a refugee camp in Berlin to Lincoln Center’s Global Exchange conference in New York City.

During over 30 years as an award-winning performing artist, she has authored, performed and toured works worldwide— principally as a primary collaborator of choreographer William Forsythe and a member of the renowned ensembles Ballet Frankfurt and The Forsythe Company. This practice of developing agile physical and mental response strategies in complex environments as a dance thinker has also shaped her understanding of conflict as vehicle for transformation and positive change.

Check out the trailer for Polarity Party here:

Michelle Man – Dance Objects (DO): Tea Towel Dances workshop

On graduating from Elmhurst Ballet School in 1989, Michelle developed her professional career in Madrid, Spain, establishing her own company in 1996 ‘Michelle Man & Friends’ collaborating extensively with composers, architects, lighting designers, musicians, costume makers, choirs, circus artists and multi-media artists. Her work has been received in Brazil, Chile, Korea, Italy, France, Germany, Canada, Sweden, Spain as well as the UK. She has been commissioned by the Spanish Government, CDN (Spanish National Theatre), Teatro Real, Teatro Circo Price, and has been awarded funding for research and artistic production. Michelle continues to choreograph internationally across a diverse range of contexts and disciplines that include contemporary dance, circus, theatre and music performance. She holds a Masters in Making Performance (awarded Distinction) and is currently a PhD Researcher in Dance at the University of Surrey, under the supervision of Dr Rachel Hann and Dr Adam Alston with the working title ‘Light and the Choreographic’. Michelle is SL in Dance at Edge Hill University

Liz Lea- In conversation

Liz is based in Canberra after 20 years in Europe, touring internationally. Liz’s speciality is working with classical Indian dance and martial arts. She has worked with Ranjabati Sircar, Mavin Khoo, the Royal Opera House and English Bach Festival. She has been commissioned in India, UK, Australia, South Africa, Singapore and USA.

Liz Lea Dance works include ‘tala rasa Hellas and back’, ‘REflect’ in collaboration with Marie Gabrielle Rotie and ‘Livid’. Liz toured ‘120 Birds’ inspired by Anna Pavlova’s world tours, to Australia and the UK in 2010/12. She has since created ‘InFlight’ inspired by early aviation and ‘Magnificus Magnificus’ inspired by the red-tailed black cockatoo for Indigenous dancer Tammi Gissell. A duet with Bobby Singh titled ‘Kapture’ was inspired by the South African freedom fighter, Ahmed Kathrada.

Liz’s next company work, ‘Bindu’, is due to premier in 2021 in Canberra. Bindu explores the notion of connections between all people’s and the singular point from which we all explore and evolve. The work will include a company of 6 professional dancers from Australia and Singapore and a company of older performers along with musicians and dancers living with intellectual disabilities. Liz’s work RED will also be presented at the conference.


Closing Act

Supported by People Dancing, new for this year we are delighted to have Wendy Houstoun as our Raconteur and she will consider what occurs throughout the sessions and deliver a short 10 -15 minute wrap up each day.

Wendy Houstoun

Wendy Houstoun is a movement/theatre artist who remains committed to finding new forms to address her themes. Over the years, her work has developed a uniquely distinctive style that combines movement with text, and meaning with humour.

Since 1980 , Wendy has worked extensively as a solo performer, and in collaboration with companies and artists whose work challenges, enriches and extends the boundaries of dance and theatre. Her work with DV8 Physical Theatre, Tim Etchells and Forced Entertainment, film maker David Hinton, Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion, Nigel Charnock, performance artist Rose English, Lumiere and Son Theatre and Ludus Dance Company has explored large and small stages, specific sites, film and installation.


The Team

Karen Gallagher MBE, Karen Gallagher & Associates

Born in Liverpool, Karen Gallagher trained at the Laban Centre for Movement and Dance in London in the early 80s then returned to Liverpool to develop dance in a variety of ways. Artistic Director of MDI (1994-2018) Karen is passionate about dance and how it can effect change in people’s lives alongside how as an Artform it is appreciated through creation and performance

A graduate of Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) with an MA in Social Enterprise, Karen received a BMOBO for MDI’s community dance practice and was a runner up for Merseyside Woman of the Year. She received an MBE, awarded for services to dance in The Queen’s New Year Honours List and is an Honorary Fellow of LJMU.

In 2020 Karen set up and launched Karen Gallagher and Associates to grow her reputation as a mentor and facilitator; tour works by small scale local and international artists and produce events.

Dr. Sarah Black – Frizell, Liverpool Hope University

Dance artist/scholar Sarah Black-Frizell joined Liverpool Hope University as a lecturer in dance, specialising in situated dance and installation practices, maternal and feminist ethics in performance, choreographic methodologies and teaching Contemporary Limon Technique. Sarah studied for her undergraduate degree at Middlesex University, MA at Liverpool John Moores and her doctorate at Middlesex University. Sarah trained and performed at the Limon Institute in New York.

She is a dance maker and performer and she works with her husband and her two children on developing a performance practice which is situated in their family home – Mother as Curator. Sarah and her family regularly perform in their family home and some of this work is presented inter/nationally. She is a co-director of the Mothers’ Day Project a performance company, with esteemed Liverpool writer Esther Wilson. The project responds to the notion of Mothering and Peace through performance and academic discourse.


Book here

Deadline for booking 5pm 5th February 2021

Further details and full programme content will be available in due course.

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Our Dance Democracy 2 is made possible with funding from Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grants and is a collaboration between Karen Gallagher & Associates, Liverpool Hope University, People Dancing and Culture Liverpool

The Exchange

A choreographic dialogue by Dana Caspersen and MichaelDouglas Kollektiv

“The Exchange” is a choreographic dialogue by Dana Caspersen and MichaelDouglas Kollektiv played in various spaces, to present a new genre of performing arts and to participate to the panel discussions and public exchanges.

Increasing social dynamics, namely the mobility of people and new urban communities, brings with it the need to rethink the potential of the cities for every citizen and their communities. As a reaction to the current social and artistic situation, The Exchange makes a proposition to its participants inviting them to join a new kind of public research to examine the question: How do we as individuals impact the level of violence in the world? The events utilize simple physical actions, such as walking, gesturing, and physical imagination as tools of exchange for engaging in this collective examination. In the current international atmosphere of heightened division across racial and ideological lines, violent interactions increasingly become an acceptable, if unwanted, norm and a sense of hopelessness often arises. The Exchange counters this hopelessness by providing participants a platform from which to consider what they believe about violence, where they learned those beliefs, and how those beliefs tend to focus their attention and actions in conflict. Through this reflection and exchange, a ground is created from which we can consider what we as individuals and communities have the power to change.

After its Premiere in May 2016 in Cologne, Germany, The Exchange was presented in 2017 in Ankara, Turkey, Bratislava, Slovakia and Bucharest, Romania, each time in unconventional venues. By joining the Tanzmesse in NRW, Dana Caspersen together with MichaelDouglas Kollektiv are introducing a very international and diverse public to a choreographed artistic system of negotiation with the collectivity and with the space.

All about Endometriosis

Read a bit more about this condition


RED, credit Lorna Sim

When I was given the task to produce a health show for I woman Academy I thought I would be a little opportunistic as I was representing an Australian artist Liz Lea to tour her work RED, a one woman show based on her own story of living with the condition Endometriosis and the impact on her professional and personal life. But as I delved further and spoke with specialist Dr. Nicola Tempest who is researching the role of stem cells in diseases such as endometriosis and endometrial cancer, I realised thereis so much more to this condition.

I chatted to some women living with this condition: Liz Lea a Choreographer, Mandy Tickle a Digital Project Manager and Uma Ramanathan a Creative Practitioner and we talked about, how old they were when they were diagnosed, how it affects them and how are they coping. Their stories are all too familiar. After all they have gone through, all of them want to know:

When will there be a cure? What is the cause? Why is it taking so long to be diagnosed?

Endometriosis affects 1 in 10 women in the UK, that’s over 1.5 million women, 176 million worldwide! Awareness, support and information is needed to further understand this chronic condition.

As government in the UK begin to debate endometriosis in the workplace. This is timely and an opportunity for the Government to step up its efforts in ensuring people with endometriosis receive the necessary support to help people thrive in the workplace.

“I genuinely believe if this was a male problem a lot more would be done, if so many male working hours where taken out of the workplace and if so much pain was encountered my men I think more research, more resource, more thought and kindness would occur. So many women suffer from this condition and up to five years ago it was really a taboo subject” Mandy Tickle

What is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis (pronounced en- doh – mee – tree – oh – sis) is an Oestrogen dependent chronic inflammatory disease, relying on the bodies production of oestrogen and it affects just women.

“It’s where the lining of your womb (the Endometrium), is found outside of the womb” Dr. Nicola Tempest

It is a chronic and debilitating condition that causes painful or heavy periods. It may also lead to infertility, fatigue and bowel and bladder problems. Around 1.5 million women in the UK are currently living with the condition. Endometriosis can affect 1 in 10 women and girls of a childbearing age, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Many remain undiagnosed and are therefore not treated.


What occurs?

Every month a woman’s body goes through hormonal changes. Hormones are naturally released which cause the lining of the womb to increase in preparation for a fertilized egg. If pregnancy does not occur, this lining will break down and bleed – this is then released from the body as a period.

In endometriosis, cells like the ones in the lining of the womb grow elsewhere in the body. These cells react to the menstrual cycle each month and also bleed. However, there is no way for this blood to leave the body. This can cause inflammation, pain and the formation of scar tissue.

Endometriosis lesions can be found anywhere in the pelvic cavity:

On the ovaries
The fallopian tubes
On the pelvic side-wall (peritoneum)
The uterosacral ligaments,
The cul-de-sac,
The Pouch of Douglas
The rectal-vaginal septum

In addition, it can be found in:
Caesarian-section scars
Laparoscopy/ laparotomy scars
On the bowel
On the intestines, colon, appendix, and rectum

But these locations are not so common. In even more rare cases, endometriosis has been found inside the vagina, inside the bladder, on the skin, in the lung, spine, and brain.

What are the symptoms to be looking out for?

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

The classic endometriosis symptoms include:

Chronic pain
Painful, heavy, or irregular periods
Pain during or after sex
Painful bowel movements

“It started off as its carried on throughout my life, I started to encounter pain before my period, quite severe and I thought it was my stomach or my back as that is how its experienced by me, pain down my legs, all sorts of pain everywhere, headaches, migraines and feeling sick and it built up gradually as I got older to sometimes I would pass out” Mandy Tickle

What is the impact?

“I have had to design my own career to fit round it, having spent so much time with HR departments asking me “why am I having so much time off!” So I try to work with companies and suggest I work from home where applicable. I have had to plan my career around my health which has been quite restrictive” Mandy Tickle

Endometriosis can have a significant impact on a woman’s life in a number of ways, including:

Lack of energy
Problems with a couple’s sex life/relationships
An inability to conceive
Difficulty in fulfilling work and social commitments

“I have reached the point at 49, I will be 50 soon that I need to take at least 2-3 days a month off, I can’t function, I can’t think, there is also a lot of nausea which comes as well, so three days a month, that’s a lot of time in a year you lose as productive living and working time” Liz Lea

How long does diagnosis take?

Because endometriosis manifests itself in a variety of ways and shares symptoms with other conditions, diagnosis can be difficult and often delayed. Recent research shows that there is now an average of 7.5 years between women first seeing a doctor about their symptoms and receiving a firm diagnosis.

Liz Lea was 40 when she discovered it and Uma Ramanthan was diagnosed at 35 years old through a laparoscopy, after encountering what felt like a large sized golf ball in her stomach. Mandy Tickle on the other hand was first diagnosed at 19 years but she encountered it much earlier at just 13!

How is it diagnosed?

“My GP told me I had IBS and I was not happy with that, so I had an appointment at Abacus, a NHS sexual health and family planning service, and I explained my symptoms to a female Dr. After offering an internal examination, she said I think you might have Endometriosis” Uma Ramanthan

The only definitive way to diagnose endometriosis is by a laparoscopy – an operation in which a camera (a laparoscope) is inserted into the pelvis via a small cut near the navel. The surgeon uses the camera to see the pelvic organs and look for any signs of endometriosis. If endometriosis is diagnosed, the endometriosis may be treated or removed for further examination during the laparoscopy.

“It was diagnosed as a ‘women’s problem’ and I was told it was the Working Women’s disease that I had!” Mandy Tickle

Stages of the disease

The stages don’t necessarily equate to pain and discomfort levels.

Stage 1, the endometriosis is considered “minimal.”
Stage 2, the endometriosis is considered “mild.”
Stage 3 is “moderate” endometriosis.
Stage 4 is the “severe” stage of endometriosis.

So although there are defined stages as Dr. Nicola Tempest says: “Endometriosis affects different people differently and to different extends, that’s why its really important to look at why people get this condition and the stage of disease does not correlate very well to the discomfort or the symptoms that people get which is quite a random thing to happen because usually the worse your condition get the worse your symptoms would be but that is not the case with endometriosis”

Photo by Vinicius Amano on Unsplash


Currently, there is no cure for endometriosis. The different treatments available for endometriosis aim to reduce the severity of symptoms and improve the quality of life for a woman living with the condition. The type of treatment taken should be decided in partnership with a healthcare professional.

“The cure would be to remove the oestrogen as it’s an oestrogen dependent condition and to remove the oestrogen you would have to remove the ovaries, but on young women that would mean you were infertile, it would mean long term wise if you had children and wanted your ovaries removing because its causing endometriosis, we know ovaries by removing them decreases your lifespan, increase the chances of dementia, increase chances of bone fractures. It’s not a good thing to remove peoples’ ovaries in their 30s for example as we want people to have their ovaries til at least menopausal age” Dr. Nicola Tempest

What are the treatments available?

Credit Freestock

Treatment options available to women with endometriosis are:

• Surgery
• Hormone treatment
Pain relief

As a treatment for endometriosis, surgery can be used to alleviate pain by removing the endometriosis, dividing adhesions or removing cysts. There are three options of surgery for treating endometriosis:

• Conservative surgery
• Complex surgery
• Radical surgery


Conservative surgery

Conservative surgery aims to remove or destroy the deposits of endometriosis and is usually done via a laparoscopy (keyhole surgery). The surgeon can either cut out the endometriosis (known as excision) or destroy it using heat or laser. Although surgery can provide relief from symptoms, they can recur in time.

“I asked was that the only solution and was told: Well you want to know what’s wrong right? So 10th June, I had the surgery. Before the surgery I had loads of issues where I thought it was IBS, certain foods I couldn’t it and it triggered indigestion, bloating and pain. Post surgery it was explained that certain other conditions can present with it and in my case it was IBS” Uma Ramanthan

Complex Surgery

“I had the disease cut out of me, but it has returned along with Adenomyosis”. Liz Lea

Depending on the severity of your endometriosis, you may need to undergo more complex surgery that involves different organs within the body, such as the bowel or the bladder. These types of surgery will often include a multi-disciplinary team such as a colorectal surgeon, and are usually carried out via laparoscopy. Any complex surgery should be discussed thoroughly with your doctor or specialist.


Radical surgery (Hysterectomy and or Oophorectomy)

“I was offered an hysterectomy but up until that point I had still been trying to have children” Mandy Tickle

Hysterectomy is the removal of the womb and is performed under general anesthetic. It can be done with or without removing the ovaries. If the ovaries are left in place then the chance of endometriosis returning is increased. Some women need a further operation to remove the ovaries at a later date. Hysterectomy is not the right operation for everyone and not a decision to make lightly. A hysterectomy is irreversible. Oophorectomy is the removal of the ovaries. When both ovaries are removed, a woman will experience an instant and irreversible menopause.

These procedures may be considered for a number of reasons. The decision to have either of these procedures is a big one to make – they are irreversible, so the advantages and disadvantages of each surgery should be discussed in full with your consultant.

“Having an hysterectomy alone won’t do anything to endometriosis as it’s the ovaries that are the problem. You need the ovaries removing and peritoneal strippings, all of the endometriosis removing. If you don’t remove all of the endometriosis at the time of removing the ovaries potentially if you have any oestrogen stimulants, so if you go on HRT or something like that the endometriosis even if you have no ovaries could regrow. It’s a drastic thing to happen and shouldn’t be taken lightly” Dr. Nicola tempest



As endometriosis responds and grows when exposed to the female hormone oestrogen, a number of hormone treatments attempt to block or reduce the production of oestrogen in the body. This means the endometriosis will be unable to continue growing and will help to relieve symptoms. Hormone treatments for endometriosis either put the woman into an artificial pregnancy state or an artificial menopausal state. Both states are temporary and are reversed when the patient has stopped taking the hormones.

Pain Relief

“Every month there is a lot of bloating, a lot of pain, and if I didn’t take an awful lot of drugs, a lot of Nurofen, I literally would not be able to get out of bed, which sounds melodramatic but that is the reality. Its almost like living with a broken ankle!” Liz Lea

The main symptom of endometriosis is pelvic pain – there are various pain relief and pain management options available:

Heat and comfort
Pain modifiers
Pain clinics
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator (TENS) machines

“So for the last 13 years or so I have been on long term pain killers” Mandy Tickle

Facts and Figures

The latest facts and figures about endometriosis:

1 in 10 women of reproductive age in the UK suffer from endometriosis.

10% of women world wide have endometriosis – that’s 176 million worldwide.

The prevalence of endometriosis in women with infertility be as high as to 30–50%.

Endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK.

Endometriosis affects 1.5 million women, a similar number of women affected by diabetes.

On average it takes 7.5 years from onset of symptoms to get a diagnosis.

Endometriosis costs the UK economy £8.2bn a year in treatment, loss of work and healthcare costs. The cause of endometriosis is unknown and there is no definite cure.

Is it hereditary?

Some research suggests that endometriosis can be passed down to new generations through the genes of family members. Some families may be more susceptible to endometriosis but the causes of this are unclear.

Talking to Liz Lea she first discovered she had endometriosis at 40, her sister had it and told her at around 35 that she may also have it because it can be hereditary. By 40 it was in her bowel and she needed a bowel reconstruction.


Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

I met up with Dr. Nicola Tempest, an academic clinical lecturer at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital and I felt that she really did provide some answers to questions posed by the women I had spoken with.

The academic department at The Liverpool Women’s Hospital recruit people into research every time they come into hospital, have their own tissue bank with 1000’s of samples, have MRes, M.Phil and PHD all different students doing all sorts of research projects, very research active. Encourage people who visit the hospital to take part in research as trying to help people in the future.

Nicola explains that they are not sure of the pathogenesis of it and there are lots of theories such as Sampson’s theory of retrograde menstruation when basically you have a period you bleed back out and through your fallopian tubes, but 90% of women do this so why do only 10% of women have endometriosis? There is lots of research going on into the basic science of why people get it.

Involved in a number of different types of research Nicola, works as a clinical Doctor and researcher with a PHD looking into Endometriosis Stem Cells and the makeup of the Endometrium.

“It’s really important we do this basic science”. She is aware people want a cure and would like treatment, but the solution is just not there yet: she explains “We don’t know why as humans, there is only humans and primates that actually menstruate on a monthly basis, why do we do that? How is the endometrium made up so I have been doing 3 D models to see what it looks like and how to target the treatment options”

To conclude as I started, I asked Liz Lea what made her use her Endometriosis story as a creative process to make work and what can we expect when it tours UK in 2020?

“I started dreaming on the idea of making a work and RED was going to be all about my life, then working with my dramaturg we whittled the idea down to the Endometriosis experience…….RED deals with the mind set of being a performer and a dancer ignoring certain elements of health that don’t actually stop you from dancing…. Living with a bowel reconstruction!…….. We have just tried to make it funny and as humorous as we possible can. There are a couple of gut punches in there as well. Its very OTT, beautiful film and great variety of music and choreographers”

Huge thanks to all of my contributors, to Dr Nicola Tempest for providing a real insight to the condition and the research that is taking place; to Liz, Mandy and Uma for sharing their stories I found it really informative, engaging and inspiring.

Lets hope through the research we can at some point find a cure.


#dance #endometriosis