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 (http://journals.ateneo.edu/ojs/kk; 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: https://vimeo.com/339521692

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