Transforming Fertile Ground

Peter Lathan

Now in its fourth year, NE graduate dance company Fertile Ground is set to transform itself during 2017.

In the last three years, the company has nurtured, inspired and challenged North East dance talent, creating two professional ensembles (a total of eight dancers) made up of recently graduated dancers from Sunderland, Hartlepool, Washington and Newcastle as well as some from the North East who have trained elsewhere. All but one have stayed in the region with 60% working professionally as dancers and dance facilitators, organising festivals, delivering projects and events and teaching.

The ensemble created seven new works and toured across North East England, frequently performing to new audiences, often in unusual settings including an art gallery, shopping centres, schools and a museum. It has engaged with 5,000 people, presenting work by nationally and internationally acclaimed choreographers James Wilton, Malgorzata Dzierzon, Eleesha Drennan and Tom Dale, in addition to the three works Artistic Director Dora Frankel created specially for the company.

Now Fertile Ground has been successful in securing development funding from a range of sources including the Arts Council, the Joicey Trust and Sir James Knott Trust to develop a new business plan to ensure the sustainability of the company, as a new Artistic Director is sought to take the helm from Dora Frankel at the end of 2017.

Dora Frankel came to the North East in 2003 after a career which included working with Rambert, American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Swedish Ballet. She founded Dora Frankel Dance and choreographed theatre-based work such as Bitter, Sweet and Dark (2010) and site-specific performances like One Small Step (2011). She also choreographed plays, amongst them The Wind in the Willows for Northern Stage (2010) and The Tempest (2009) for the Customs House.

There will be no more performances from Fertile Ground until 2018 but this summer the company’s Leap Project will bring dance workshops into schools across the North East, starting in Northumberland in June. The company will work with as many children and young people as possible, particularly in schools and communities with limited access to the arts, offering children who might not otherwise have the opportunity the chance to dance.

“I am delighted that Arts Council England are supporting Fertile Ground's growth and helping us create a stronger and more resilient company,” Frankel said. “I see my role as a creative leader and as someone creating space for the next generation, not only of dancers but of choreographers and Artistic Directors. Dance as an art form should be embedded in society and is vital at all stages of our lives.”