Dance Umbrella goes digital

Published: 4 October 2020
Reporter: Vera Liber

Bebe Miller Credit: Julietta Cervantes
Gregory Maqoma Credit: Marijke Willems
Kenrick Sandy Credit: Benji Reid

2020 marks the 42nd year of Dance Umbrella and Emma Gladstone’s 7th and final year as Artistic Director and Chief Executive.

On this year’s digital-only programme, Gladstone said, "although the festival in its usual format has not been possible this year, we had to find a way to celebrate the work of contemporary choreographers. In Dance Umbrella Digital this November, we are bringing together artists from across the globe for intimate conversations, taking a behind the scenes look at the choreographic process, debating the pressing topics of the day, running choreographic workshops for different ages and closing it all with an almighty digital disco."

  • Choreographer’s Cut: an opportunity to go behind the scenes with Oona Doherty (Northern Ireland) and Eun-Me Ahn (S. Korea) as they discuss their creative process.
  • Continental Breakfast: features Abby Zbikowski (USA) in conversation with Bebe Miller, Gregory Maqoma (South Africa) in conversation with Alfred Enoch, Akram Khan (UK), Arundhathi Subramaniam (India) in conversation with Alarmél Valli and Lucy Guerin (Australia) in conversation with Amrita Hepi.
  • Home Made: over five days, each Home Made group will work with a world-class choreographer to explore, play and create their own choreography: families (6yrs+) working with choreographer Satchie Noro, adults (18yrs+) working with choreographer Annie-B Parson, adults (60yrs+) working with choreographer Kenrick Sandy.
  • Music to Get You By: everyone involved in Dance Umbrella Digital shares the tracks that have got them through 2020.
  • Studio Sessions: twelve UK and Ireland based artists / companies each share a live-stream presentation of a work-in-progress curated for Dublin Dance Festival by Oona Doherty, for Dance4 (curator to be confirmed) and for Dance Umbrella / ResCen Research Centre at Middlesex University by Seeta Patel.
  • SystemsLab Debate: Shifting Ground—Reset / Reconnect / Reinvigorate: revisits the subject covered last year to discover what has changed on a personal, local and global level for each of the original panellists, facilitated by Dawn Estefan featuring panellists: Julia Cheng, Tracy Gentles and Nike Jonah.
  • Articles: articles from Tim Joss, Chief Executive & Founder of Aesop, the charity and social enterprise finding artistic solutions to society’s problems, and Italian artist Chiara Bersani on COVID-19 and disability.
  • Documentary Screening: documentary about the making of the piece If It Were Love (French: Si C'était de L’amour) directed by Patric Chiha, which was streamed at the 70th Berlin International Film Festival where it won the award for Best Documentary from the Teddy Award programme for LGBTQ-themed films.
  • Friday Night Dance Party X Let’s Have a Kiki: Jay Jay Revlon returns to Dance Umbrella with a virtual version of his ‘community-centred club night’.

Speaking of her departure, Gladstone said, "the time has come for me to hand over the DU baton to someone new. It has been an amazing seven years and I want to thank all the artists, audiences, venue partners, supporters, funders and staff team past and present for making it such an exhilarating ride. I am proud of what has been achieved artistically without question. But also geographically, as we are now touring more widely across London than ever before in DU’s long history."

Chair of Dance Umbrella’s Board Jake Ulrich said, "Emma brought her formidable array of skills to DU in 2013 with the explicit goals of expanding the definition of contemporary dance and reaching out to new audiences. She has done a phenomenal job accomplishing both of these. She has the rare ability to identify and nurture new talent. As a result Emma has both transformed DU and become recognised as a global leader in the dance world."