Dance City, the North East’s leading dance development organisation, is thrilled to announce its support for the creation of 10 new works from April 2019 as part of its 2019-2020 commissioning programme.

This year saw the highest volume of applications than ever before, all of a very high standard, resulting in a lengthy and thorough selection process.

Dance City invited Dora Frankel, founder of Fertile Ground, significant contributor to the North East dance ecology; and Rachel Birch, co-founder of Moving Art Management, producer, performer, both North East residents, to the panel of judges.

Artistic Director, Anthony Baker says, “Each of our guest panel members bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the panel, helping us make informed, knowledgeable and fair decisions.”

Full length commissions (£5000 each)

Four full length commissions of the value of £5,000 each were awarded to North East artists; Gillie Kleiman, Nicole Vivien Watson, Robby Graham of Southpaw Dance and Michael Heatley of Hit the Ground Running Dance Theatre Company. These productions will be performed within Dance City’s Professional Performance Programme between 2019 and 2020.

Gillie Kleiman – Familiar

Familiar will be a full-length evening of performance comprised of two works: one authored by Gillie and performed by theatre maker Greg Wohead, the other authored by Greg and performed by Gillie. Familiar plays out what it means to be companions, where we think we know everything about each other whilst facing the fact that we can’t. The work will be designed by celebrated visual and performance artist Tim Spooner.

“I’m a Dance City kid: I grew up dancing with and in the organisation, and have since had many different roles in relation to it. I’m really excited to have this new kind of connection, and to develop my new work in what has always felt a lot like my childhood home.” – Gillie Kleiman. 

Nicole Vivien Watson – Behind the Face of a Rock

Behind the Face of a Rock, Throwing Stones, is a new and artistic, choreographic work that is influenced by British Sign Language and will be made in dialogue with regional dance artists: Charlie Dearnley, and Alex Rowland, and London based deaf and professional dance artist, Chris Fonseca. The work will also feature interdisciplinary elements by Northumberland based visual artist, Graham Patterson and sonic elements by award-winning London based composer, Tom White.

Southpaw Dance – Speakeasy

Speakeasy will draw on one of the company’s most successful works, Faust, which has toured extensively outdoors, and will add indoor touring capabilities to the Company’s repertoire, bringing new audiences and new participants into indoor venues in 2019-2021. Speakeasy will feature a 1920s set, projection mapping and a cinematic soundtrack alongside the distinctive Southpaw movement vocabulary, seamlessly blending b-boying, contemporary and swing for a spectacular theatrical presentation.

Hit the Ground Running Dance Theatre Company – Suitcases

In an attic at the Willard Asylum, New York, 427 suitcases belonging to Willard patients were found… The suitcases are beautifully preserved epitaphs to a few of those who lived and died at the Asylum and a poignant remembrance of the lives they left outside. Hit The Ground Running Dance Theatre Company are making a piece of dance theatre which explores the stories behind the Willard Suitcases, examines the treatment of mental health and the devastating effects on the lives it touches.

‘Hit The Ground Running DTC are delighted to have received our first full commission from Dance City. With this support, we will develop international links with new creatives and explore the stories behind the Willard suitcases. We are extremely excited  to be premiering our new work at Dance City  in 2020.’ – Michael Heatley, Artistic Director. 

Contribution to full-length productions (£1500 each)

Mathieu Geffré – What songs may do

What songs may do will be an insight into the power of songs, reinforced by Nina Simone’s performance of the song Feelings that she gave at the 1976 Montreux Jazz Music Festival.  In this duet, the two dancers attend Simone’s performance. How can the relationship of the two characters evolve as they embrace and express their emotions with authenticity and honesty?

Company of Others – Crackle. Dust

Company of Others will be developing Crackle. Dust. a Co-Created dance theatre production with many self-identifying women from across the North of England. It will share their experiences of endings that have had a life changing impact through movement, live sound and spoken word. The show will be a poetic unveiling of women’s resilience, a call to action for us all to listen more carefully and a sharing of power. Performed by an exquisitely diverse ensemble of 7 female performers Crackle. Dust. will witness and celebrate the silence breakers, survivors and the hopeful in our region whilst remaining universal.

Early Stage Commissions (£1500 each)

Two Early Stage Commissions have been awarded to North East based companies. These commissions provide support for the development of early stage, short pieces of work (5 – 15 minutes duration). These pieces will be performed in at least one Dance City platform event, to include Dance Edits in September 2019.

Igor Tavares

Igor Tavares will be developing a solo piece that explores the relationship between creativity in painting and dance, together with the expression of the individual within a wider community. Influences will include Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gil Scott Heron and the Last Poets, Yves Klein and African ritual dances which connect the physical and spiritual worlds. The focus of the piece will be to use Earth, Water, Air, and Fire, and to develop movements/paint-marking to reflect responses to these within the context of climate change.  The piece will involve dance, live “painting” and some significant objects.

Collision Dance Theatre

Set in the present-day world, where online personas are everything and the lines between fact and fiction are blurred. This new piece will follow the journey of two females as they prepare for the largest masquerade ball of all, the infamous night out on the town. Battling their emotional and physical demons, they are forced to think about the undecided parts of themselves, elements not quite prepared for outer consumption or judgement. As they seek connection, compassion and permission from one another to shed their masks.

Accelerate Commissions (£1500 each)

This newly designed commission programme has been designed to support graduate North East artists to shape their voice as dance makers and will be performed at one or more of Dance City’s platforms throughout the year. These commissions are awarded in memory of Charlotte Grant.

Matthew Fraser

Matthew will be continuing the development of his dissertation piece initially created during his time at Trinity Laban dance school in London. The work, titled October 26th condenses a week spent in the Lake District and explores the how the countryside can inspire and delight and challenge feelings of depression, using the Lakes raw natural landscape and each characters relationship to the environment around them to provoke personal memories.

Greta Heath

Greta will be creating a screen dance film, with movement influenced by and set in locations where the industrial meets the natural world.  It will address the domestic and large-scale use of natural resources including where it is extracted or created. The new piece (as yet untitled) will explore the contrast between urban/domestic settings and the often-rural landscape where the extraction takes place. Through movement Greta intends to trace the journey of how natural products transpose from a raw to a refined resource.

Why do we commission work?

Dance City commissions are designed to stimulate, promote, and encourage the creation of new dance works in the North East and beyond and encourage both early career and more established artists to develop new work or take the next step in their career.

Artist Mathieu Geffré said “I am absolutely delighted to be one of the lucky candidates to be granted with a Dance City commission. As the only recipient from outside the North East, it is an honour to be given such opportunity. I am extremely motivated and excited to create the greatest work possible with the people from Newcastle.”

Dance City is committed to developing new work and nurturing artists of all backgrounds and worked hard to ensure that the selection of individuals and companies chosen were diverse and inclusive.

To find out more about Dance City Commissions and apply for next year’s commissions, visit:

Pictured: Nicole Vivien Watson photographed by Jevan Chowdhury, commissioned by Moving Art Management with support from Arts Council and Dance City. Part of the Moving Cities project capturing international dancers in real settings.