Dance City, the North East’s leading dance development organisation, is thrilled to announce its support for thirteen artists/companies from January 2020 to December 2021, as part of its 2020-2021 commissioning programme.

Awarding the commissions was a panel made up of Dance City’s Interim Artistic Director Phil Douglas, joined by Durham based TIN Arts Co-Director Martin Wilson and interdisciplinary artist Rachael Young.

This year commissions were exclusively awarded to artists based in the North East with the intention of developing the regions thriving dance sector, with chosen work spanning a wide range of genres and topics to reflect this. Alongside the three set strands available, the Dance City artistic team also made the decision to award £5000 in artist development bursaries to support a further five artists/companies.

Panel member Martin Wilson said: ‘It was a privilege to be involved in the Dance City Commissions as a panel member and a joy to read and hear about the many exciting and engaging ideas coming from artists based in the North of England. So many artists shared highly ambitious, inspiring and engaging ideas and it was a real challenge to select a shortlist from the many applications. Being a part of the process has reminded me how creative and inspiring the North East is as a place to live, work and create. Good luck to all those who were successful and have received support. I look forward to experiencing and witnessing the amazing work!’

This exciting chapter is supported by the launch of the organisations newly developed Artist Manifesto which will be announced to the public next week.

Full Length Commissions

Payal RamchandaniPayal Ramchandani –The boy who grew a forest

This inter-generational dance-theatre production-The boy who grew a forest’will urge audiences to look beyond fairy tales, wake them up from environmental inertia and give them real life role models. Jadav Payeng’s adventurous journey of impactful attempts to help his beloved land will be depicted through a confluence of dance forms – Indian classical dance (Kuchipudi Bharatnatyam) and contemporary. The music will be an amalgamation of Indian and Western traditions.

Read more about the work here.



HELD, image by Luke WaddngtonCompany of Others – HELD

HELD (working title) will be a radically gentle movement installation co-created with women who are Refugees and Asylum Seekers living in Gateshead. The work will investigate how we hold on to ourselves, each other and our culture when we have to leave so much behind and what we let go of in order to stay whole. With a cast of uniquely individual performers, live sound and 360˚ projection HELD will feel like a womb like experience that compassionately unsettles, captivates and calls for action.

HELD created by Company of Others, captured by Luke Waddington.

Read more about the work here. 

Early Stage Commissions

Gavin Coward - Mr NumbGavin Coward – Mr Numb

Gavin is creating a dance theatre duet performed by himself alongside singer song writer Patrick Kelly. Bringing dark clowning, dance and live music together to tell the fractured stories of Mr Numb.

Mr Numb feels nothing, he is confused in today’s society, he is searching for a feeling, fumbling with his sexuality and questioning ageing. He is an unlikely hero, a slightly unhinged protagonist, in a world full of obstacles. His life is a physical assault course with daring missions that he conquers and fails. Mr Numb is both a warm hearted and melancholy look at what makes us human and our quest to feel fulfilled. Read more about the work here.

Jennifer EssexJennifer Essex – How long is a piece of string?

Two creatures.  Both covered from the tops of their heads to just past their toes in long floppy, heavy “hair”. A new work for children 3+ and their grown-ups, the show will use dance, acrobatics, slap-stick, interactive technology, and sound to tell a silly tale of two fairly funny creatures.

Read more about the work here.



Patricia SuarezPatricia Suarez (contribution) – La Llorona

Patricia Suarez is a movement director based in Teesside. Her movement work is inspired through combining storytelling, social dance technique and physical theatre. Patricia is a Movement Lecturer on BA(Hons) Musical Theatre at Leeds College of Music and an Associate Artist of Both Barrels Theatre. La Llorona is a choreographic exploration of femininity, internalised emotion, and cycles of joy and violence.

Read more about the work here.


Alicia MeehanAlicia Meehan (deferred 2019-2020) – When Saturn Returns  

When Saturn Returns will be a colorful, personality-full and rigorous exploration into the physical & psychological impact that societal ideas and narratives have on women. The creative process will be an embodied investigation that will stem from the autobiographical; unpicking how we (performers Alicia aged 31 and Alys aged 30) have ingrained ideas surrounding gender, relationships, sexuality and measures of success and happiness.

Read more about the work here.


Charlotte Grant Early Career Artist Award Applicants

Ellen HathawayEllen Hathaway Dance – Arose

Ellen Hathaway is collaborating with Lebanese Creative Consultant Lucy Boulos to illustrate through dance a profound consequence of conflict; solidarity, unity and mutual support.  The work will reflect on Ellen’s experiences in Lebanon in 2018, Lucy’s participation in a current national revolution, and the North East’s local refugee community.

Read more about the work here.


What's that Dance


Megan Brown & Jennifer Chrisp –  dare you: Question The Love Between Girls

“dare you: Question The Love Between Girls” is a dance theatre work that explores the notion of female relationships, gender stereotypes and sexuality.

Read more about the work here.




Artist Development Bursaries

Lila NaruseLila Naruse – Flow

How do we find purpose and joy in the chaos of existence?

Exploring happiness, existence and struggle.

This work investigates the importance of human perception, addressing the psychology of happiness through Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of the state of ‘Flow’. Flow is an optimal experience where enjoyment is found through the act of concentration and self-investment.

Read more about the work here.


Patrick ZizaPatrick Ziza – Family Affair

Understanding and expectations of success and fulfilment in life can vary significantly depending on one’s age and also the time of one’s arrival in ‘the West.’

Arguably, African parents often have a precise vision of their children’s future and the route to what they consider a ‘successful’ life which is at odds with their western influenced children.

Family Affair delves into the conflict that a person of African heritage often experiences when 21st century western cultural ways of living clash with their traditional African family values. Read more about the work here.


Yuvel Soria (2)Yuvel Soria – AJAYU TRANSITORIO

AJAYU TRANSITORIO (Transient Soul, working title) is a performance/installation that explores the traditions, relationships with food, death and dying through the magic of Latin American traditional rituals and cultural practices. In Bolivia, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a celebration of the eternal, providing one day a year for the living to be reunited with the departed.

Read more about the work here.




Elia Genis (Spain), Vicky Mateu (Spain), Debbi Purtill (UK), Caroline Reece (UK) and Helen Stirland (UK) came together through a collective desire to collaborate with movement and text and to share the artistic responsibilities of producing, choreographing and designing a dance theatre piece for public viewing. The result was 5 Accompanied Solos performed at Dance City in 2007.

12 years life experience later they will revisit this concept and collaborate towards the next performance piece.

Read more about the work here.


Image by Luke WaddingtonDora Frankel – Turner in Venice (working title) 

Dora, who trained at Rambert School and The Benesh Institute is an established choreographer and educator and founding Artistic Director of Fertile Ground. She has a national and international career spanning almost 50 years and is currently touring the 2nd part of the JMWTurner inspired trilogy Figures in a Floating Landscape.

The bursary supports her investigations and research into the 3rd part of the trilogy with working title Turner in Venice. It allows her to develop a more ambitious approach to a work and an event that will be a celebration of a career shaped by both illness and splendid professional opportunities. Image: Figures in a Floating Landscape, photographed by Luke Waddington. Read more about the work here.  

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.

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