We spoke to local artist Eliot Smith, Artistic Director of Eliot Smith Dance to find out what he’s been up to under lockdown and all about the company’s exciting new project Seacole + Nightingale, inspired by the history of the NHS.


Tell us a bit about yourself… 

My name is Eliot Smith, I am a dancer, choreographer and Artistic Director of Eliot Smith Dance (ESD). I was born and raised in Newcastle upon Tyne and trained at Dance City and Laban’s Centre for Advanced Training programme. In 2012, I graduated from the London Contemporary Dance School and studied further at The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance in New York City. During that time, I founded ESD in Newcastle – an independent company that creates unforgettable contemporary dance experiences that inspire.


How would you describe your style of work? 

Since 2011, I have created 14 contemporary dance works for ESD and created 9 dance works for events outside of the Company. I have seen the style of my work change and develop over the years. I centre my works on strength, physical speed and rich emotional narratives.

Eliot Smith 2











What have you been up to under lockdown? 

In light of the outbreak of Coronavirus, from 1 April, ESD refashioned its activities into a digital form titled, ESD Digital, tailored especially to allow people to continue engaging in and benefiting from dance and culture during self-isolation. This includes online performances, classes, community workshops, and at the s

ame time ESD were able to offer a small income for its Company Dancers, artists and creatives.


Has the lockdown changed your working processes?

ESD Dancers were based in their

own homes during lockdown and although we are currently in various parts of the world we have continued to develop and create.  We have really enjoyed collaborating in new ways and exploring digital methods to enhance our choreography and remain connected with ESD audience. Looking beyond, we intend to continue using digital methods in our works and we are looking forward to celebrating ESD’s 10th Anniversary in 2021.


When the industry starts to get back to a ‘new normal’ what would you like to see change for the better? 

First and foremost I would love to see the theatres, community centres, museums, and libraries reopen safely! It is important the culture and arts industry with the government look carefully at how they can support self-employed artists now and post covid-19. I have no doubt that some multi-talented artists out there will be already looking at alternative career paths. I guess it is the passion and commitment that will keep self-employed artists alive and moving. And of course, we must also be committed to equality and diversity and issues concerning our environment.


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Digital dance has been popular during lockdown. Are there any digital performances you can recommend? 

Being a Martha Graham lover, of course I would recommend classes and performances hosted by The Martha Graham Dance Company which you can find here and via their social media platforms.

I also recommend the online performance of Dancing at Dusk — A moment with Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring, which was available to rent via Sadler’s Wells.

There is some great digital work being created in the North East from other arts organisations including those at Curious Arts Festival via www.curiousarts.org.uk .

Please check out ESD Digital via www.eliotsmithdance.com./esddigital which we offer online performances, classes and community workshops.


Tell us about your latest project

ESD is continuing with its digital platform and looking ahead we are preparing a production for a live performance online in the Autumn season, but before that, we do have something exciting to share with you…

Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale are centre stage in a new documentary I am currently directing. ​This tak​es inspiration from NHS medical staff  and shines a light on the front line staff tackling Covid-19.

This interdisciplinary documentary, with newly-released music by multi award winning composer Adam Johnson, features original artwork by Bernadette Koranteng, a new poem written by children from Seaton Sluice Primary School, and real-life interviews with NHS medical personnel, all intertwined with contemporary dance performances.

Seacole + Nightingale will be available to watch for free of charge on ESD’s website via www.eliotsmithdance.com/seacoleandnightingale from 13 August 2020 at 7.30pm (BST).


How can people get involved? 

People can get involved by visiting our digital website here. We do understand that some people might not have access to the internet or computers and phones etc and we are continually thinking creatively on how we can support those people too.


Make sure to visit Eliot Smith Dance company on their website and follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Youtube!


Pictured: Eliot Smith and Sooraj Subramaniam.

Images by Darren Irwin and Malcolm Johnson.