Dance in Northern Ireland

A brief guide to dance in today’s Northern Ireland.

Dancing has always been a popular pastime in Northern Ireland. Set dancing, tea dances, and the dance-hall days have created a tradition of dance. However, for a long time, contemporary dance was not very developed in Northern Ireland.

Funding was modest and mainly focused on community and education work. There was no adequate space for modern dance performances and few contemporary dance events. However, with the building of the Waterfront Hall and more vigorous promotion of contemporary dance, the situation for this artform has begun to change.

Increasingly, dance is recognized as the most flexible of all the artforms: a good mixture of exercise and art. Dance classes are more popular than ever, and besides ballroom dancing, Irish dancing, and line dancing, Northern Irish people now enjoy salsa, bellydancing and capoera.
Northern Ireland’s first undergraduate dance degree will start in late 2004 at the University of Ulster's Magee Campus and will be based at the state-of-the-art Foyle Arts Building. The newly appointed Dancer in Residence is Sandie Fisher, artistic director of the Assault Events Company since 1996.

The University plans to organise an outreach programme, involving local schools and the community. Although Dance to A or AS Level is only part of the curriculum in two Northern Irish schools, St Luise's in Belfast, and St Cecilia's in Derry, it is hoped that the new degree will encourage more students to choose dance to GCSE level and beyond.

Various important dance events took place this year: Belfast's Waterfront Hall held the World Irish Dance Championships in April 2004. The 2004 Week of Dance in Belfast was running from 15-23 May 2004, with over 60 dance events city wide. Citydance 2004 took place on 26 June at the Crescent Arts Centre from 1-6pm.