Maiden Voyage Dance Company

Watch a dance performance in the Ulster Museum and get the lowdown from artistic director Nicola Curry

What/where/why is Maiden Voyage?

Maiden Voyage is a professional contemporary dance company working with local, national and international dance artists to ignite talent and evolve the practice and performance of dance in Northern Ireland. Maiden Voyage commission and tour new dance work, provide professional development and training opportunities for dancers and deliver a wide range of educational and outreach activities annually.

The Ulster Museum was the recent setting for your Dance Exposed performance. What is the initiative?

Dance Exposed is a Maiden Voyage commissioning initiative to build new audiences for dance. Funded by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Dance Exposed comprises two short, portable and visually engaging dance pieces created specifically for public spaces. Dance Exposed has been performed in shopping centres, museums and arts venues, most recently at the Ulster Museum, Theatre at the Mill in Newtownabbey and Erneside shopping centre in Enniskillen.

Who was involved?

Choreographers involved included Omar Gordon who created the comic inspired 'Bubblegum' and Suzannah McCreight who created the red carpet 'Dream A Little Dream'. The pieces were danced by company dancers Fania Grigoriou, Ryan O’Neill and Jen Thornton.

What was the response from the public?

The response has been overwhelming, with over 3,000 people experiencing Dance Exposed in October. Some of the audience feedback was very encouraging: 'I’m not really a fan of dance, however, I found it compelling to watch.' 'Entertaining and inspiring, just the right length, unusual setting.'

What's next on the Maiden Voyage agenda?

Maiden Voyage is currently working on IDEA - Investigate Dance, Encourage Art – a research initiative funded by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. This year we have teamed choreographer Suzannah McCreight with composer Brian Irvine and they have begun a process to initiate a new performance collaboration that we will develop into a full commission in 2011.

We are also planning to expand the Dance Exposed programme in 2011 with two new commissions and develop a new piece for 2012 with dance maverick Wendy Houstoun in between opportunities to re-tour BEST (a dance piece about the famed footballer). We will continue our Dance Ireland supported pro-dance weekly classes for professionals and, more immediately, delivering our Breakitdown training programme in partnership with Southern Area Health Promotion.

How do you see the future of dance in NI with funding cuts looming?

Contemporary dance is a fledging artform in Northern Ireland. The recent Arts Council dance strategy was an important development in focusing attention on the development of dance in Northern Ireland. At a time when dance is becoming more popular both as an artform and an agent for physical wellbeing, we hope that its potential will continue to be recognised and supported.

Can we learn from other countries with regards to cementing a place for dance on our cultural landscape?

Maiden Voyage is constantly learning from international practitioners who come to Northern Ireland to work and perform with us. Contemporary dance is a truly international artform. It is the norm for us to work with dance artists from many other countries. Recently, we have worked with artists from New York, Netherlands, Finland, Greece, Scotland and France, which helps inform us about both the practice and structures that support dance in other countries and from which a healthy dance ecology can evolve.