Dance Umbrella

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Dance Umbrella is London’s international dance festival, celebrating 21st century choreography across the capital. Founded in 1978, Dance Umbrella is internationally recognised for its annual festival which takes place each October. In addition, projects supporting artists and engaging the public with choreography now take place year-round. To date, Dance Umbrella has reached audiences of over one million people in London.

Recently appointed Artistic Director & CEO Emma Gladstone is now building on this remarkable track record and taking Dance Umbrella forward with various new initiatives, including digital projects, regular programming strands for children and young people, debates and articles on cultural issues and the Moving London Commission Fund.


As a registered charity, Dance Umbrella has been bringing outstanding international dance to London since 1978, introducing 686 artists and companies from 31 countries to over 1 million people.[1]

Dance Umbrella is London’s international dance festival which commissions and co-produces new work for the stage. The festival presents British and international artists, and commissions and produces large-scale site-specific works in locations such as the Natural History Museum, the British Library and Tate Modern. Alongside this, Dance Umbrella organises workshops and professional development opportunities for artists working in the contemporary dance field and advises, supports and nurtures a wide range of dance companies and independent artists.

Venues and artists[edit]

Dance Umbrella takes place in the second half of October with performances at venues across London. Past venues include Sadler’s Wells, the Barbican Theatre, Southbank Centre, The Place: Robin Howard Dance Theatre and Greenwich Dance Agency, Alexandra Palace Ice Rink, Young Vic. Since 2007, Dance Umbrella has been staging performances outside of the theatre in spaces such as The Bathstore, Smithfield Market, Clifford Chance and various parks around London. Dance Umbrella Festival 2015 will see performances take place at NCP Car Park Farringdon, Greenwich Park, Brockwell Park, Springfield Park and Waterlow Park.

Dance Umbrella regularly presents international artists on tour in the UK, many of whom have made their UK debuts.

History and Achievements[edit]

First London Dance Umbrella festival at Riverside Studios and the ICA

Second Dance Umbrella festival, thereafter established as an annual event
First commissioned work (for Extemporary Dance Theatre) and first business sponsorship (Marks & Spencer)

First Danceabout North West festival in Manchester and the North-West

First presentation of Michael Clark & Dancers at Riverside Studios
First presentation of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker in Fase at ICA

First presentation of Trisha Brown Company at Riverside Studios

First Dance Umbrella festival performances at Sadler’s Wells: Lar Lubovitch Dance Company and Bill T. Jones & Arnie Zane Company
First presentation of Mark Morris and Dancers at The Place

Dance Umbrella’s artistic director, Val Bourne, awarded a ‘Bessie’ (New York Dance and Performance Award)

First presentation of Stephen Petronio & Dancers at The Place Theatre

Dance Umbrella’s co-presentation of Trisha Brown Company at Sadler’s Wells, wins Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement of the Year in Dance

Dance Umbrella’s 10th anniversary festival sponsored by Becks Bier
Dance Umbrella’s Artistic Director, Val Bourne, wins Excellence in International Dance Award from British Centre of International Theatre Institute
Launch of London Dance and Performance Awards to mark Dance Umbrella’s 10th and Time Out’s 20th anniversary
Launch of Siobhan Davies Dance Company at Riverside Studios

First Leicester International Dance Festival
Dance Umbrella’s Artistic Director, Val Bourne wins Digital Premiere Award & Dance Umbrella wins Digital Dance Award
First Dance Umbrella co-presentation of Merce Cunningham Dance Company at Sadler’s Wells
First presentation of Saburo Teshigawara’s Karas Company at The Place
First Dance Umbrella festival performances at Queen Elizabeth Hall: Groupe Emile Dubois in Mammame

Dance Umbrella wins Time Out London Dance Award & Prudential Award for Dance
Launch of Newcastle Dance ’90: festival sponsored by Newcastle Breweries
Dance Umbrella/Time Out Gala at Sadler’s Wells featuring London Dance and Performance Award-winners

Dance Umbrella’s Artistic Director, Val Bourne, awarded OBE in Birthday Honours List
Dance Umbrella wins Digital Dance Award for commission of new work (Michael Clark and Stephen Petronio)

Dance Umbrella wins Prudential Award for Dance and for the Arts
First presentations at Cabot Hall, Canary Wharf: Trisha Brown Company & Douglas Wright & Company

Merce Cunningham Dance Company: Events at Queen Elizabeth Hall
Operation Riverside: Residency with Siobhan Davies Dance Company
Necessary Weather: Choreography & Lighting Course led by Dana Reitz & Jennifer Tipton
Doug Elkins Dance Company tour

Two important education ventures: Dance and Technology, and Dance Writing and Criticism develops into Digital Dancing series
First Jerwood Choreography Awards
National tours of Stephen Petronio Company & Urban Bush Women

First Woking Dance Umbrella Festival
Merce Cunningham Dance Company: Events at Riverside Studios & repertoire at Sadler’s Wells
Mark Morris Dance Group tour sponsored by American Airlines
Streb/Ringside tour

Site-specific piece at Natural History Museum: Genesis Canyon
Dance Umbrella’s Artistic Director, Val Bourne, is awarded the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Dance Umbrella wins Time Out Award for Best Production for Genesis Canyon
Dance Umbrella’s co-commission of Siobhan DaviesArt of Touch wins Olivier award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance
Trisha Brown Company tour
Percussive Feet Festival at Cochrane Theatre

Stephen Petronio tour

20th anniversary festival
Site-specific work at British Library: Babel Index
First co-presentation of Ballett Frankfurt at Sadler’s Wells
Dance Umbrella’s Artistic Director, Val Bourne, wins Time Out Live Award for Outstanding Achievement
Dance Umbrella’s collaboration with English National Opera in presenting Mark Morris’s L’Allegro, Il Penseroso ed Il Moderato wins Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production
Re-launch of Michael Clark Company at Roundhouse plus regional tour

Dance Umbrella’s co-presentation with Sadler’s Wells of Ballett Frankfurt’s Enemy in the Figure at Sadler’s Wells wins Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production, and the company wins an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance for their season at Sadler’s Wells
Second Mark Morris Dance Group tour

Merce Cunningham Dance Company at the Barbican
Co-production of DV8 Physical Theatre’s Can we afford this: the cost of living at Queen Elizabeth Hall
First Virtual Incarnations: Dance and New Technology
Trisha Brown Company tour

23 years after the first festival, audience numbers continue to increase, reaching 35,000.
Stand Up for Dance: First of five annual Dance Umbrella '£5 Proms’ at Sadler’s Wells: Mark Morris Dance Group and Michael Clark Company
Over 25,000 see the Mark Morris Dance Group tour (sponsored by American Airlines and supported by Arts Council England’s National Touring Programming) making it the best-attended tour in the company’s history.

Dance Umbrella’s presentation of Mark Morris Dance Group’s production V wins Time Out Live Award for Outstanding Production
Dance Umbrella’s presentation of Mark Morris Dance Group wins Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance
Stand Up for Dance: Second Dance Umbrella ‘Proms’ at Sadler’s Wells supported by the Jerwood Foundation: Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project; Richard Alston Dance Company; Rosas

25th festival closes with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in Anniversary Events at Tate Modern
Stand Up for Dance: Third Dance Umbrella ‘Proms’ at Sadler’s Wells supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation: Michael Clark; Trisha Brown Dance Company; Teshigawara/Karas
Inbal Pinto Dance Company tour
Vincent Mantsoe tour

Dance Umbrella’s Artistic Director, Val Bourne, awarded CBE in Birthday Honours List
Stand Up for Dance: Fourth Dance Umbrella ‘Proms’ at Sadler’s Wells supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation: Shen Wei Dance Arts and Foundation Jean-Pierre Perreault
Mark Morris Dance Group’s London Premiere of The Hard Nut at Sadler’s Wells
Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s UK Premiere of Split Sides at the Barbican Centre and national tour

Largest festival to date with 25 companies over seven weeks including 11 French companies which constituted a mini-festival, France Moves
Attendance exceeded 40,000
The longest Dance Umbrella tour to date with the Mark Morris Dance Group, six weeks to 10 venues
Fifth Dance Umbrella ‘Proms’ at Sadler’s Wells supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation: The Forsythe Company; Siobhan Davies Dance Company; Sylvie Guillem & Russell Maliphant
Dance Umbrella launches Brief Encounters, a new forum for talented emerging choreographers and short works by established artists

Dance Umbrella presents the London premiere of Merce Cunningham’s seminal work Ocean at the Roundhouse
Dance Umbrella presents Focus on Rosas an in-depth look at the work of the Belgian company, Rosas, and its choreographer, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker at 4 venues on all scales
Three small-scale tours by international artists organised with the support of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation: Herman Diephuis; Vincent Mantsoe; Ros Warby
The 28th festival incorporated the most extensive education and outreach work to date, concentrated around performances by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Stephen Petronio Company and Déjà Donné
Dance Umbrella’s partnership with sponsors CMR shortlisted by A&B for the 2006 A&B Arts and Kids Awards.
Val Bourne retires as Artistic Director after 28 years

Betsy Gregory appointed Artistic Director
First Dance Umbrella outdoors includes Compagnie Beau Geste's Transports Exceptionnels in Jubilee Gardens and Paul-Andre Fortier's Solo 30x30 outside Liverpool Street Station
First Feeling for Practice, a discussion on choreographic process with Siobhan Davies and Shobana Jeyasingh.
Dance Umbrella joins ENPARTS (European Network of Performing Arts)

Dance Umbrella's 30th festival with performances at 14 different locations across London. The highlight is Royston Maldoom's Overture 2012, a Dance Umbrella commission for 120 children at The Royal Albert Hall in collaboration with London Symphony Orchestra
Dance Umbrella outdoors continues with 12 performances of Transports Exceptionnels at five public parks and Rodrigo Pardo's Toilet Tango at Baker St Bathstore
First presentation of a show for children and school groups - Tiago Guedes' Matrioska at The Place and Stratford Circus

Dance Umbrella 2009 was dedicated to the life of Merce Cunningham (1919-2009)
Dance Umbrella presents free-to-view event Bodies in Urban Spaces by Cie. Willi Dorner (Austria)
The festival focus was African Crossroads - showcasing a variety of programmes that celebrate new dance from the African continent, as well as talks and classes to take part in

This year featured a season of Trisha Brown's work called Celebrating Trisha Brown, including her repertory and early works, films, talks, free events, and workshops
Dance Umbrella's 32nd festival featured some of the most exciting dance artists, new and familiar, from 10 different countries

Dance Umbrella presents the final London shows by Merce Cunningham Dance Company and revivals of classics by Lucinda Childs and Karole Armitage
This festival included Candoco's 20th birthday celebrations and an outdoor work by Rosemary Lee for 200 performers

Dance Umbrella 2012 was dedicated to the memory of Nigel Charnock & Gill Clarke
Dance Umbrella presented a very different kind of festival this year that was co-curated by Artistic Director, Betsy Gregory and choreographer, Jonathan Burrows
Running from Friday 5 to Sunday 14 October, it was presented in the Platform Theatre at the beautiful new Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in King's Cross, London

This year Dance Umbrella celebrated 35 years of bringing brave new dance to London and marked Betsy Gregory’s final year as Artistic Director
The 2013 festival was concentrated in King's Cross and Stratford, with a range of experiences available, from theatre performances to outdoor events and installations
Dance Umbrella 2013 had more free events on offer than any other festival

2014 marked Emma Gladstone's first festival as Artistic Director
Dance Umbrella 2014 took place from 14–31 October 2014. To find out more about what happened during the 2014 Festival & for 2015 Festival dates visit
Gladstone seems to be on an impressive mission to dig contemporary dance deeper and wider into the culture. Around the rich mix of the stage works being performed during this two-and-a-half week festival, she's also involving Umbrella in a year-round programme of digital art projects; launching a series of dance debates and discussions entitled Body Politic and commissioning extended critical essays to run on the festival website.[2] - Judith Mackrell[3]


This years Dance Umbrella Festival will take place between 15-31 October 2015.

See also[edit]


  • Rowell, Bonnie, Dance Umbrella: The first twenty-one years, Dance Books, Cecil Court, London 2000. ISBN 1-85273-077-3
  • Dance Umbrella Website,, 2014

External links[edit]