Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Vertical. Nature. Base. installation with performance

Echo Echo Dance and acclaimed artist Dan Shipsides set up camp in Derry
Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company, known as Northern Ireland’s leading Dance Company in collaboration with respected fine artist and Belfast-based climber Dan Shipsides will open phase two of the unique art, dance and sport project, Vertical. Nature. Base. this Saturday 24th September at 6pm.

Phase one of Vertical. Nature. Base. (or V.N.B.) saw Echo Echo’s Artistic Director Steve Batts and Dan Shipsides set up camp at a beautiful cove near Shroove beach in County Donegal for two weeks. There they explored climbing not just as a sport but also as a creative activity and how dance and movement relates to climbing and the landscape.

The documentation and research from phase one will be used to create an installation in Echo Echo’s dance studio on Bishop Street with daily dance performances in the space.

The project is part of Echo Echo’s Into Contact and is funded by Legacy Trust UK’s Connections programme in Northern Ireland. Legacy Trust UK is an independent charity set up to help build a cultural and sporting legacy from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Connections is managed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Echo Echo Development Officer, Sarah Bryden said:

“The public weekends at the coast saw dozens of participants despite the weather and their input to the project has been crucial. People climbed for the first time, they swam, they photographed, they camped and they discussed ideas of climbing as a sport versus climbing as a creative activity. Echo Echo is delighted to see Dan and Steve bring their camp materials and experience back to Derry and to the dance studio for the next phase.”

Dugald Mackie, Chair of Legacy Trust UK, said:

“The games are about more than just sport. They are a once in a lifetime opportunity to showcase Northern Ireland to millions of people across the world. We believe that these projects will inspire and encourage people throughout Northern Ireland to get involved and will leave a lasting legacy for the region.”
Vertical. Nature. Base. installation will open on Saturday 24th September at 6pm finishing on 1st October with daily performances during lunchtimes, evenings and weekends. (Saturday 24th September- performance at 7pm, Sunday 25th at 6pm, Tuesday 27th & Wednesday 28th at 1pm & 6pm, Thursday 29th September at 1pm, Friday 30th September at 1pm & 8.30pm, and Saturday 1st October at 8.30pm)
For full details of the Vertical. Nature. Base. project, contact Echo Echo on 028 7130 8883 or email info@echoechodance.com. Alternatively visit http://www.echoechodance.com/.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Echo Echo at Dublin Dance Festival

Echo Echo has been invited to present two solo pieces at the Representing Ireland Bill of Dublin Dance Festival 2011.

Echo Echo Artistic Director, Steve Batts, will present 'gad gad vaso gadati' in Mixed Bill 1, while Bridget Madden will present 'An RinceĆ³ir/The Dancer' in Mixed Bill 2.

Performances take place at Dublin DanceHouse weekends of 20/21 May and 27/28 May. The festival offers a fascinating programme of international and Irish contemporary dance performance.

Hopefully see you there!

Click here for further information and booking information.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

In Memory of Ursula

Co-founder of Echo Echo, Ursula Laeubli died on the 14th April 2011. She was and will always be our inspiration. We loved her and we will go on loving her spirit. We are terribly sad to lose her and very joyful to have had the privilege to have been her colleagues and friends.

There will be a small private burial ceremony at her family home in Switzerland on Wednesday 20th April. An opportunity to say our goodbyes and celebrate her life will be organised at a later date. We will keep people informed. In the meantime, if you would like to send messages to her family please contact us at Echo Echo. We have also set up an online memoriam page, on behalf of the company, for anyone wishing to share their memories and send their love.

Rest in Peace dear Ursula x


Friday, 21 January 2011

Open letter to MLA's re Arts Funding

Echo Echo has contacted local MLA's and key decision-makers to urge them to consider the negative impact of disproportionately large cut to arts funding over the next four years. See our open letter below. There is more information on the arts funding campaign here.

January 2011

Dear MLA

We write as Chairperson, Artistic Director, Company Manager and Development Officer of Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company with regard to the Regional Assembly’s current budget discussions on funding for The Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Because you are engaged in deciding funding levels for The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, you should be informed from the perspective of organisations whose work is supported by them.

We ask you to defend the principle of public funding for the arts and to consider carefully the basis on which you make decisions regarding this government’s support. We ask you to consider the dangers of cutting an arts budget that is already low when compared with the rest of Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland.


As the leading contemporary dance organisation in Northern Ireland, Echo Echo delivers a wide and varied programme that includes local and touring productions, community and educational work in a variety of contexts, support and development for young, local and emerging dance artists, including a programme of placements for university students and recent graduates.

Our work is widely regarded as unique in its approach, of exceptional professional quality, and accessible. We aim to give people of all ages and abilities the opportunity to be engaged in the art and culture of movement in a way that values the depths and subtleties of artistic process and practice while respecting and valuing the individual experience and perspective. Some idea of our work can be gained from a visit to our website: www.echoechodance.com

The work of a good artist provides a link with past practice in his or her field. We endeavour to bring the wisdom and insights of our predecessors into the present day context, and to build on them into the future with a spirit of creative freshness. We respect our cultural history and resist the temptation to “dumb down” as we work to make our practice relevant. At the same time we endeavour to make the world of artistic practice, with its wonderful potential for personal, social and spiritual growth and transformation, as welcoming and accessible as possible.


We understand that, given the current political and economic circumstances, resources are limited. Yet, a society defines itself by the way in which it nourishes its inhabitants. A civilised society provides for several key things; proper care of the sick and elderly in a dignified and socially inclusive manner, the education of young people through a generous process of inclusion in society, and the passing on to future generations of cultural knowledge and skills with respect for achievements of the past. Short-term interests, such as those sometimes characteristic of purely commercially driven organisations, do not provide adequately in any of these areas. Moreover, treating artistic practice as purely commercial would be a departure from the historic norm. Historically, public or collective resourcing of professional arts practice has been a feature of civilized societies and its institutions. Where collective resources have been pooled, substantial resources have been devoted to the arts for reasons other than purely commercial ones.


A purely commercial view of arts funding will fail to preserve our artistic heritage in the same way that our cities and landscapes would disappear without adequate protection. It is easy to understand that old buildings or ancient forests would be destroyed for roads or housing developments if we were to leave things to commercial interests, and that something we consider part of our “heritage” would disappear. It isn’t so easy to understand that without a vibrant and sufficiently resourced arts scene, those skills, practices, methods, understandings, and ideas, rooted in our cultural past, critically active in our present and paving the way for our future can be lost. The consequence being that each generation must “re-invent the wheel.”

Painters, sculptors, dancers, musicians, and writers working now, even those most apparently radical and modern, are embedded in a history of artistic creativity. Our work stands on the shoulders of those who went before. We may seem to do things very differently but in fact we are in debt to our artistic predecessors. Many of us also teach and encourage, as we were taught and encouraged, in an ongoing process of invitation, generation by generation, into the wonders and depths, excitements and sensitivities of human creativity and imagination.

The real practice of most artists can’t be recorded in book or a video or an archive. These things are important, but the core of cultural practice is in communication from person to person. We all need to be shown how to read, to play a musical instrument, to understand harmony, to draw using perspective. An artistic world needs to exist for people to be invited into it, and there need to be artists and teachers to do the inviting. Because of this, in one generation, the contemporary relevance of great cultural treasures can begin to be lost, perhaps faster than the decay of many neglected historic buildings.


The existence of a properly resourced operationally independent arts body is essential, particularly in the political and historical context of Northern Ireland. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has the potential to be a great asset to this community. The organisation has improved enormously over the past few years, in its professional treatment of its clients, its appreciation of diversity and quality and its commitment to inclusion. If there is to be public support for the arts, a properly supported ACNI, with a high level of respect and status, is necessary to ensure the proper accounting for public funds and to embody the responsibility for quality provision using public resources.

Moreover, a critical level of arts funding must be maintained to enable such a body to operate successfully if it is to foster a creative environment which is broad enough, has enough consistent quality, is geographically and socially accessible enough, and includes enough talented, motivated and inspiring individuals to enable a synergy to develop. At a level that is too low, arts funding is pointless. It simply reinforces the perception that the arts are low status, of low quality, and without any capacity to transform lives and enrich our culture. Isolated arts practice tends to sink without trace and without effect.

In Echo Echo Dance Theatre we address these issues by supporting young developing artists who are based in Derry and Northern Ireland, as well as creating a context for people to view international work. We teach a huge variety of people in a way that respects both the background of participants and the depths and complexities of sophisticated arts practice. Please help us to continue our work.

Thank you for reading this letter. We would be interested to hear your thoughts and would be very happy to meet to talk through some of the points we have raised. We can be contacted at the above address or by emailing Echo Echo’s Company Manager at ailbe@echoechodance.com.

Yours Truly,

Tina McCauley (Chairperson)
Stephen Batts (Artistic Director)
Ailbe Beirne (Company Manager)
Sarah Bryden (Development Officer)
Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company

Friday, 15 October 2010

Who uses Echo Echo Dance Studio?

It’s been a busy start to autumn for Echo Echo. Our weekly dance projects and classes have plenty of new participants and some familiar faces. All with one common purpose: to dance and move.

Echo Echo Dance Studio has been booked solidly throughout 2010. Earlier in the year when the company was touring Ripple Affect, preparing for The Chess Piece, and continuing its wide range of education programmes, we could easily have programmed two or more dance studios.

The past few weeks has seen another surge in studio bookings with rehearsals starting from 9am most days and going on until after 8pm. In fact until past midnight a few times this week! People who aren’t familiar with the company may wonder, who is using the space?

The Echo Echo team has expanded over the last two years to include local emerging dance artists, University of Ulster Dance graduates, and trainee placements. Currently up to 12 people meet regularly at our company team meetings, this is additional to our independent Board of 7 people. Since Steve Batts took up the full-time position of Artistic Director last year (he had previously carried this post out voluntarily for many years), developing the company ensemble has been a top priority.

For young emerging artists, and particularly dancers, it is difficult to make the step from being a participant or student to taking oneself seriously as a professional artist. There remains a ‘cultural cringe’ towards risky, innovative work in all artforms here, particularly dance and movement practice. There is a lack of participation and audience for many artforms locally despite the best efforts of many people and organisations, competition with the cultural vacuum of TV talent shows and binge drinking. There are financial risks and young people are often advised not to choose the arts or 'creative industries' as a viable career option. Often the best local talent forms part of the cultural ‘brain drain’ to the UK and further afield.

Echo Echo Dance Studio is making a difference here. It allows Echo Echo to support dance artists who wish to live here, both emerging and established, by providing space to research, develop and create new work, to practice and rehearse, to show and perform. The company provides additional support by mentoring and guiding young artists, and by providing an insight into arts administration, funding, PR and career orientation.

We are currently seeing the fruits of this with the company ensemble. Local dancers making a serious commitment to their artform, spending many hours alone or with other artists working in the studio, developing and creating new performance pieces. Most of this time is unpaid, voluntary time that gets little recognition outside the company, but it is a valuable investment by these individuals in themselves as artists and people, and in Echo Echo as a company.

Upcoming performances by some of the company will include participation in Belfast Festival Trilogy event, performance at the Playhouse ICAN conference, Free Flight at Crescent Arts Centre on 30 October, Interactions (featuring a range of performances by the ensemble) at Waterside Theatre on 17 November. An extensive range of performance and touring is in development for 2011.

Echo Echo’s professional and artistic programme is symbiotically related to its education and participation programme. This is unusual among many dance companies, particularly in England for example, who focus on performance, and often consider dance education as a later and not integral part of a dancers practice and career.

Our company ensemble participate fully in teaching and education projects for all ages and abilities, at Echo Echo Dance Studio and in outreach projects in schools and organisations throughout the northwest and further afield.

Currently projects taking place in the Studio include classes for toddlers aged from 1 year old (with their parents) to children’s classes (5-7's fully booked this term), youth dance projects, several regular adult classes and weekend workshops, and partnership projects with organisations like Autism NI, WEA, and many local schools to name but a few happening just now.

Other regular activities in the studio include a range of yoga classes for different ability levels with local yoga teachers. Participation in yoga and other movement forms including pilates and tai chi has grown significantly recently and over 120 people now come through our doors for yoga each week.

In addition to all of this Echo Echo runs an extensive outreach dance and movement programme. The company has worked with over 20 schools throughout the province over the last 2 years. Projects include extended schools programmes, creative weeks, integrated education weeks and performance work, often specifically related to the Revised Curriculum.

Other outreach partnership projects with organisations including Downs Syndrome Association, Cedar Foundation, Derry Travellers Association, Open Arts and Glasgowbury, to name but a few, have received excellent feedback. The company is developing new projects and partnerships all the time.

Echo Echo Dance Studio allows our artistic team space to develop, prepare and rehearse for every one of these outreach programmes, and a place to come back, review and improve our practice.

From April 2009 to March 2010, the total number of attendances to Echo Echo activity at the Dance Studio and in the community was in excess of 20,000 people.

Echo Echo is a registered charity and without core funding from Arts Council NI, and project funding from other key supporters, the Echo Echo Dance Studio would simply not be viable; many fewer people would take part in dance activity here; and the artistic development of the company ensemble, that is crucial to creating innovative art and inspiring audiences and participants, would be greatly hindered.

I am urging supporters of the arts to sign the petition at I Value the Arts, your voice is important.

If you are interested in finding out more about Echo Echo please get in touch, we would love to hear from you.

Ailbe Beirne

Company Manager

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Dance Course for Children with Autism

Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company, partnered with Autism NI's Foyle Parent group, have organised an 8 week dance and movement course for primary aged children with Autism.

Echo Echo and the parents group have been working together for a year to develop an ongoing course designed specifically for those children with autistic spectrum disorder, their parents and siblings.

The weekly classes have been a great success and are well supported by three of Echo Echo's experienced tutors. One parent said: "through the dance I got eye contact with my son."

The 8 week course starts Thursday 7th October at 4pm and costs £25 for the full term.

If you have a child with Autism and would like more information, please contact Sarah Young, Echo Echo Development Officer on 028 7134 2266 or email sarah@echoechodance.com