When did you become part of Theatre and Dance NI?
Since I graduated, I have been teaching right across Northern Ireland and that is one of the ways I share my passion for Dance. I currently teach for The Victoria Quinn School of Ballet and the Professional Academy of Dance NI which are both amazing schools.
I joined Theatre and Dance NI following the completion of my master’s degree. Originally, I started an internship with what was Dance Resource Base and Theatre NI and eventually there was a merger, and the two organisations became Theatre and Dance NI. Now I have worked my way up within the organisation and am the Project Development Officer.
How do you assess the current situation for Dance at the moment in Northern Ireland?
I think the dance landscape spans a vast variety of forms in Northern Ireland and dance is incredibly popular.
It is possible to go to a contemporary dance class, a jazz dance class, an Irish dance class, a latin dance class during any week throughout the year meaning there is a substantial potential for development. There is just so much activity, whether it is amateur dance groups, the commercial offer or publicly funded dance, there is plenty to build on and join in with.
However, there does need to be further investment for the sector to continue to develop. Too often dance is seen as a hobby, which might be okay as a starting point, but it is worrying to me to hear from young people that they are being discouraged within their institutions not to look at pursuing dance as a career.
Why do you think that happens?
People are being discouraged from entering the dance sector. Reasons might be because of the precarious working conditions, and insecurity regarding continuous employment to name just a few however this situation of the lack of encouragement needs to be addressed. If this persists and young dancers are not encouraged, it will require heavier investment and a strategy put in place to offer and maintain careers. Without encouragement to work within our sector, we will lose all the talent that exists here.
I believe we must also consider talent retention. We have had a situation where the Covid Pandemic forced numerous artists, technicians, especially freelancers, to either leave the arts or leave Northern Ireland entirely to pursue their careers elsewhere. There are quite limited opportunities to work professionally here, and we really need to look at that situation as a whole.
You think there needs to be more strategic development?
Artists need to be encouraged to continue to professional develop whether that be through workshops here or international residencies, returning here to pass on these skills. And of course, we need to look at the working opportunities available to them.
From a Theatre and Dance NI perspective we advocate for the correct Rates of Pay and Artists Rights, so we work very closely with Equity and the Independent Theatre Council. We run contract workshops and bring professionals over from London to teach dancers how to negotiate fair contracts and offer support with HMRC and Tax Returns. We are looking to increase safe spaces within the industry, calling out bullying, harassment, and racism. We also provide training to support artists regarding their well-being, helping them to protect their physical and mental health.
What about schools?
I have reflected on that because of the amount of support I was given when I was at school. Again, there has to be investment and we need to advocate for the development of dance within schools to allow young people access to the benefits of dance at an early age.
Have there been any projects lately which you think have shown what is possible?
We were producing partners for the Summer Intensive with Akram Khan Dance Company. The intensive and immersive training days ran over a week and were conducted at The MAC. The dancers who attended those workshops blossomed during that period, and for us it was incredible to watch what can take place and what can transpire when people believe in their abilities and the potential of our local dancers.These workshops were conducted in such a way that everyone who attended were working with professionals and the participants were treated as professionals.
This intensive was free for those who attended and when you pair that together with this level of professional development, you can see the huge potential. You can watch people find their way and allow them to see the endless possibilities for their own careers.
Where to now?
Theatre and Dance NI will be hosting our next dance intensive with Oona Doherty in February 2023. Information on how to attend is on our website. We have activities taking place over the next period which include taking people away on a residential to do non-dance related activities to improve health and well-being and we have mental health training as well. I know I keep repeating this, but investment, development and strategic thinking is needed to progress the potential outcomes for our local dancers.
See more of Molly Rose Street’s work at the following link – www.instagram.com/mollyrosestreetdance/
See Theatre and Dance NI at the following link – theatreanddanceni.org