All-Ireland contemporary dance company ‘a new dawn’ for art form

Collaborative venture to be led by Liz Roche Company will involve Belfast-based Maiden Voyage Dance and the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick

The establishment of a new, all-Ireland dance company has been described as “a new dawn” for the art form in Ireland by the Arts Council which will provide €2 million in funding for the initiative this year.

The new company is to be a collaborative venture led by the Liz Roche Company and involving the Belfast-based Maiden Voyage Dance and the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick.

The Arts Council said the new company would “provide a platform for dance, collaboration and development, seeking to strengthen the existing dance ecosystem, develop the art form and develop pathways for artists to create work of scale and ambition”.

The Liz Roche Company was established 25 years ago in Dublin and is currently in residence at UL’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. It has performed at many prominent international festivals and venues. It also runs a number of outreach and professional development programmes.


Maiden Voyage Dance, founded in 2001 by Nicola Curry, has also performed extensively abroad and is mainly funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance was founded in 1994 by Prof Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin and is based at a modern centre at the university that includes two theatres, rehearsal rooms and a professional dance studio. The centre operates as part of UL and has about 300 students.

Liz Roche, who will take on the role of artistic director for the new company, said the announcement marked a “hugely exciting moment for dance”.

“This company will see the birth of a unique dance ensemble adept in performing invigorating, brave and ground-breaking work from a range of choreographers based across the island and internationally.

“The new company will offer distinctive, high-quality experiences for all, with a clear commitment to strengthening the existing dance ecosystem in Ireland.”

Minister for the Arts Catherine Martin described the move as “ground-breaking” and said the new company would “shape the future of dance in Ireland”.

An assessment of the original proposal for the new company published in May of last year found widespread support for such a move but also expressed some concern for existing companies who might lose members to the new all-Ireland one and recommended that care be taken to protect the wider sector during the new company’s early years.

Maureen Kennelly, director of the Arts Council, is positive about the initiative , however, insisting the new company will have a “transformative impact”.

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times