Dance Futures – How it came to be

A summary of Dance Futures journey so far; the inception, the organisations and individuals involved, and the progress made to date.

Untold Dance Theatre, Women Wise

In 2016 dance in Bristol was a key focus for our then Co-Director Katie Keeler, “It felt like Theatre Bristol had a job to do: to shine a light on dance in the city”. You can read some of Katie’s thoughts in the showcase article, Dance Futures and read about the plans we put in place from 2017 onwards in Dance Futures 2.


The Dance Futures Steering Group (DFSG) grew out of this investigation: a group of organisations and independents able to commit time and resources to taking dance development forwards, building on the bedrock of recent research. We represent the input and interests of a much wider range of stakeholders, and aim to do so in an open, non-hierarchical way.

The group consists of Pavilion Dance South West, Theatre Bristol, Tobacco Factory Theatres, In Between Time, Circomedia, Trinity Community Arts, Kieran Swann at Arnolfini, independent dance artist Laila Diallo and independent producer Katy Noakes.

The Dance Futures Advocate role was the next stage of this development, with the aim of focusing on action and advocacy in Bristol and nationally. Ruth Hecht was appointed to do this in January 2018. Read more about what Ruth’s been doing here.

Danceblast, BS3TIVAL

We are in the process of creating a Dance Futures Vision to take dance in Bristol forward over the next few years. The detail is currently being developed, based on these aims:

  • To develop a dance sector which enables people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to watch and take part in high quality dance
  • To develop and retain a thriving, diverse and sustainable dance ecology in Bristol which nurtures the creation of new work
  • To develop a strong local, regional, national and international presence
Ceci N’est Pas Noire – Alesandra Seutin – IGNiTE 2017 c Jessica Bartolini

Read below for more detailed information about how Theatre Bristol has supported the development of dance:

Over the last couple of years we have met with funders, producers, presenters, regional partners, students and professional practitioners.  Below are some of the results of those conversations, along with the other ways we currently support and develop dance.

  • We held a Dance Matters meeting in March 2016
  • With the help of lots of contributors we started an audit, to map and celebrate the activity that already exists in the city: Download Dance Audit 2017  If you have anything to add to the audit email
  • Working with Pavilion Dance South West, Katy Noakes, Bristol City Council and Arts Council England we brought people together in September 2016 for a city-wide conversation. Download the notes from this meeting here.
  • Katie Keeler, Mel Scaffold and Katy Noakes met with the then Deputy Mayor, Estella Tincknell, who pledged support around dance venues. Katy Noakes and Laila Diallo produced a short Manifesto for Dance written in response to that meeting which will be incorporated into the Dance Futures Vision.
  • We supported Getting Out of the Box: How to survive as a Dance Artist led by Karla Shacklock. The event was an opportunity for artists, producers, programmers, funders and venues to come together, to have authentic conversations and to consider how we can work together in order to survive and thrive. It sold out.
  • We are a partner on a Cultural Curriculum for Bristol project, led by Bristol Plays Music. As the dance partner we will engage a dance practitioner in a leadership role to work with the CCfB partners and lead on the strategic development and practical in-school testing of how Dance practice can form part of a cultural curriculum
  • One of our current Artist Support Associates, Karla Shacklock, is a dance artist. Karla supports all artists and producers but has a particular expertise around the needs of dancers. Read more about our Artist Support Associates here.
  • Our TB Agent pilot offered micro-bursaries for artists to attend conferences, training and other opportunities. 8 dance artists were given bursaries and we supported a further bursary for an artist to attend the Tribe of Doris Summer School.
  • In 2017-18 we offered micro-bursaries to 3 dance artists to attend IETM, ImpulseTanz Dance Festival and the Bodily Undoing Symposium.
  • We continue to run Testing Ground in partnership with Circomedia, Bath Dance and supported by Karla Shacklock, Katherine Hall and Laila Diallo. Testing Ground is an opportunity for dance artists to try out new ideas in front of an audience.

If you want to contact Ruth, email:

Bristol Swing Festival, photo by Faye Hedges