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The BENCH, a new programme for female choreographers

Posted on July 17, 2015

the bench

the-bench2Faced Dance Company has announced The BENCH, a new programme to support female choreographers in the UK. Running from 2015 to 2018, the programme will train and mentor around 18 promising women, with masterclasses, training sessions and opportunities to connect with venues, programmes and commissioners. The programme is funded by Arts Council England and an Elmley Foundation 20th Anniversary Award.

The aim is to equip the chosen choreographers with the skills and confidence to compete equally for high-profile commissions. Each year, one will have a further opportunity to have her work commissioned and performed by a national dance company. Mentors for the programme include Sharon Watson of Phoenix Dance Company, Charlotte Vincent of Vincent Dance Theatre, Rosie Kay of Rosie Kay Dance, Liv Lorent of balletLORENT, Kate Flatt of Kate Flatt Projects and Tamsin Fitzgerald of 2Faced Dance Company.

Fitzgerald said: “I decided to create a programme specifically for women when I was having a conversation with some colleagues. They counted over 30 high-profile male choreographers but could barely count ten female choreographers. Left on the bench is where most female choreographers end up, while their male peers forge ahead on career development and commissions. Instead of waiting around for someone else to initiate a project, I thought now is the time to make a difference and so I designed The BENCH.

“I have since received an overwhelming response from female choreographers across the country in planning this programme. The UK has many incredible, eloquent and talented women creating work whose choreographic voices are just not being heard or seen. The BENCH will begin to explore and unpick some of the issues surrounding women as creators, whilst also putting talent and creation at the forefront.”

On May 17, 2016, The BENCH will culminate in a national one-day conference as part of International Dance Festival Birmingham 2016 at DanceXchange. The conference aims to launch a manifesto for venues and producers, to share the findings of the first year of the programme and to use this to frame the next phase, and to announce the successful BENCH fellow commission.

Applications are now open for the first year of The BENCH. To apply, and for more information on selection criteria, visit The deadline for applications is August 7, 2015. An expert panel will select a maximum of five fellows for the first year, with the announcement of successful applicants to be made on August 19.


Photograph: Luke Evans



Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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