A photo of two dancers jumping against a beach background
Dancers Inez Berdychowska and Vitor Barboza da Silva perform on Sandymount Strand. Picture: Naoise Culhane
Wednesday, 27 March 2024

The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance (IWA) at University of Limerick continues to blaze a trail in the field of performing arts education, having been unveiled as a partner in a ‘groundbreaking’ new all-island dance company.

The Arts Council has formally announced the creation of the company – the first of its kind in Ireland – and plans for an initial investment of €2M in 2024 to support its establishment.

The new company will provide a platform for dance, collaboration, and development, seeking to strengthen Ireland’s existing dance ecosystem, and develop the artform and pathways for artists to create work of scale and ambition.

According to the national arts engagement survey, Arts Insight, dance boasts some of the highest participation figures in Ireland, second only to music among all artforms. These findings informed the Arts Council’s Advancing Dance policy, published in 2022, which outlined the creation of an all-island dance company as a key objective.

Following a competitive selection process, a team led by Liz Roche Company, with foundational strategic partners Maiden Voyage Dance and the Irish World Academy was appointed to form the company. This team comes with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in dance, both nationally and internationally, and the partners’ close collaboration over the years places it in a unique position to lead this exciting project.

Welcoming the announcement as an “historic moment for dance in Ireland”, Professor Helen Phelan, Director of the Irish World Academy, said:

The Liz Roche Company has been an artist-in-residence at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance since 2018, and we are delighted to see its visionary work recognised at this level. With the National Dance Archive of Ireland also housed in the University of Limerick, this announcement strengthens Limerick's position at the epicentre of dance developments in Ireland and beyond."

Celebrating 30 years since its foundation, the internationally renowned Irish World Academy continues to lead the charge for innovation in the field of creative and performing arts. Situated within the ‘Home of Firsts’, the Academy currently has the only BA and MA Contemporary Dance programmes on the island of Ireland – the first programmes of their kind in the Republic of Ireland. The IWA is also the first academy in the world to offer both a full degree in Irish traditional music as well as undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctoral degrees in Irish dance.

Incoming Artistic Director of the new dance company, Liz Roche, said: “At this hugely exciting moment for dance, we applaud the Arts Council’s investment to initiate a new island-wide dance company. 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.” 

Catherine Martin TD, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, welcomed the establishment of the company that “promises to shape the future of dance in Ireland”:

“Through its strategic vision and inclusive programming, the company will serve as a catalyst for cultural development and artistic excellence across the island.  I commend the founders and collaborators of the company for their dedication to advancing the cultural landscape of Ireland and look forward to the transformative impact of their work throughout the island." 

Maureen Kennelly, Director of the Arts Council, said: "As stewards of Ireland's cultural legacy, the Arts Council is thrilled to spearhead a new departure for dance in Ireland. With members of Liz Roche Company in partnership with Maiden Voyage Dance and the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, University of Limerick at the helm, dance as an artform will be enjoyed by more people than ever before. This new All-Ireland company exemplifies the power of dance to unify, inspire, and enrich our communities. We congratulate the newly founded company for their commitment to fostering artistic excellence, promoting inclusivity, and advancing the cultural landscape of Ireland. We look forward to witnessing the transformative impact of this endeavour as it unfolds across the island." 

Further details about the planned programme of activity for the new all-island dance company will be announced in the coming months.