Presentation to the Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.

CoisCéim Dance Theatre | 16 October 2019.


The following is a transcript of the presentation by Bridget Webster on 16 October 2019:


Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to this Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht meeting to discuss the importance of Dance as a Performance Art. In Ireland, dance has often been considered theatre’s lesser sibling. However, in recent years, Irish contemporary dance has exploded out of this shadow to stake its place strongly on the national and global stage -as artists with rich, diverse voices appear at the world’s major festivals and venues and their works feature in lists such as the Guardian’s Best Dance of the 21st Century.

Arts and culture are cornerstones for a healthy society and dance is an elemental part of that fabric.

I would like to start this presentation with words from our younger audience members as they left the theatre, having seen David Bolger’s THE WOLF AND PETER to emphasise the fact that:

Culture transforms.
Culture is not neutral
The language of dance is universal

CoisCéim is unique in an Irish context in the way that we coherently connect performance and participation activity to broaden, deepen and diversify the public’s engagement with the performing arts through contemporary dance. We aim to inspire, challenge, provoke and stimulate and actively seek to collaborate at every stage.

Our work is benchmarked with the best in world and David Bolger’s distinctive style on stage, on film and off site has accessed millions of people, introducing many to the artform for the first time. Projects such as THE WOLF AND PETER with CREATIVE DANCE TALES; THESE ROOMS and 38 WOMEN clearly show how an integrated approach can help to embed creative capacity into communities for the long term.

With the support of the Arts Council of Ireland and Culture Ireland, CoisCéim has had an extraordinary five years as we have magnified the reputation of the company as creators of relevant, meaningful work at the forefront of contemporary art practice. For example:

THE WOLF AND PETER thrilled almost 20,000 children and their families from Sligo to the Sydney Opera House. Our major four-year co-production THESE ROOMS brought Irish artists back to the London International Festival of Theatre for the first time in 27 years and featured in 14-18NOW’s culmination  programme to mark the centenary of the First World War. BODY LANGUAGE in collaboration with RHA Gallery, enabled over 13,000 people to encounter contemporary dance in a different context and their response was remarkable.

The primary reason behind these successes was a synergy between funding and programming cycles. Both THE WOLF AND PETER and THESE ROOMS benefitted from Arts Council advance planning funding strands. This meant that we were able to initiate and lead collaborations and co-productions with presenters, festivals and other funders, to allow the full artistic potential of the works to be realised at home and abroad unlocking fascinating opportunities for the future for contemporary dance Made in Ireland.

THESE ROOMS for example brought CoisCéim together with ANU Productions and Dublin Theatre Festival, LIFT, 14-18NOW, Shoreditch Town Hall, Tate Gallery (Liverpool), National Museum of Ireland, National Archives of Ireland, FLAC and Culture Ireland, doubling the Arts Council investment.


It is said that over 65% of our communication is non-verbal. There are numerous studies describing the benefits of seeing and participating in contemporary dance. As David Bolger notes in an interview for our new production, FRANCIS FOOTWORK -that has its world premiere this evening in Galway. “When we are infants we are quite proficient at communicating with our bodies. We understand movement as a language. We learn rhythm from the heartbeat in the womb, and carry that forward. Dancing is a natural feeling, it makes you feel stronger, happier and is hugely important for our development as adults. It improves communication skills and has only positive benefits in every aspect of our lives.”

Dance is not just an important and fundamental component of the performing arts -it’s a core ingredient for happy, healthy citizens.

Also for the record I would like to make the following two points:

-It is concerning that Dance Ireland are not represented here given that today’s focus is on dance as a performance art – it’s a bit like having a discussion about artists’ wages without Equity being there.

-Finally, dance has been disproportionally affected by funding cuts in recent years materially impacting artists’ ability to create work. As an inherently non-commercial artform -state support is vital for the sector to thrive and we call strongly on the current government to deliver on its 2017 pledge to double the funding for the arts by 2024.

Thank You.


Supplementary Information


CoisCéim Dance Theatre is one of Ireland’s leading dance companies. For over 20 years, the company has presented highly original work world-wide to audiences large and small, onstage and on film. The company has received many awards and is widely acclaimed for its “excellent…exhilarating… astounding performances” (The Guardian). In parallel with the performance programme the company conducts an integrated, original artform awareness and participation initiative through CoisCéim Broadreach.

CoisCéim is proud to be funded by Arts Council Ireland and supported by Dublin City Council and Culture Ireland.





Broadreach | 38 WOMEN |