Dance Umbrella celebrates 40th anniversary with initiative for emerging choreographers

Eun-Me Ahn. Photo by Teresa Elwes

Dance Umbrella, London’s flagship festival of international dance, will celebrate its 40th anniversary this autumn.

To mark this milestone DU has launched Four by Four – a programme inspired by the festival’s four decades of artistic growth, a way of moving forwards by looking back.

In Four by Four all three of DU’s Artistic Directors, Val Bourne CBE, Betsy Gregory and Emma Gladstone, have invited an established artist from their time at the helm to nominate a ‘choreographer of the future’.

Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Stephen Petronio, Akram Khan and Rocío Molina will each nominate four young, up-and-coming choreographers to receive funding from Four by Four to create a show that will be performed in future festivals. The selected recipients will be announced during the festival this autumn.

Emma Gladstone, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Dance Umbrella, said: “We are delighted to announce our Four by Four nominators today. Through this new development programme we are able to continue to support and nurture exceptional talent, which is what Dance Umbrella has always striven to do.

For this special anniversary year I wanted to find a way to acknowledge the history of DU whilst still looking to the future, and asking the wisdom of artists who have had a significant impact on the festival and the wider contemporary dance scene felt a good way to do that. ”

Val Bourne CBE who was Artistic Director from 1978-2007, said: “In my 29 years as founder Artistic Director of Dance Umbrella there have been so many highlights and I’m immensely proud to have brought so much international talent to our shores such as Anne Teresa and Stephen.

I am hugely excited to discover who they will select as recipients of the support this initiative will provide, and I encourage anyone who cares about the future of contemporary dance to support this commissioning initiative in whatever way they can.

In Dance Umbrella’s first decade (1978–1988) choreographers such as Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham, Compagnie Cré-Ange, Steve Paxton and Mark Morris were among the international artists invited to perform in London, together with the UK’s Siobhan Davies, MAAS Movers, Rosemary Butcher, Richard Alston, Michael Clark, Jonathan Burrows and Shobana Jeyasingh among many, many more.

Over the years DU has gone on to provide an astonishing eighty artists with essential funds to make shows, acting as a catalyst by investing in their visions and enabling audiences to see truly pioneering dance.

DU’s belief in the power of helping artists in this way still burns bright and Four by Four is a celebration of this legacy as the festival looks to the next forty years and beyond.

Listen to our podcast interview with Emma Gladstone, watch the video or read our interview.

More information about how to donate and support Four by Four can be found at

Dance Umbrella 2018 will take place from 26 September – 21 October in venues across London.