Throughout January, the First Fortnight festival presents than 70 events online, as they mark 10 years of challenging mental health stigma.

Today, we explore the series of online events focused on dance and wellbeing offered by Dance Ireland in partnership with choreographer Áine Stapleton, First Fortnight, and Galway Dance Project - curators Áine Stapleton and Louise Costello (Programme Manager at Dance Ireland) write for Culture below. 

First Fortnight gives us the opportunity to start the year with an experience for professionals and public alike to participate and share a collective moment through movement.

Clint Lutes will host an online dance workshop  (Pic: Christian Rausch)

Dance has the power to reveal and heal, and the experience of dancing together is central to this programme. For the past three years dance artist and choreographer Áine Stapleton has curated this programme for Dance Ireland with creativity and sensitivity, and has responded to a difficult year with imagination and care. It is so important to us that as well as bringing the creativity of artists to an audience, we give space for the artists' voices in navigating the difficulties in an artist’s life.

Michelle Boulé features in this year's First Fortnight dance programme

In previous years, the First Fortnight and Dance Ireland partnership brought international dance artists to Dublin, to share their skills with the public at DanceHouse. Last year, we widened our reach nationally through a new partnership with Galway Dance Project. In 2021 the events will be even more accessible, as they will run online via Zoom, with subsidised ticket prices.

The upcoming programme is bigger and more diverse than in previous years and includes presentations, talks, a guided audio piece, as well as workshops. Through guided movement exploration and conversation, participants will learn how to build body awareness and develop a healthier body-mind relationship.

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In 2021, our invited guest teachers are Clint Lutes and Michelle Boulé. Boulé is an award-winning dance artist and life coach from the US. She will guide us in her 'Moving with Innate Wisdom' practice that supports the individual mover to access their full creative potential, through beautifully framed and accessible movement directives.

Lutes is a UK based artist whose choreographic work currently focuses on working with non-professionals. His class will encourage connection across virtual boundaries, through playful improvisations that encourage us to meet each other, and our homes, in new ways.

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Award-winning dance artist and performance-maker Adrienne Truscott will deliver a performance lecture about the benefits of 'failure’. Truscott's lecture will examine and include excerpts from one of her previous shows, that she describes as having disrupted her well-being and confidence, while also teaching her about impulse control and artistic ownership.

Expert panelists will discuss their experiences of mental health and well-being while navigating their careers as professional dance artists. The panel includes Internationally acclaimed Nigerian/Irish B-boy and hip-hop freestyle dancer Tobi Omoteso - who features in the RTÉ First Fortnight video below - US-based professional ballerina Sydney Magdalene Magruder Washington, and Adrienne Truscott, in conversation with Dr Aoife McGrath (Queen's University Belfast).

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A specially commissioned guided-audio choreography by US artist K.J. Holmes will be available throughout the festival. Beautifully synchronised words and sounds will carry us into a deeper creative connection with our bodies and environments. This piece can be danced alone or with others, and at any location.

Our art form is rooted in presence and touch and 2020 has been particularly hard, we look forward more than usual to being in the skilled hands of these artists, who are with us from across the world, and sharing these acts of imagination, even though we will be online.

Dance and wellbeing at First Fortnight 2021 - programme details

Align Towards Life - dance workshop with Michelle Boulé

Thursday, January 14th at 3 pm - more info here.

Me. My House. My Dance - dance workshop with Clint Lutes

Friday, January 15th at 3 pm - more info here.

Adrienne Truscott

Embracing Problem Work Or "Failure" As A Feminist ACT and Education - performance lecture with Adrienne Truscott

Saturday, January 16th at 4 pm (free event, 16+ years) - more info here

Dance Lives and Mental Health - dance talk

Saturday, January 16th at 6.30 pm (free event) - more info here