Dance Beds

2020 - 2022

Dance Beds aimed to make Bedfordshire a hub of excellence for choreographic innovation, youth dance engagement, widening participation and increasing diversity in dance.

Dance Beds is a collaboration between BCA, University of Bedfordshire and Dance East to create a centre for dance practice in Bedfordshire.

The project aims to make Bedfordshire a hub of excellence for choreographic innovation, youth dance engagement, widening participation and increasing diversity in dance. With Bedford being the fifth most culturally diverse town in the East of England, we seek to raise aspiration in the area and champion an innovative and inclusive practice to share regionally and nationally.

The programme commenced in November 2019 and runs until mid 2021.

Dance Beds engages young people and supports both emerging and established dance artists through three strands of activity: a series of commissions, CPD (continuing professional development) and mentoring. We will explore and develop dance activity that reaches gaps in provision for participants, attracts diverse dance artists to the local area, and connects experienced and emerging artists with cultural organisations and the youth dance sector.

A group of specially commissioned artists will be brought together to focus on choreographic creation in the context of engaging hard-to-reach audiences, including three emerging artists (Ashley Goosey, Katie Boag and Simon Hoang) and three established partnership artists (Urja Desai Thakore, Rebecca Evans and Julia Cheng).

Dance Beds: Improvisation and Freestyling

Improvisation and Freestyling: An easy to follow video for teachers and youth leaders explaining how to facilitate dance improvisation and freestyling with an emphasis on encouraging pupils to share moves and create their own dance ‘fusions’.


What is U dance … to U Dance online  March 26th 2021

U. Dance is a national celebration of performance by young people aged 11 – 19 years, and up to 25 years for young people with disabilities. The Regional Platforms are part of the U. Dance programme, which is delivered in partnership with One Dance UK.

The Eastern Region hosted a sensational online showcase of dance from the finest youth dance groups, companies and schools in partnership with the University of Bedfordshire. The day of activities, workshops and digital interaction provided an opportunity for the region’s finest dance groups to come together and celebrate dance.

Dance in a Pandemic – 18th November 2020

Hosted by Dance Beds project partners, Bedford Creative Arts, DanceEast and the University of Bedfordshire, this on-line event welcomed a combination of dance teachers, arts organisations, community dance leaders, established and emerging dance artists to share experiences of how they have responded to the challenges for delivering dance in the context of Covid 19 restrictions.

Contributions by Damian Slade (Hot House dance), Lisa Risedale (Two Thirds Sky) and Sadie Hunt (UOB convenor of Dance Beds youth dance activities) stimulated discussion of innovative ways of engaging people in dance on line and measures to work safely in the studio. Tamara Ashley (UOB convenor of Dance Beds artists’ projects) reported on how Dance Beds project participant Pagrav Dance Company directed by Urja Desai Thakore had created and filmed a new dance work ‘Kattam Katti ‘by working in a self -contained bubble.

Lucy Bayliss Head of Creative Programmes at Dance East, the regional dance agency, updated participants on plans for this year’s U.Dance regional event to celebrate youth dance. The event in March will be digital with the aim to ensure it provides opportunities for audience engagement and participant feedback. Dance East will be coordinating with OneDance UK to provide further details of how to be involved and support available. The University of Bedfordshire also has funds as part of Dance Beds project to support Bedfordshire based groups to work towards this event.

Looking further forwards, Dance Beds project participants Katie Boag, Julia Cheng (House of Absolute) Rebecca Evans (Pell Ensemble) and Ash Goosey shared their progress towards creating work for a planned festival at University of Bedfordshire in June. Rebecca Evans also shared an insight into Pell Ensemble’s workshops for schools that provide an innovative combination of dance and (computer) coding.

For further information about the Dance Beds project please contact

Pell Ensemble
Photo Credit: University of Bedfordshire Pell Ensemble
Photographer: Rebecca Evans

Warrior Queens – House of Absolute 24th February 2022

Hosted by Julia Cheng, a preview presentation of excerpts of Warrior Queens work-in-progress was followed by Q&A with artistic team.

Interrogating displacement, cultural hybridity and power, Warrior Queens delves into ancestry and lineage inspired by the legendary folk myth of Hua Mulan and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando.

Choreographed by House of Absolute Creative Director Julia Cheng, this work explores yin yang energy, identity and the adversity of the modern-day warrior. Embedded in a live musical soundscape.

Originally debuted at Breakin’ Convention 2016. Supported by Sadler’s Wells, Philharmonia Orchestra and Dance East, developed as part of the Dance Beds project led by the University of Bedfordshire in partnership with Bedford Creative Arts and supported by Arts Council England.

The presentation was enthusiastically received with audience feedback commenting on the powerful performances that drew on diverse dance and cultural traditions.

‘Thoughtful original sensitive dynamic connected rooted-strong- The Warrior Queens was powerful imagistic dream like female strong beautiful’ (audience questionnaire response)

U.Dance East Bedford Regional Platform Saturday 19th March 2022

This Platform was a collaboration between DanceEast and Sadie Hunt, University of Bedfordshire to deliver 2 Eastern region U.DanceRegional platforms.  One at the University of Bedfordshire, Bedford (19th March) and the other at Jerwood House, Ipswich (26th March).  Due to the geography of the Eastern region hosting two platforms enables more young people to engage in this national event, with One Dance UK.  This felt particularly important post covid, to give young people an opportunity to celebrate youth dance as part of a live event.

This report focuses on the Bedford platform on the 19th March. 

Throughout the day the young dancers participated in three dance workshops out of four offered:

  • Afro Beats with Annesha Ong
  • Contemporary/ Commercial Hybrid with Abbie Etheridge
  • Hip Hop with Michael Joseph
  • Contemporary release with Marta Beccatini Pou

The artists delivered 6 x 45 minutes workshops across the day.

Alongside the three workshops each group also attended their tech rehearsal and an ‘early careers’ panel made up of four dance graduates, who graduated between 9 and 4 years: Katie Boag (independent dance artist, founder of E14 and associate artist of DanceBeds Bedfordshire Choreographic Project), Donatella Greco (local freelance dance teacher – set up own dance school), Jordan Fuller (gaining PGCE dance and freelance artist) and Katie Bateman (Performer on cruise ships and children’s’ entertainer).

Leading up to the U.Dance platform we also established some mentoring schemes for groups with less experience in entering and participating in U.Dance.

Ananda Arts worked with Classical Indian dance artist Urja Desai Thakore (Dance Beds Artist as part of Bedfordshire Choreographic Project) to refine and develop their piece of choreography.   Vacani (Almeida school) Street Dance group worked with Ash Goosey (Associate artist of Bedfordshire Choreographic project) as many of their young dancers were new to dancing and this was their first experience of performance.  

In total 168 young people aged between 11 and 19 years attended the day, from 13 dance groups:

The day concluded with a youth dance platform showcasing 16 pieces of work.  The One Dance UK panel was made up of three national dance artists: Kamara Gray, Jamie Jenkins and Sarah Kearney as well as Cameron Ball (Special Projects Manager for One Dance UK) and two local dance practitioners Amalia Garcia and Margarita Cook.  

A film of the day was created by Lucy Lines and can be accessed here

  • 100% of the youngdancers responded that they found the day overall good or excellent
  • 100% of group leaders found the day good or excellent with feedback including “my group had THE BEST time” (28Dance Company) and “this was the best U.Dance event we have attended” (Dance 2)
  • 100% of the group leaders were positive regarding the workshops – in particular the styles offered “the group would never choose to participate in an afro beats workshops, but they absolutely loved every minute” (TytonidaeDance).

“Thank you so much for the amazing day that my students had yesterday. They came home absolutely buzzing , which is something that has been missing for two years!” (Princes Risborough School) 

Inclusive Dance Networking Event

This online event was led by researcher Dr Imogen Aujla and guests from StopGap and  Magpie dance companies and Michael Joseph, University of Bedfordshire lecturer and Para dance artist.

The event shared expertise around the benefits of dance for disabled young people, routes into training and the profession and neurodiversity and dance and presented a case study of the Ridgeway project an outcome of the Bedfordshire DanceChoreographic Development Project –Dance Beds.


Faced with restrictions brought about by the pandemic, the Dance Beds summer school, which is usually hosted at the University itself, went mobile with local dance artists visiting schools and their students directly.

A pool of ten local freelance dance artists, including several of the University’s alumni, and artists from a local dance company called Two Thirds Sky were involved in the project. The artists were selected based on their ability to offer a range of dance workshops to primary, secondary and post-16 students.

The workshops, overseen by the University’s senior lecturer in dance Sadie Hunt, included:

  • Creative dance
  • Release-based contemporary dance
  • Bollywood
  • Hip Hop
  • Street dance
  • Contemporary and Commercial fusion
  • Krump

The project also commissioned dance artist and film maker, Michael Joseph, to create a film of the summer school.  A total of 178 hours were taught to over 200 pupils during the Dance Beds project.

Sadie Hunt, Senior Lecturer in Dance, said: “The impact of Covid on young people has been enormous.  For young dancers having to dance in their living room, online or not dance at all has had a significant impact. Some of the benefits of this project are that students get to access our professional level staff and artists, and to meet other young people from different schools.

“Although the pandemic caused issues, there were advantages to going out into schools, such as reducing the barriers that some young people may have to be able to get to campus.

“By taking these workshops out into schools, we enabled hundreds of young people to participate in dance – to dance with their peers and experience the joy of dancing together in real space and real time with professional artists. We know that moving is good for us all, especially for our physical and mental wellbeing.

“Dance is joyful, it enables freedom, fun, creativity and release and this is what all the young people we worked with needed.”

Evaluations from the Dance Beds project have been really positive from both the participating pupils and school staff. One of the positive comments received was: “I loved the workshop so much – it felt amazing and it brought the inner me out.”

Video for the performances:

Dance Beds Mobile Summer School Film

HIP HOP TRANSFORMING – 30th September 2021

This networking event held at the University of Bedfordshire campus in Bedford and on line introduced the values of Hip Hop culture to dancers, dance students, local dance teachers lecturers and producers. With contributions from Jade Ward, a researcher at Coventry University and Toby Gorniak MBE. Jade’s presentation proposed the ‘transformative power of Hip Hop’ drawing on the lens of critical praxis  ‘with the aim of inspiring ideas and actions to solutions that can help us to overcome the barriers  within the normative barriers and vocabularies of dance.’

Toby Gorniak provided examples from his experience of running his organisation Street Factory. This informed discussion of Hip Hop can be allied to critical pedagogies and communities that support people of all ages to find a sense of agency and expression that is authentic to their lived experience.

Towards the end of the session the emerging artists, Katie Boag, Ash Goosey and Quan Hoang, who all draw upon Hip Hop practices, introduced their work which was to be shown in the evening.

Emerging Artists Platform 2021

The evening’s sharing of work at the University of Bedfordshire was by the projects’ three emerging artists: Ash Goosey, Katie Boag and Quan /Simon Hoang.

Next of Kin with choreography, performance and sound by Ash Goosey followed the journey of a family after experiencing a traumatic event. Told from the perspective of 3 generations, it tackled the concept of grief, and identity through a combination of spoken word, hip-hop theatre and an original musical score.

Concrete Rose was choreographed and performed by Katie Boag with sound by Ash Goosey. Creating a fusion from Katie’s training in Krump and Contemporary dance, this solo explored her experiences as a womxn growing up in today’s society.

How fun is it to get lost? This work was choreographed and performed by  Simon/Quan  Hoang. This work explored how fun can have its limits and it comes with certain boundaries, certain consequences and certain memories- a feeling that allows the state of mind of enjoyment and amusement – a place of  being lost in time and in a wonderland of discovery.

The performance ended with the artists ‘freestyling’ and encouraging the audience to join them which many did to everyone’s enjoyment. Some of the words the audience used to describe the event afterwards included surprising, intriguing, Immersive, engaging, brilliant, powerful, varied, passionate, really different, engaging and enjoyable


800 Lifetimes is a contemporary dance, sound and voice performance around modern myth making created with local communities. It includes 360 sound technology Flowfal which allows the dancers, through a wearable app, to move and manipulate the sound in the space in real time.

It is directed by choreographer Rebecca Evans in collaboration with sound designer Christian Duka, creative tech Simon East using the Flowfal system, composer Dominie Hooper, dancers Antony Daly Luna, Amarnah Ufuoma Cleopatra Osajivbe-Amuludun and Caterina Grosoli.

This presentation of the concept at the University of Bedfordshire Theatre incorporated movement material and words that came directly from or were inspired by New Chapters (over 55’s) Dance Group, UoB dance students and their relationship to Bedford. These groups also performed in the work along with singers from Bedford. The audience were placed around the performance space so that they were immersed in a work created in response to their local context. Their responses included words such as stunning beautiful, serene, ethereal, enchanting, engaging, powerful, captivating, immersive, communal and evocative and commented on the extraordinary experience of ‘watching the growth of a contemporary dance/song cycle as if from the watery memories.’


Presented at the University of Bedfordshire Theatre, transported the audience to  Uttarayan, a world-famous festival that takes  place in Gujurat, North India where millions of people from different cities, religions and social classes come together to fly kites in a unique event marking the transition from winter into summer. Tapping into the competitive chaos, creativity and colour of the event, Pagrav Dance Company brought  to life stories with enchanting lyricism, exquisite technique and strong drama.

Created & Choreographed by Urja Desai Thakore with dramaturgy by Lous Cope, the performance featured dancing by Meera Patel, Mira Salat, Saloni Saraf, and Subhash Viman Gorania. Live music was performed by Gurdain Singh Rayaat Hiren Chate  Kaviraj Singh  Praveen Pratap who all interacted with the dancers to enhance the performance. A simple but effective set design by Simon Daw was beautifully enhanced by the lighting design of Hector Murray. The production team of Nina Head, Lia Prentaki, Salvatore Scollo, Ben Grayand Camilo Tirado supported this professional production that delighted audiences with its contemporary development of Kathak traditions. After the performance there was a chance to find out more about the work in a discussion with Urja and the Company led by Dr Tamara Ashley. The audience described the performance with words such as: colourful, entertaining fun rhythmic, beautiful, colourful, interpretive, excellent, unique, brilliant and wonderful.