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Preview: Fertile Ground On Tour

There’ll be dancing in the streets!
And the museums
Shields of Bone by Eleesha Drennan
Photo: Camilla Greenwell

Fertile Ground
On Tour across the North East

New programme from the North East’s first graduate dance company includes performances at the Bowes Museum, Trinity Square and Bede’s World

Fertile Ground, the North East’s first professional graduate dance company, is to partner up with some of the region’s leading cultural and heritage venues on an exciting new programme. Fertile Ground will bring dance to new and unusual settings, including Bede’s World in Jarrow, The Bowes Museum in County Durham, and the Discovery Museum in Newcastle.

Holly Bellamy and Alys North in 
A New Chimera by Tom Dale
Photo: Camilla Greenwell
Hannah Jackson, Assistant Curator, The Bowes Museum saidThis collaboration is breaking new ground for The Bowes Museum. It is a unique opportunity to showcase contemporary dance and costumes inspired by the Birds of Paradise – Plumes and Feathers in Fashion exhibition. Working with costume students and dance graduates is a really exciting partnership, which we hope to continue.”

Dora Frankel’s work is already known to visitors to the Bowes Museum from The Unfolding Sky: Turner In The North, which was performed in the museum grounds in June 2013. This new work is titled On the Darkened Wing. Fertile Ground four graduate dancers - Alicia Meehan (Northern School of Ballet), Alys North (Northern School of Contemporary Dance), Kayleigh Fisk (University of Sunderland) and Holly Bellamy (Teesside University) - will work with second year BA (Hons) Costume Interpretation & Design students from Cleveland College of Art and Design and course leader Jane Havakin (best known for her designs for Topshop, Harrods and John Lewis) to explore the beauty and dark romance of feathers and plumes.

Alys North and Alicia Meehan in Land
Photo: Camilla Greenwell
The students are collaborating closely with the dancers, meeting with the Bowes Museum team in the exhibition to develop designs and ideas based on pieces that have inspired them - Alys North is working with Rebecca Purvis and Catherine McMurray; Holly Bellamy with Rebecca Collinson and Hayley Stuart; Kayleigh Fisk with Angela Harrop; and Alicia Meehan with Nikki Wilson and Jennifer Lamb. Recent work the students have been involved in includes working on costumes for BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, the Lion King musical and ITV’s Downton Abbey.

Today it was announced that Wayne Sleep OBE has agreed to become a patron, saying. " Fertile Ground helps young dancers to develop professionally. I know that this company will inspire everyone, and wish them great success as they embark on the region-wide tour."

Alicia Meehan and Alys North 
in A New Chimera 
by Tom Dale
Photo: Camilla Greenwell
Dora Frankel, Fertile Ground Artistic Director remarked: “I am really delighted and moved that Wayne Sleep has offered his support - it means a great deal to me and to the whole company that someone of Wayne's reputation has spoken so warmly about our work. His help and patronage ensures that our work can be seen more widely and that our collaboration with The Bowes Museum and Cleveland College of Art and Design can be realised.”

Alongside these new cultural and heritage partnerships, Fertile Ground will work closely with education partners to offer dynamic performance and participation experiences for young people across the region. Residencies already confirmed include Northumbria, Teesside and Sunderland Universities and with Newcastle and Sunderland Colleges, and a number of schools across the region.

Fertile Ground aims to nurture, challenge and inspire a new generation of dance artists to develop and present inspirational and accessible dance opportunities. As Anthony Baker, who is the Dance City Artistic Director commented “As the North East’s first professional graduate dance company, Fertile Ground offers a much-needed bridge between University study and the professional dance industry for some of the region’s most talented young dancers, while at the same time offering audiences the chance to see
new, high quality work made right here in the North East.”

Shields of Bone by Eleesha Drennan
Photo: Camilla Greenwell
Dora Frankel adds, “We offer dance opportunities to some of the region’s most talented young dancers to work, train and perform intensively with outstanding guest teachers and choreographers. By developing our dancers and choreographers we hope to see a real increase in the number of artists staying in the region over the next five years, forming new artistic constellations, inspiring children and young people and increasing appreciation and understanding of contemporary dance in the North East.”

High profile guest choreographers include Tom Dale and Eleesha Drennan. Tom’s work for youth companies include The Rite of Spring and leading a Professional dancers’ Choreographic Residency in Cuba in 2012 with support from the British Council, while his performance career includes working with Matthew Bourne in the Adventures in Motion Pictures production of Swan Lake and in dancer roles with English National Opera and Opera North.

Alys North and Alicia Meehan in Shields of Bone by Eleesha Drennan
Photo: Camilla Greenwell
Eleesha Drennan is a recipient of this year’s Sky Academy Arts Scholarship, out of over 1,000 applicants. In 2012 Eleesha was awarded 1st prize at the 16th International Solo-Dance-Theatre Festival Stuttgart resulting in a tour of in Germany, China, Brazil and UK. She then undertook a choreographic residency with North Netherlands Dance 2012 and was House Choreographer of National Dance Company Wales from 2011 to 2013.

Jane Tarr, Director North, Arts Council England said, “Fertile Ground helps to inspire a new generation of dance artists as well as offering opportunities for children and young people through its learning programme. I am pleased that we have been able to fund its work through our National Lottery funded Grants for the arts programme and I look forward to seeing some exciting new performances in the North East.”

The tour opens at The Maltings in Berwick upon Tweed on Thursday 12 February 2015 and finishes with a gala performance at The Customs House in South Shieldson Sunday 22 March. For more information or to book tickets visit

Photos: Camilla Greenwell

Tour dates

Friday 27 February 2015 / 19.00
Something Beautiful: a performance in response to FERTILE GROUND’s work with Epinay School for special educational needs at Bede's World

Wednesday 4 March 2015 / 19:00
Sunderland College

Saturday 7 March 2015 / 19:30
Peter Sarah Theatre, Newcastle College

Thursday 12 March 2015 / 12:30 & 17:00
Fertile Ground Outdoor performance, Trinity Square Gateshead

Friday 13 March 2015 / 19:00
On the Darkened Wing, in collaboration with The Bowes Museum, Witham Public Hall

Friday 20 March 2015 / 17:00
Arts Centre Washington school performance

Sunday 22 March 2015 / 19:30
The Customs House

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