Making Dance Work – Speakers

Meet the speakers of the Making Dance Work seminars.

Host – Dr Joseph Mercier

Originally from Canada, Joseph is a choreographer and performance-maker working between and across disciplines, primarily in dance, live art and contemporary theatre. He works as both an independent artist and as co-director of performance company PanicLab.

His work has been supported and commissioned by: Dance City; The Place; Homotopia; The Unity Theatre; The Albany; Cambridge Junction; Soho Theatre; MDI; Yorkshire Dance; GLYPT; Barbican Plymouth; Chisenhale Dance Space; and Live Art Bistro Fierce Festival. In 2016 PanicLab’s show Theseus Beefcake was awarded best British production at BE Festival Birmingham. Joseph is currently working on a new collaboration with choreographer and dance dramaturg, Beth Cassani.

Joseph has a developed practice as a dramaturg, movement director and mentor and has worked with artists such as Rachel Young, Priya Mistry, Will Dickie and Milk Presents.

Joseph trained in classical ballet at the school of Alberta Ballet and Boston Ballet. He trained in theatre at Concordia University, Montreal and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. His practice based PhD at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama examined ballet cultures in relation to gender and sexual politics.

Joseph has a developed scholarly research practice around queer studies, choreographic practices and performance politics. Joseph was a Senior Lecturer in Dance at Leeds Beckett University. Prior to that he taught at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama on the MA Movement Directing and Teaching, and MA Advanced Theatre Practice.

Co-Host – Xolani Crabtree

Xolani is a Leeds-based dance artist, dance teacher and choreographer. Having grown up in Leeds, Xolani is passionate about dance and creativity in the city of Leeds. She trained at Phoenix Youth Academy before going on to study at Northern School of Contemporary Dance.

Since then, Xolani has worked with various organisations and community groups around Yorkshire, teaching, choreographing and facilitating classes and events.  

Seminar 2 – Pamela Johnson

Pamela has worked in the arts and cultural sector since 1990. She has trained, mentored and advised hundreds of individuals and organisations across the sector as a practitioner, academic and consultant.

She is a qualified fundraiser and audience development specialist with specific expertise in diversifying organisations’ income, growing their audiences and securing funding from a range of public and private sources. Her client base includes national and regional theatres, art centres and festivals, touring and outdoor arts companies, art galleries and artist collectives.

Pamela has been a trustee for 18+ years and is currently on the Board of High Peak Theatre Trust, and The Met, Bury.  She is an advocate for wider inclusivity and diversity across the arts and cultural sector having come from a working-class background.

Seminar 3 – Rachel Fullegar & Kate Cox – Gracefool Collective

Gracefool Collective creates work that is interdisciplinary, political and unashamedly feminist. They collaboratively devise performances with non-linear narratives in the form of scenes, sketches and images, reflecting on the reality of modern existence.

Gracefool are concerned with effort and the beauty and poignancy within the struggle to survive, fit in, be different, challenge authority and toe the line. They believe in humour and play as powerful tools to transform ideas and undermine traditional hierarchies and social codes. They extend this approach to collaboration to our audiences, inviting them to play with agency and responsibility, breaking conventions of the theatrical space.

Their work This Is Not A Wedding, a surreal reimagining of our traditional rite of passage celebrations, was invited to open the prestigious National Showcase for Dance in 2019 and completed an 18 date UK tour. It was part of BBC’s Dance Passion 2019, celebrating the best of British Dance and was voted by the BBC as one of the top 9 amazing moments of the day.

Previous work This Really Is Too Much, a contemporary portrait of womanhood, has been performed nationally and internationally to critical acclaim, including a 4 & 5 star run at the Edinburgh Fringe gaining the Underbelly Untapped Award for ‘innovative new writing.’ In 2018 This Really Is Too Much won the coveted Stockholm Fringe Grand Prix Award for Excellence in Performance.

Gracefool Collective also founded ProDanceLeeds in 2015, an artist-led organisation that supports independent practice within the north of England with professional classes and workshops. We have reached 300+ freelance artists with our activities in the region and employed 93 artists as part of the project to date.

Seminar 4 – Julia White

Julia is a creative marketeer with a passion for widening participation in the arts and has a strong commitment to equality, diversity and inclusivity. She also has a keen interest in the environment and conservation.

Julia is an experienced marketing and communications manager based in the North of England, working across the art and charity sector. She is currently the Marketing and Communications Manager at Yorkshire Dance. 
In addition to her full-time position Julia has worked on a number of freelance projects that facilitate the work of emerging artists and theatre practitioners in the region. Most recently, she has worked with Unlimited Theatre and HOME Manchester. 

Julia’s main skills lie in social media marketing, digital communications and media campaign planning. She is also a skilled copywriter, has a good eye for design and knowledge of Adobe Design Software.

Seminar 4 – Gary Clarke

Gary Clarke is an acclaimed British Choreographer, Dancer and Artistic Director of Gary Clarke Company. His theatrical dance works have toured extensively both nationally and internationally to critical and audience acclaim and have received a multitude of awards including a UK Theatre Award for Achievement in Dance, a Critics’ Circle National Dance Award, a Herald Angel Award and The Edinburgh Festival Lustrum Summerhall Award.

His work has been seen in some of the UK’s most prestigious dance and theatre houses including The Barbican Centre, The Royal Opera House and The Southbank Centre. Gary has created large scale stage and site-specific work for a number of other companies and organisations including: Birmingham International Dance Festival; Opera North; Sky Arts; Ludus Dance Company; LABAN; StopGap Dance Company; Akademi; Map Dance; Hull City of Culture; and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Gary has also worked as a movement specialist on a number of large scale feature films including World War Z, JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them and The Mummy. His performance credits include work with: Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures; Lloyd Newson’s DV8 Physical Theatre; Lea Anderson’s The Cholmondeleys & The Featherstonehaughs; balletLORENT; Sadler’s Wells Productions; Phoenix Dance Theatre; and Candoco Dance Company amongst others. In 2017, Gary was appointed as the first Honorary Fellow at Northern School of Contemporary Dance alongside Wayne McGregor CBE.

Seminar 5 – Kenneth Tindall

Kenneth Tindall is a freelance choreographer and Artistic Director of Digital and Resident Choreographer for Northern Ballet. A former Principal Dancer, his first full length ballet Casanova received much critical acclaim and standing ovations throughout its 2017 tour of the UK, including a sell-out week at Sadler’s Wells. The popularity of the show led to its filming and broadcast on Sky Arts. 

With his first professional commission Kenneth won the Production Prize at the 26th International Choreographic Competition in Hanover. He has gone on to choreograph nationally and internationally, working with established artists and creatives such as Linder Sterling, Christopher Oram, Alexandra Harwood and Ian Kelly. He has been nominated for several high profile awards including Best Classical Choreographer and Emerging Artist at the National Dance Awards and was the recipient of the Outstanding Achievement in a new Dance Production at the Broadway World UK Awards 2017. Kenneth won the Audience Award at 2019 Genesis Choreographic competition for Milwaukee Ballet. This year he was nominated twice for Best Classical Choreography at the Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards for his full length ballet Geisha and his one act ballet The Shape of Sound.  

In 2020 Kenneth was a guest judge at English National Ballet’s Emerging Dancer competition alongside fellow judges Tamara Rojo, Natalia Osipova, Edward Watson, Kerry Nicholls and Matthew Hart. Kenneth enjoys a continued relationship with the BBC, working on their Young Dancer television series as judge, mentor and choreographer as well as involvement in the BBC’s Dance Passions projects.

Kenneth was selected to take part in the 2014/15 Dance UK Future Arts Cultural Leaders Mentoring programme and was a member of the Artistic and Steering Committee for the LEEDS 2023 bid towards European Capital of Culture. Whilst 2020 put a stop to the UK tour of his ballet Geisha it has seen his digital work receive international recognition with his multi award winning dance film EGO. Be it Choreographer, Director, Producer or Creative Director, Kenneth now has a catalogue of over 30 works.

Seminar 5 – Sean Clarke

A man's headshot. He is wearing all black, has short brown hair and a beard.

Sean Clarke is a pioneering Digital Artist and Curator based in Manchester. A champion of the city’s rich and diverse DIY performance community, he is best known for founding projects such as Test Card & DRIFT – event platforms that support the growth of local artists working in the field of art technology and performance.

In 2019 he was brought on as production manager for Distorted Constellations – an immersive Afrofuturist sensory environment inspired by artist Nwando Ebizie’s mythic interpretation of the rare neurological disorder Visual Snow commissioned by HOME and shown at Push (Manchester), Brighton Festival London Borough of Culture. Other touring projects include Make a Scene – an LGBT interactive, immersive, live cinema night and MINA – an immersive theater/ dance project that explores the controversial issue of conversion therapy and gay exorcisms. 

Seminar 6 – Victoria Firth

Victoria Firth is a performance maker and producer based in Yorkshire. 

Her live art shorts The Butter Piece and In the next room which were both selected for national platforms and her first full length theatre show, How to be amazingly happy!about childlessness and reinvention, ran at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe and toured nationally until the pandemic. Her cabaret work has been seen at Mother’s Ruin, Andro & Eve and Bar Wotever and was digitally adapted for We The Queers and Bradford Fringe. During lockdown she made the video series Touching Moments for Waterside Arts, started a blog and developed self-care workshops for artists. 

She is also an established creative leader within the northern cultural scene having been Director and CEO of the Lawrence Batley Theatre for 12 years where she developed the contemporary and dance and circus programmes. She has also been the Interim Director for the Dukes in Lancaster, worked in outdoor arts for Xtrax and Without Walls and is currently the Company Manager for the Leeds-based multi-disciplinary arts project The Grief Series. The Yorkshire Post previously named her on their list of the top 25 cultural leaders in the region.

Seminar 6 – Abbe Robinson

Abbe Robinson is a Principal Arts Project Officer for Leeds City Council and has programmed and produced Light Night Leeds, the city’s annual free multi-arts and light festival, since 2014. In that time she has developed the festival significantly to become the UK’s largest annual light festival and the biggest city centre event in Leeds’s cultural calendar. In 2019 the event attracted an estimated 150,000 visitors across two nights and showcased the work of hundreds of local, national and international artists.

As part of her role, Abbe initiated the SHINE programme, now run in partnership with Light Up The North Network, which commissions and mentors a range of emerging light artists. Despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic, Abbe adapted Light Night Leeds to present a range of light art across the winter season including Laser Light City by Seb Lee-Delisle. In October 2020 an estimated 30,000 members of the public controlled massive sky lasers on iconic city buildings using their smart phones.

Abbe’s background is in film production and she has also worked as a Programmer, Producer and Artistic Director for a range of film and arts festivals across the UK.