Beyond the Pale: Step Up and Dance

Janice De Broithe takes a look at Dance Limerick’s Step Up programme, featuring dancers Ellen Finlay, Dylan Holly, Nick Nikolaou, Niamh O’Flannagain, Hannah Rogerson and Eilise Sullivan.
Step Up 2019. Image by Don Moloney

Each week, Stage Door Live’s Associate Producer Janice de Bróithe takes a look at theatre Beyond The Pale.

This week, ladies and gentlemen, I have had the absolute privilege to start working on a project for Culture Night. I can’t say too much, but what I will say is it involves rehearsals, other people and being in a building (albeit very far apart and wearing masks) with said people. We’ve even had coffee breaks and ‘fresh air breaks’ – for actual fresh air, not the other thing. I cannot tell you how happy this has made me. I genuinely feel lighter, and though we are collectively crossing all available appendages that everything will go ahead as we watch the number of Covid cases rise on the daily, it has been nothing short of a tonic. I am practically dancing with the happiness!

Which leads me (rather clunkily) to the subject of this week’s blog: Dance Limerick’s ‘Step Up’ programme.


The home of Dance Limerick

Dance Limerick promotes, supports and celebrates dance creation, presentation and participation. With a combination of performance platforms, residency opportunities, master classes, talks and lectures it is a place for artists to work, communicate and engage.

With a wonderfully refurbished church hall for rehearsals and performance (oh, the high ceiling!) and a deliciously bright and airy studio space, it is certainly something of a mecca for many dance artists and with their plethora of classes, workshops, programmes and so on, it is truly a gem of a place.


Step Up is an annual collaboration between Dance Irelandthe Arts Council, the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at University of Limerick and Dance Limerick. Over the course of a few weeks, selected participants engage in an intensive programme of training, rehearsals, performance and development. Every year, emerging dance artists (just graduated or graduated within the last three years) are selected and have the opportunity to work with some of the best choreographers, teachers and coaches to propel themselves into the dance world.

Step Up 2018. Image by Maurice Gunning

Since the first Step Up in 2011, the project has featured 58 Emerging Artists, 18 Professional Choreographers, 34 Teachers and Coaches and 28 Public Performances. It is designed to give emerging dance artists the opportunity to work with well-known choreographers, hone their craft and develop and nurture their creative skills. It aims to bridge the gap between dance education and professional contemporary dance practice in Ireland, to plug them into professional networks by connecting them to the Irish contemporary dance community and improving their professional opportunities in Ireland.

Ordinarily, the programme culminates in a performance tour around Ireland, however this year, on its 10th birthday no less, that is obviously not possible. Some conversations were had, a bit of reimagining here and restructuring there, and the team found a way forward.

The project is curated by Irish born, Marguerite Donlon, International choreographer. She is the Artistic Ballet director and resident choreographer of Ballet Hagen at Theater Hagen. She is also the founder and director of Donlon Dance Collective based in Berlin. More info of Marguerite’s work HERE. Alongside Marguerite, the participants will be working with an incredible team: Irish Choreographer Luke Murphy to create new work, Ursula Robb and Aoife McAtamney for training, Rivca Rubin on coaching, Laura Macken and Emily Terndrup as Rehearsal Director and teacher respectively.


Following an open call, six exceptional young dancers were chosen to participate in the programme which is kicking off right now. They are Ellen FinlayDylan HollyNick NikolaouNiamh O’FlannagainHannah Rogerson and Eilise Sullivan. This incredibly talented group of dancers have already displayed such a wealth of creativity and passion in their art that I for one cannot wait to see what they create.

Step Up 2020 Participants



Luke Murphy

In light of the cancellation of the tour, Luke Murphy has recalibrated his ideas and is going to work with the participants to develop a short dance film. Luke has performed with many international companies and creates his own brand of dance and multi-media theatre. His own work, in particular Attic Projects, merges disciplines and mediums in a way that is bold, visceral and exciting. He is an ideal choice to lead this element of the programme, and I have no doubt that magic will be created.

Over 15 days, he will work with the dancers and filmmaker Lucy Dawson to develop choreography for the camera. In the final week, they will make their way down to West Cork and shoot on location. Following the requisite editing time, the film will premiere on social media at date to be announced soon.

I cannot wait to see what these brilliant young dance artists create, and given the trajectory of previous participants (including Lucia Kickham who featured on Staqe Door Live’s Art In Isolation a few months ago) these exceptional individuals have a very bright future ahead of them.

Isn’t it great to be thinking about future events with hope and positivity? We have always known we artists are a resilient bunch, and though these times are testing us way beyond measure, I truly believe that if we hold firm to who we are and what we do we can find a way forward.

Right, I’m off to spend some time dancing with a 7 year old. If you happen to have a small human you can borrow for a little bit I highly recommend dancing with them – it’s great craic and there is zero judgement. If you don’t happen to have a small human you can borrow, dance anyway. Trust me: you will feel better.

If you yourself are situated outside the ‘Pale’ and you have (or know of) some form of event or happening that you would like me to cover in this blog, please get in touch – I want to hear from you!



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