Chisenhale Dance Space announces its transformed artist-led model

This summer, Chisenhale Dance Space is launching its reimagined CDS Artist Community and is seeking 200 dance and performance artists to form the artistic leadership of the organisation. After listening to the needs of artists, CDS is responding to the shifting independent dance landscape and new funding challenges for the sector and is reinventing both itself and its approach to supporting independent dance artists.

The organisation’s renewed focus will be on supporting early-career artists with little or no institutional support, differentiating itself from traditional models of ‘artist development’ and instead becoming a place where artists have the autonomy to make things happen that wouldn’t be possible elsewhere. Collectively they will develop programmes and opportunities, trialling new approaches and ways of working that advocate for a fairer, more equitable dance sector.

The CDS Artist Community will be made up of dancers, choreographers, directors, educators, producers, curators, writers and other creatives invested in experimental dance and interdisciplinary performance. It is committed to prioritising artists who are neuro-divergent, disabled or of global majority heritage. 

For an annual payment of £30, artists will receive benefits and support to develop their own practice, to include discounted and occasional free access to studio and co-working space, advice, wellbeing support, space to share practice and more.

New Executive Director Reece McMahon was part of the team that created the artist-focussed NDT Broadgate, run by New Diorama Theatre, in 2021/2022. He says: “At a time when artists’ lives are ever more precarious, and competition for space and resources is intense, we knew we needed to embrace our legacy and challenge existing organisational models to power a new future for the artists of today. We want CDS to be a creative home for artists who need one – a supportive environment where they can take risks and try things for the first time. This new model supports and empowers the people we believe can influence change and shape the diversity, creativity and future of the cultural sector – independent artists.”

Instrumental in the development of this new model is Chisenhale Dance Space’s paid artist committee set up in 2022. Committee member Valerie Ebuwa says: “Our new Artist Community has been designed to expand the participation of and support for global majority and disabled/neurodivergent artists. It is a brave first step towards exploring radical models of leadership and decision-making that decentre power and redistribute it to artists from all walks of life, backgrounds, and practices.”

New voices on the board of trustees include Zimbabwean-born UK-based choreographer Bakani Pick-Up who says: “CDS has long been England’s only member-led dance organisation. In 2023, after a bruising few years for everyone in the sector and in response to artists from all over the UK, we identified new ways in which CDS could thrive, grow and become a truly inclusive environment. As a new trustee and independent artist who has benefited from CDS in recent years, I’m excited to see how this new way of thinking and working can begin to influence the wider sector.”

Applications will open on 4 September and close on Friday 6 October. For more information and to apply:

The Artist Community names will be announced in late October.