Chisenhale Dance Space’s Artist Community is announced

Chisenhale Dance Space announces its 200-strong Artist Community, the first bold move in the reinvention of a pioneering organisation of the independent dance sector. 70% of the new CDS Artist Community identify as marginalised.

Last July, recognising the shifting landscape of independent dance in the UK, Chisenhale Dance Space put out a call for 200 artists to join its new CDS Artist Community and form the artistic leadership of the organisation. The response has been immense. 320 applications were received, 160% more than capacity.

From those 320 applications, 200 artists have now been selected to form the CDS Artist Community. The diversity is notable – 70% identify as marginalised (defined as disabled/neurodiverse/global majority); 50% identify as disabled/neurodiverse; 40% are of Global Majority Heritage (12% black/mixed and 20% Asian); 50% identify as queer/LGBTQI+ and 20% identify as trans/non-binary; 30% identify as working class; 50% are in early career; and 30% are based regionally. 

For this new artistic collective leadership, CDS prioritised the voices of those who have previously been less heard and those with less institutional support, using a hybrid lottery selection process weighted in favour of people who experience racism or ableism as well as ensuring that the final selection was proportionally representative of the applications.

The 200 artists represent a diversity of practice with representation from theatre, drag, cabaret, comedy, sculpture, photography and poetry as well as dance. They all are artists whose work is rooted in the body and whose radical cross-disciplinary approach honours and builds on the legacy of CDS’s founders.

Executive Director Reece McMahon says: “We were overwhelmed with the response from artists, peers and organisations from across the UK and how they resonated with this new way of thinking and working rooted in CDS’s radical beginnings. What struck me most was the number of times artists used the word ‘lonely’ in their application. In these challenging times, it’s clear that artists need community, care and solidarity. Inspired by the energy and spirit of so many new artists and the strong mix of intersectional diversity and lived experience, we’re more committed than ever to being a hub for grassroots, radical thinking and to advocating for the change that is needed in the sector.”

Chisenhale Dance Space’s paid Artist Committee made up of marginalised artists, set up in 2022, has been instrumental in the development of this new model. Outgoing committee member Jose Funnell says: “To see CDS so alive and full of so many new faces at the first artist meeting (the culmination of a two-year process) was a very special and proud moment. I believe that from here there is so much potential for CDS to be a leading example of equitable change in the dance sector and I look forward to seeing it unfold. It’s been an honour and a pleasure to work as part of the Committee, where we have consciously put care, honesty and anti-racism into action.”

The 200 members of the CDS Artist Community are:

Of the 200 artists, 60 are Activators – artists who have committed to developing their own practice as part of the CDS Artist Community for a period of up to two years. These artists will work closely with CDS’ staff and artist committee to collectively design and lead the artistic programmes. 100% of the Activators identify as marginalised.