Little Big Dance

Launched in 2019, in partnership with DanceEast, Take Art and Yorkshire Dance, Little Big Dance supports choreographers and dancers to develop the specialist skills and experience needed to make captivating and diverse dance work for and with under five-year-olds and their families.


Artist Takeshi Matsumoto sharing development of his new work for Little Big Dance. (c) Summer Dean

Over the course of this pioneering three-year programme, up to eight artists will be selected over two cycles to work with children aged 0-5 years in four areas of England, with little or no access to the arts, to develop ideas for new touring dance works. 

To help them develop their ideas, all of the artists will receive specialist support from South East Dance Dramaturg in Residence Lou Cope, early years specialists Skye Reynolds and Hannah Lefeuvre, early years producer Gina Westbrook, and choreographer Rose Heafford, Artistic Director of Second Hand Dance.

Evaluation is being carried out by Dr Angela Pickard from Canterbury Christ Church University, the winner of the 2019 One Dance UK Dance Research Impact award. Dr Pickard will contribute to a best practice toolkit to ensure the wider dance sector can benefit from what’s learned from the programme. 

Four of the eight artists will go on to take their ideas forward for production and a national tour, selected by a commissioning circle made up of the Artistic Directors of Dance Umbrella, Edinburgh International Children’s Festival, The Birmingham Hippodrome, the co-Artistic Director of Strike a Light Festival, Starcatchers, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and artists who specialise in making performances for children. 

During a sharing day in Feb 2020, two artists from the four taking part in cycle one were selected by the commissioning circle to create new dance works with children in Yorkshire, Suffolk and Norfolk and for a national tour when the situation with COVID-19 restrictions allows. 

George Fellows, Co-Artistic Director of Four Hands, is creating a new work with children across Yorkshire, seeking to validate the wide range of emotions that a child can experience, whilst focussing on the themes of mental health, care and attachment amongst young children and their carers. Read a conversation between George and Dr Angela Pickard. 

Drawing on his experience growing up in Japan, artist and performer Takeshi Matsumo is working with children in Suffolk and Norfolk to explore origami and the concept of ‘animism’ – the belief that objects, places and creatures all possess a distinct spiritual essence. Read a conversation between Takeshi and Dr Angela Pickard.

Little Big Dance is supported with more than £371,000 investment from Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Arts Council England; and by Leeds Dance Partnership, Dance Umbrella, Birmingham Hippodrome and Strike a Light Festival.