Raise the Floor! A Mentor Programme

Recipients Announced 

The development of professional dancers and access to dance for all is a priority for us.
Over the years we have formed a strong relationship with Age & Opportunity which has inspired new opportunities, strengthened connections and expanded networks.

One such development is Raise the Floor!. As part of a continuing partnership to support professional development for dance artists working with older people, Dance Ireland and Age & Opportunity, in consultation with Dance Theatre of Ireland, announced a new pilot programme for professional development in this field.

Following an open call earlier this year, we are delighted to the announce the recipients:

Helen Keenan and Roisin Whelan.

The two Dance Ireland Professional Members will work with mentors Catherine Donnelly and Anthea Williams on a programme focused on dance with older people in the community or care settings, in addition to advice and support sessions between mentor and mentee. 

ABOUT the Recipients

Helen Keenan

Helen is a multidisciplinary performer and theatre maker with a background in physical theatre, acting and dance. She is a recipient of a Dance Ireland Residency in DanceHouse 2021, and a LaunchPad Award in 2020.

She recently graduated from her master’s degree in Dance Performance and Choreography in the UK, where she created a series of dance theatre pieces that focused on merging the mediums of text, dance and technology, with specific investigations into, and use of projection mapping and visual effects using interactive software such as Isadora. 

Helen has a passion to create innovative, high octane performance that inspires, educates and excites, while interrogating and challenging the status quo, shining a light on both Irish history, and keeping on top of the pulse of social and political issues not only relating to Ireland alone, but the human condition as a collective.

Read more about Helen here.

Róisín Whelan

Roisin is a recipient of a Dance Ireland Residencies in DanceHouse 2020 and 2021. In 2020, she was supported by Dance Ireland’s Emerging Artist HATCH Award.

Roisin began her professional training at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance where she completed her Bachelor in Performing in Arts and Masters in Performance, graduating with first class hons and receiving the Kathleen Tatterstall leadership Award. Roisin went on to join Black Box Dance Company, touring Denmark and Sweden and Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures professional company for their UK tour of Romeo and Juliet where she performed for seven months in cities across the UK.

In 2021 Róisín has worked with Iseli-Chiodi Dance Company on their new show ‘Turnstile’ , Minte Wolde Dance, The Silence of Mercy and will be working with Laura Macken, IMDT Dancer from the Dance festival and Laois Dance Platform later this year whilst creating her new works. 
Róisín will be joining Northern Ireland Opera as an Emerging Choreographer for the 2021/22 open studio season.

Read more about Róisín here

ABOUT the Mentors 

Catherine Donnelly

Based in the West of Ireland, since 2000, Catherine has been working as an independent dance artist with a wide variety of organisations, age groups and abilities. She is interested in facilitating opportunities for participants, especially those new to dance, to explore movement and dance, engage with the artform and in a creative process using the body as medium. She has worked on Artist in Schools programmes with Roscommon County Council, Teacher Artist Partnerships with Athlone and Mayo Education Centes and her residency in St Patrick's Boys National School, Castlebar, was part of RTE's Creative Schools documentary, 'Creative Kids' . In 2007 she founded The Elderberries weekly creative movement and dance workshops for over 55s, based in Roscommon Arts Centre and was Dancer in Residence for Bealtaine 2018 with Mayo Arts Office. 

Read more about Catherine here.


Anthea McWilliams

Anthea is a Northern Irish dance practitioner living in Co.Down. She trained as mature student at Middlesex University graduating with an Honours degree in Performance Art in 1987 aged 29. She has been working in community dance for over 30 years strengthening her practice with the attainment of a distinction in Grade 1 Ballet at the age of 59! Before that, she danced the length of Ireland in 2008 over three months to celebrate her 50th birthday. Her first book about the journey, ‘Born to Prance’ is nearly finished.

She also holds a Masters in Cultural Management from the University of Ulster (2001).

Strictly Active is her own bespoke dance/movement training programme for professional care staff and has been delivered within four of the five Health Trusts in N.Ireland. In 2015 she worked as dancer in residence in those four care settings across Belfast over a one-year period (supported by Belfast Strategic partnership) through the Spectrum Centre on Belfast’s Falls Road. In addition, her seniors’ dance group, Age on Stage, (2007- ) currently meet weekly for (At a) DISTANCE DANCING in Lisburn’s Wallace Park. During June/July 2021 she is also working with Cois Ceim’s Broadreach programme in Dublin’s Fairview Park.

She is delighted to be contributing to Raise the Floor!