Meet the Member: Áine Stapleton

Áine Stapleton is a Professional Member and Associate Artist of Dance Ireland; she works in dance, film and music. To find out about her year as an Associate Artist in 2019, see below

To see more of Áine's work, click here.

Why did you apply for the Dance Ireland Associate Artist scheme?

I work as a freelance dance artist and travel a lot to avail of artist residency opportunities and production partnerships abroad. I am also evolving my choreographic practice to include the creation of dance film. This has opened my work up to new audiences and organisations, also outside of the dance community. I have always tried to maintain a strong relationship with Dance Ireland and the dance community in Ireland. In recent years, I have become increasingly aware of the need to establish a more solid base within my community and to raise my artistic profile in Ireland, as my solo work continues to develop both nationally and internationally. The Associate Artist programme seemed like a fantastic opportunity to do this.  

How did you find the application process?

I approached Dance Ireland for a one on one meeting about the Associate Artist programme. I spoke to them about my plans and ambitions for the coming year and the support that I felt I needed in order to progress my career. The guidelines for the award were already very clear, but this informal conversation confirmed the possibilities offered by the programme and the flexible nature of the award. It is not a production grant, but rather a support for artists to take their practice to the next level. The programme is structured around and guided by, the artists own individual needs and interests. The Dance Ireland team advised me about the application process and the necessary supporting documentation. I was later called for an interview at the final stage, once I was informed that my application had been shortlisted.

Bring an 'Associate Artist' of Dance Ireland; what did/does this mean to you? 

.Firstly, and most importantly, it provided me with a stable support system within my community and a sense of groundedness. It also provided me with the opportunity to partner with an international organisation at a non-conventional dance space for a residency, and to develop my dance film work through a period of self-directed research. I received ongoing marketing support from DI throughout the year for my various projects, which helped to raise my artistic profile and in turn provide further career opportunities. The Associate Artist programme also provided financial support towards my artist residency and unlimited research space at DanceHouse throughout the year. 

Sum up the highlights, and tougher times of your year, as Associate Artist.

I was an artist in residence at an exhibition space in Spain, supported by the Associate Artist programme. It was a fantastic opportunity to partner with a renowned international organisation, and to research alongside permanent works by artists including Marina Abramovic and James Turrell. I worked at the museum for a number of months part-time while also traveling back and forth to other countries to finish and premiere my latest dance film ‘Horrible Creature’. I suppose the logistics involved in my plan created some strain during the year. Thanks to the flexibility and financial support provided by the Associate Artist programme, I could eventually research at the exhibition space more consistently over a three month period. My artistic practice is quite fluid, so I require a lot of time and flexibility for my research. My working process generally shifts between movement practices, reading, writing, and site visits. I worked for three to four days per week at the exhibition space and also in surrounding areas that were relevant to my research. 

Image still from 'Horrible Creature'

What was the most valuable resources provided to you?

What stood out to me the most during my year as Associate Artist, was Dance Ireland’s genuine interest in supporting my artistic development, and their absolute trust in me as an artist. This understanding and support carried me through the year with more of a sense of belief about what I am exploring artistically. They were always available to support me on various levels – from emotional support to marketing, to audience engagement, etc. The financial support offered by the Associate Artist programme enabled me to avail of a very specific residency opportunity, which otherwise could not have happened. I had explored numerous other funding options up to that point. I could also budget for a short collaboration with local artists in Spain, which extended my solo research into the creation of a work-in-progress short dance film. The film ‘Borders and Beliefs’ was scheduled to screen at the exhibition space in Spain during March 2020, but is now postponed until later in the year due to the State of Emergency restrictions in Spain. 

Did everything go 'according to plan' with regards your work for the year?

Yes, everything went to plan. It was an extremely nourishing experience for me to develop my practice outside of a production environment, which until now has not been possible often. Following on from my year as Associate Artist, I am currently working on the final edit of my short film and applying for further exhibition opportunities for this work. I also plan to develop a longer film script that I worked on during my year as Associate Artist. Looking back over the year, I can absolutely see the endless benefits that this unique programme provides. The ongoing encouragement from the wonderful Dance Ireland team, as well as the residential space and support provided at DanceHouse and abroad, has enabled me to further develop my dance practice within a broader frame i.e. for gallery and exhibition, and to my pursue my ideas with more confidence and ambition.

Can you give an overview of some of the ways Dance Ireland has enabled you, before becoming an Associate Artist in 2019? 

Since 2008, Dance Ireland has supported me through several residential opportunities, co-productions and research grants. They have partnered a number of productions including ‘The Work the Work’ (2010) commissioned by Chocolate Factory Theater New York Commission and created by ‘Fitzgerald & Stapleton’ co-directed with Emma Fitzgerald, my latest dance film ‘Horrible Creature’ (2019) and my upcoming production ‘Somewhere in the Body’(working title). I was selected to curate Healthier Dancer Days in 2018, and have partnered with DI and First Fortnight Festival to curate dance and well-being workshops for the last two years, which will now continue into 2021. DI has invited me to present my work to international artists and organisations at studio events at DanceHouse, as well as inviting me to represent the Irish dance community at an IETM event in Germany. 

Would you encourage young pre-professionals to join Dance Ireland?

Yes, absolutely. I think it is vital for pre-professionals to become Dance Ireland members and become part of the wider dance community in Ireland. DI provides daily classes lead by national and international dance artists, residencies that support all levels of creation - from early ideas development to production support - as well as studio sharing opportunities that are marketed to audiences at home and abroad. Studio sharings are a fantastic opportunity to raise your artistic profile, receive feedback and progress your ideas, and engage with dance audiences and the wider artistic community. Dance Ireland staff are extremely approachable and are always there to talk through ideas, proposals, and any concerns you may have as you navigate your dance career. They genuinely care about the emotional well-being of their members, and focus on this throughout the year, in particular through their Healthier Dancer Days programme. They offer ongoing training opportunities are eager to promote artists at all stages of their careers. 

Image: Dancer Sarah Ryan in 'Horrible Creature'