Thought Piece: Partners are not Pretend Friends by Paul Johnson

Partners are not pretend friends.


You dancing?

You asking?

I’m asking.

I’m dancing.


And off you went. For some the turn around the floor lasted one song; for others a little longer and for the really lucky ones a lifetime. However long it lasts, partnership, like dancing, is collaborative, meaningful and transformative.

But sometimes despite the best intentions, partnerships can backfire, frustrate and not yield those initial promises or realise any of those dreams concocted over that first cuppa.  

Regardless, we are committed to partnership and working collaboratively.

Our success is based on an openness and willingness to develop creative, financial and other partnerships and to working collaboratively; values informing all that we do at Dance Ireland.

Central to this are all our members, you the dancers, choreographers, teachers, students, associates and Dance Friends whose work we champion by supporting a rich and varied performing arts culture in Ireland, be it realised through advocacy, curation, education, production or presentation projects.

We privilege an inclusive approach to working in partnership and working collaboratively. Which for us is a key means of capitalising on our expertise and resources and supporting strategic dance developments.  

Those familiar with our work understand that our commitment to partnership and to working collaboratively is central to the sector’s continued development.

At a time of greater competition, limited resources, conflicting strategic priorities, erroneous application processes, a plethora of new and evolving local, national and international cultural policies, we actively engage in partnerships to ensure that dance artists’ important work gets made and seen at home and abroad. We do this through dialogue and active engagement.

A partnership is a dance of trial and error, ups and downs, successes and sometimes failure.

But mostly it is an enriching and rewarding experience. We can highlight successful partnerships, including our Associate Artists, Hatch, residencies, Step Up: Dance Project and showcase initiatives with DDF and Culture Ireland, among others which contribute to a sustainable dance ecosystem. Complementing and enhancing this is our international focus. We have an enviable track record of working with a range of international partners from within (and outside) the European Dance House Network, including E-Motional Bodies and Cities, modul-dance, Communicating Dance, Léim, 360° - Building Strategies for Communication in Contemporary Dance, and international reciprocal partnership exchanges.

Complementing all this we are working on a Shared Arts Producer Partnership pilot, supported under the Arts Council’s Theatre Resource Sharing Scheme in partnership with Junk Ensemble and Mermaid Arts Centre. Also new, is our partnership with Kildare, Tipperary and Kerry County Councils and Tipperary Dance Platform on a Dance & Health Research Project, which builds on our dance and health and Access & Participation collaborations.

However, the essential backbone, and informing all we do, is partnership and collaboration with members on their self-directed projects and funding applications. We provide notable support-in-kind, financial resources and practical supports, including advice, mentorship and networking, in order to help realise all sorts of projects.

All funders now require artists to have secured other partners when applying for grant-aid. Annually we positively respond to over 90 partnership requests.

Sometimes, these requests are opportunistic, last-minute and are only endorsements in disguise.  
But mostly they are considered, engaged and well-planned proposals.

In developing partnership and working collectively, our currency is trust, which leads to strong works, which is based on an on-going dialogue between you and us, and a commitment to being an active Dance Ireland member. We value that dialogue and understand that artists, their practice and ambitions are at the centre of everything we do.


Partnership and working collaboratively with us is an investment. An investment in your future, our future and the future of dance in Ireland.

Partnership is a value, not a buzz word. It is about putting in before you take out.

A value we want to invest in, not just tick the box, and carry the logo. But to truly enhance choreography, dance and dancers working in Ireland. For us it’s about being a platform and a resource and a shoulder to lean on.

It’s about a place to come to. And for dance in Ireland it’s about having a place to go out from. That means being here.

And it means most of all that what is here is a collaborative effort that is believed in, invested in by every individual, company, staff and board member.

Partnership is an absence of them and us. Partnership is us.

Paul Johnson
Chief Executive