13 dance artists announced to take part in cycle two of pioneering Little Big Dance programme

South East Dance has announced that Xenia Aidonopoulou will receive a £30,000 commission to create a new dance work with and for children under five.

16 January 2023


black and white headshot of Xenia Aidonopoulou. Female dancer with arms crossed

Xenia Aidonopoulou

Dance charity South East Dance has announced that artist Xenia Aidonopoulou is to receive a £30,000 commission to create a game changing new piece of dance work with and for under five-year-old children. Twelve other artists will also take part in a unique professional development residency.

The announcements come as part of the second cycle of the pioneering Little Big Dance programme, which was launched in 2019 to challenge assumptions about how dance work for very young audiences should be made, and received.

Cycle one supported the creation of two very different pieces by artists George Fellows and Takeshi Matsumoto. Eschewing unicorns and rainbows for themes such as attachment and the Japanese concept of animism, George and Takeshi collaborated closely with young children to develop the work, harnessing their responses to drive creative decision making.

Little Big Dance National Coordinator Lou Coleman believes that the programme is not only challenging artists to make work for children differently but also challenging their assumptions about the cultural experiences very young children can and do enjoy.

Little Big Dance is throwing down the gauntlet to the sector and saying ‘come on, let’s be ambitious, let’s be non-traditional, let’s be bold’.

A lot of dance work is being made first then put in front of children to see if they respond to it,” she says. “Little Big Dance is a gamechanger because children are an integral part of actually developing and creating it.

Artists are asked to think about where children are in terms of their developmental journey; as well as who they are and what experiences they can bring to the work – even at a very young age. Children under five are adept at expressing themselves – we just have to know how to listen.”

In January 2023, 13 emerging UK and international artists will spend a week with an early years dance specialist, a dramaturg, and a choreographer to learn about how child development impacts upon their experience of the world. The idea is that the opportunity will act as a springboard for the artists to create new work for under fives and ultimately support the early years dance sector to flourish.

One artist, Xenia Aidonopoulou, has been selected to receive the £30,000 Little Big Dance commission to create and tour Skydiver, a brand new piece of dance work for under five year olds. Xenia comes to the programme with a strong history of creating and producing her own work and with the experience of already having made a piece for babies behind her.

During late January and early May 2023 Xenia will carry out research and development with children in nurseries and early years settings in all four Little Big Dance partner locations, including Dance East (Ipswich), Yorkshire Dance (Leeds), Take Art (Somerset) & South East Dance (Brighton).

She will then use this knowledge to create and produce Skydiver at The Dance Space, before sharing it with programmers, producers and venue bookers later this year, and touring it nationally from Autumn 2023.

Xenia says: “Dance theatre for children under five and their grown-ups is an extremely rewarding and unique experience for me. What I enjoy most is bringing the magic of dance to these intergenerational audiences in awe-inspiring moments experienced together.”

Little Big Dance Cycle Two is delivered in partnership with dance organisations Dance East (Ipswich) and Yorkshire Dance (Leeds), as well as Take Art (Somerset) – an arts organisation with an early years specialism. Each partner will deliver a programme of activity in their region supported by South East Dance.

Little Big Dance is funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Arts Council England and is supported by Dance Umbrella, Strike a Light Festival and Imaginate/Edinburgh International Children’s Festival.