DMU's annual dance festival makes a triumphant return to campus

Original choreography and energetic performances take centre stage at this year’s University Dance Festival (UDF), which is returning live to campus for the first time since Covid-19.


Through a blend of live performances and screen pieces, De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) Dance students will showcase their individual sense of style at The Venue@DMU during shows on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 May.

Attendees will be treated to stunning lighting designs and a range of music, as well as four new works from the 2022 University Dance Company (UDC), presenting choreography by visiting artists Johnny Autin and Marcia Edwards, and DMU Dance staff Jo Breslin and Mel Knott.

Final-years Katie McLoughlin and Alicia Blagden are among the students performing in this year’s festival.

Katie auditioned and secured a part in UDC, involving two performances – one influenced by the gentle movement of water and featuring sensitive use of weight-bearing, and one inspired by the fierce nature of storms and their far-reaching effects.

Behind the scenes at UDF rehearsals

The 22-year-old from Suffolk said: “Covid affected the arts so much, so it’s been amazing to be able to perform together again and to get inspired by each other’s work. You also gain so much by performing to a large audience, so I’m really excited for UDF.

“Being a part of UDC has been especially helpful as it prepares you for what it’s like to work in a company when you leave university. I thought I knew what to expect, but it’s actually taught me that each company is very different and that you have to be prepared for anything.

“One of our pieces was choreographed with a DMU tutor and one with a dance professional from outside of the university. Both got our creative mind working, as well as our physicality.”

Students selected for UDC are assessed on their performance in the festival as part of their degree. They also have the chance to perform their pieces before the show through workshops with local community dance groups and schools.

“I feel like a massive part of being a dancer is educating and inspiring the next generation,” said Katie.

“During our workshops we perform first and ask the young people to share what they thought and picked up from it as an audience. Their answers are always so interesting. We then teach them a bit of choreography and work with them on developing it further.

“It’s such a rewarding experience and a super important way for the next generation to keep dance alive.”


Alicia is showcasing powerful solo and screen performances in the show. Her solo depicts her journey leading up to university and her difficulty with communicating through a blend of hip hop and contemporary dance, paired with the use of gestural movements to emulate sign language.

The 22-year-old from Nottingham said: “As a child and into my teens I was very shy and reserved due to bullying. My solo reflects my external battle with communicating and my internal battle of getting upset with myself about it.

“A couple of months before coming to DMU I met someone who helped me to grow in confidence and then being at university helped with that too. When I had my DMU audition, I loved it straight away thanks to the warmth of all the tutors.

“It’s such a nice atmosphere that I’ve applied to study DMU’s Choreography MA next. I’ve been able to choreograph more this year and I’ve really enjoyed it, but feel there’s lots more to learn.”

As well as performing in her screen piece with two other dancers, Alicia also choreographed, directed, filmed and edited it. Adopting a film noir aesthetic, it challenges the concept of what it means to be a woman.

“I love the fact that you can challenge what dance is and how people perceive it on screen, by being able to make edits and pinpoint certain aspects of movement,” she said.

Melanie Knott, senior lecturer in community dance practice at DMU, said: “I hope people join us to enjoy the performance and choreographic work of our students, who will soon be emerging into the sector to forge their future.

“It feels very special this year, as this group have accomplished half of their degree through a pandemic, demonstrating great tenacity and spirit. It makes them even more excited to be back performing to live audiences and promises to be a wonderful celebration of their talent.”

Book your ticket to the University Dance Festival online.

Posted on Thursday 26th May 2022

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