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Initially called Dundee Rep Dance Company, Scottish Dance Theatre was created by choreographer Royston Maldoom OBE in 1986 as both a community company and a professional company, with the two elements co-existing. The four original dancers were Craig McKnight, Winifred Jamieson, Christine Devaney and Frank McConnell.

At the time, Maldoom had an established reputation as an international choreographer but also as one of the pioneers of Community Dance in the UK, encouraging participation and interest in dance within communities and seizing its transformative power to promote wellbeing and meaningful connections. Maldoom also intended to provide artistic development and employment opportunities for the nascent community of professional contemporary dancers in Scotland. It is precisely this foundational sense of social responsibility and commitment to the development of the art form that lies at the heart of Scottish Dance Theatre and still drives the company today.

In 1988, Tamara McLorg took over the reins, placing Dundee Rep Dance Company firmly in the context of leading dance companies in the UK. She expanded the company from four to six dancers, and in 1991, the company’s reputation and on-stage success were recognised by a Digital Dance Award to support new choreography. Dance critic Mary Brennan writes, “McLorg’s forward-looking strategies allowed her to choreograph longer, more ambitious works with a strong, dramatic story-telling feel that benefited from specially composed music. One of the most acclaimed shows during this period was The Hay and The Red Poppies, inspired by McLorg’s childhood experiences in both Britain and Poland.”

McLorg was succeeded in 1995 by Neville Campbell, former Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre and founder of Tumbuku Dance Company in Zimbabwe. It was during his tenure that the company’s name was changed to Scottish Dance Theatre.

Choreographer Janet Smith MBE was appointed Artistic Director in June 1997. Under her direction, Scottish Dance Theatre's size and status considerably grew and the company’s choreography developed a sophistication and maturity, recognised for its originality, clarity and simplicity. In 2004, the company unveiled a new £1m+ state of the art dance studio at Dundee Rep Theatre, transforming working conditions for visiting choreographers and Scottish Dance Theatre’s nine dancers. It also allowed the company to strengthen links with local communities by offering an extensive programme of dance classes and creative engagement activities for all ages and levels.

Under Smith’s direction, Scottish Dance Theatre built a solid international reputation, becoming Scotland’s flagship contemporary dance company and one of the founding members of RepNet, a network of repertory dance companies in Northern Europe. In addition to creating her own works, Smith commissioned internationally acclaimed choreographers, such as Rui Horta, Didy Veldman or Jo Strømgren, as well as emerging voices who have become some of the most prominent dance makers in the UK, like Hofesh Shechter, James Wilton or Liv Lorent

A black man holds his little boy in his arms, both wearing white clothes in black and white with Dundee Rep Dance Company overlaid in white
5 dancer stand leaning on one another

With Angels of Incidence (2007) and NQR (2010) Scottish Dance Theatre became the first mainstream dance company in Britain to bring inclusive work into its repertoire. Dance artist Caroline Bowditch continued this line of artistic enquiry and advocacy for dance and disability as the company’s Dance Agent for Change (2008-2012), culminating in the Pathways to the Profession symposium, hosted by Scottish Dance Theatre in Dundee in January 2012.

During this time, Scottish Dance Theatre won the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Outstanding Company Repertoire (Modern) in 2003, and a Herald Angel Award at the 2005 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In 2008, Smith won the Jane Attenborough Dance UK Industry Award, honouring individuals working in dance who have made an outstanding contribution to the art form.

3 dancers stand on or hold onto a wheelchair in different stretched poses

Smith’s successor, choreographer Fleur Darkin led the artistic direction of Scottish Dance Theatre for six successful and productive years from 2012 to 2018.  Darkin further increased the company’s confidence and ambition, significantly growing its income and global projection with multiple tours to China, India, Mexico, Brazil and South Korea amongst other countries. As well as creating her own work, Darkin commissioned some of the world’s most acclaimed dance makers such as Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar, Damien Jalet, Anton Lachky and Emmanuel Gat.

Highlights of Darkin’s own work with the company include SisGo (presented at the prestigious Edinburgh International Festival), and Innocence, a playground performance for children, which saw more than 130 performances from local nurseries to international stages. Darkin’s first original work for the company, Miann, was a collaboration with Linbury prize-winning designer Alexander Ruth and Glasgow experimental quartet The One Ensemble, and featured as part of the cultural programme at the Brazil Olympics in 2016. Velvet Petal, a co-commission by Cervantino Festival (Mexico) and Tramway, was the winner of Summerhall’s 2017 Lustrum Award and toured extensively to audience and critical acclaim.

A woman stares towards the sky standing on a muddy patch of ground on a stage as a man crouches shirtless at her feet

In April 2019, Catalan choreographer Joan Clevillé became the sixth Artistic Director of Scottish Dance Theatre. Clevillé, who had been a company dancer from 2009-2013, rekindled the company’s mission as a resource for the development of civic and artistic communities. This commitment was further strengthened with the arrival of artists Jess Thorpe and Tashi Gore as Associate Directors (Engage) of Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre in Spring 2020.

Since his appointment, Clevillé has expanded the range of repertoire and dance experiences offered by the company, bringing dance where people are. In February 2020, Scottish Dance Theatre premiered its first durational work for gallery spaces, storage for future sunsets by J Neve Harrington, commissioned by V&A Dundee.

Clevillé’s Every Map Has a Scale (Chapter 1) brought dance to the streets in the first iteration of a multi-year, co-authored project aiming to connect Scottish Dance Theatre more deeply with communities in Dundee and beyond. Under Clevillé’s direction, the company has also embraced the possibilities of the digital medium: these bones, this flesh,this skin (the company’s digital collaboration with Scottish Ensemble, composer Martin Suckling and cinematographer Genevieve Reeves) received the Innovation Awardat the international Classical:NEXT Awards and the Award for Installation/Sound Art/Electroacoustic at the Scottish Awards for New Music 2021. With the creation of Rep Studios, Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre’s own digital platform, the company has been able to reach its international followers from Dundee. In June 2021, Clevillé’s hour-long The Life and Times was broadcasted live from the stage of Dundee Rep in a single continuous shot to audiences in 10 countries around the globe.

A dancer contorts backwards on the floor in front of another standing wearing a baroque dress, a bucket on their head and carrying a red toolbox

Much in the world has changed, but more than three decades after its humble birth, Scottish Dance Theatre’s commitment to dance and people remains the same. After receiving two consecutive nominations for Best Independent Company and Best Mid-scale Company at the 2021 and 2022UK National Dance Awards, the company looks forward to the next chapter of this story and to continuing to inspire audiences and communities in Dundee, Scotland and beyond.