Published

01 March 2021

University of East London dance lecturer Freddie Opoku-Addaie has been appointed the artistic director and chief executive of Dance Umbrella, London's international dance festival.

Mr Opoku-Addaie is only the fourth person to hold the position in the 43 years of the festival and comes on the back of a long association with the organisation.

The East London born choreographer and performer was guest programmer for Dance Umbrella from 2016-2019, presenting work by dancers from around the world in his Out of the System programme. He has been called "an imaginative, lateral-thinking dance-maker" by The Observer.

Mr Opoku-Addaie, 40, said of his appointment, 

I am thrilled to be working with the fantastic Dance Umbrella team again as the next artistic director and chief executive.

"I'm seeing and listening to a generation of artists, creatives and communities who are fuelling a shared movement beyond the established mainstream platforms.

"This is an opportunity for a generation to expand the global festival stage for contemporary dance and performance. The artist and audience experience has shifted beyond 3Ts (Tick Box/Tokenism/Tolerated) of diversity. In challenging times it's more essential than ever that we collaborate to deliver some exciting moves."

He paid tribute to students and colleagues at the university where he has worked since 2017. He said, "The work to date has been in collaboration and supported by UEL with our talented and inspiring students from the BA (Hons) Dance: Urban Practice and Performing Arts, in bridging the gap for students into industry.

"If there was ever a time for us to build on our collaboration to support future generations, it's now. Essential imagination is needed to navigate and sustain our sector for the many."

East London born and educated, Mr Opoku-Addaie discovered dance at Newham Sixth Form College and went on to dance with multi-award-winning choreographer Wayne McGregor. He has been twice a finalist in The Place Prize, a prestigious contemporary dance award.

Mr Opoku-Addaie is a part-time lecturer in Performing Arts at the University of East London and holds other teaching positions at London institutions, including the London Contemporary Dance School.

Simon Robertshaw, dean of the School of Arts and the Creative Industries, said, "We're delighted for Freddie. As an East London man, who draws heavily on his Ghanaian heritage, he reflects the journey of many of our students and, in that way alone, he is an inspiration.

"However, way beyond his history, he has shared with our dance students the benefits of his talent, technical prowess and embracing vision. Seeing him prominent in the capital's dance scene will be a visible reminder to students of what is possible."

Mr Opoku-Addaie said the new appointment would spell the end of his lecturing but he wants "to explore how we collaborate with cross departments to support artist and student exchanges". 

This year's Dance Umbrella festival is not scheduled until October when theatres should be open, according to the latest thinking about lockdown and the pandemic.

For more information about our dance courses, see our Performing Arts pages.

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