On the occasion of Bonnie Bird’s 70th birthday in 1985, friends and colleagues from around the world gave generous donations to mark her 50-year involvement in dance. She used these contributions to establish the Bonnie Bird Choreography Fund.
Since that time, the Fund has supported over 130 innovative choreographers and dance writers through several different awards.
The UK New Choreography Awards were created to support and nurture new and emerging choreographers in the UK. Between 1985 and 2010, up to three separate awards were made annually to financially support and aid choreographic practice or research. Many of the UK’s current leading choreographers were supported by the Fund in the early stages of their development, including Darren Johnston, Maresa von Stockert, Matthew Bourne, Rosemary Lee and Lea Anderson.
Although the Fund is an independent body, our history has been closely linked with that of Laban (Trinity Laban Conservatoire for Music and Dance) through Bonnie Bird’s deep commitment to her work there during the last 21 years of her life. The Fund’s European, North American and International Awards made it possible to commission professional choreographers from around the world to create original works for the repertoire of Laban’s Transitions Dance Company, founded by Bonnie Bird in 1982.
The Chris De Marigny Dance Writers’ Award was established in 1995 to raise the quality of writing on dance in the UK by attracting newcomers to the field who reflect the changing circumstances of the dance world. Designed to support and encourage emerging dance writers in the early stages of their development, the award supported and funded any project that the writer believed would contribute towards their development as a dance writer.
The Marion North Mentoring Scheme was established in 2000 to target the lack of advice and support for choreographers in the early stages of their careers. The scheme continues to help choreographers overcome artistic challenges and problems by giving them the opportunity to gain invaluable advice and support from an experienced choreographer or dance artist.
To celebrate its 20th Anniversary in 2005, the Fund also supported the following initiatives:
- Writing on Performance, a conference co-produced by Dance Theatre Journal with Bonnie Bird Choreography Fund, Association Dance of the African Diaspora (ADAD) and Laban.
- The Artistic Directors Dinners co-organised with Dance UK. The dinners were created to offer support and networking opportunities for artistic directors and choreographers.
- Writing on the Body, Writing on the Page, three days of informal conversations to discover the processes by which choreographers and writers create work. This initiative was in collaboration with the Royal Court.
Following a strategic review the Fund initiated in 2011 the awarding of one major Bonnie Bird New Choreography Award of £10,000, which was awarded to Ben Duke of Lost Dog to support a two-year bespoke programme of choreographic research, supported by a Creative Producer and partner organisations. This replaced the previous Bonnie Bird Awards.
On 29th November 2012 the Bonnie Bird Choreography Fund announced a new award in memory of Dr Marion North – Founder and life trustee of the Bonnie Bird Choreography Fund. Dr North gave a donation to the fund in 1999 in memory of her husband to support mentoring of young choreographers. The trustees have given the Marion North Mentoring Award annually in her name since then. On Marion North’s death in 2012 the Trustees decided to give a new mentoring award to further commemorate Dr North’s life and her commitment to the support and development of new and young dance artists. The Marion North Memorial Award was given to the following projects:
- Frank Bock, curator at Independent Dance, engaged in a year-long enquiry exploring the relationship between artist and mentor and its proliferation in the past few years, culminating in a public talk at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in October 2013.
- DanceUK Choreographer to Choreographer Awards: supporting artists to support each other. These awards, newly launched in partnership with DanceUK, benefited ten choreographers who took part in the DanceUK Choreographic Observerships programme, enabling them to spend more time with a choreographer of their choice, who they had identified could help them develop their choreographic practice. These choreographers were Diane Alison-Mitchell, Hubert Essakow, Zoie Golding, Rosie Heafford, Del Mak, Ms Kanchan Maradan, Antoine Marc, Jo Meredith, Joe Moran and Scarlett Perdereau.
In 2015 the fund launched The Bonnies – the full set of awards delivered by the Fund. The aim of this array of awards is to offer support and recognition for choreography throughout an artist’s career.