Dancers sat in a circle bottom right in the studio
NDCWales Presents


Autumn 2020, NDCWales hosts the second  Laboratori programme, bringing together established and emerging independent choreographers and NDCWales dancers with a group of exceptional Mentors, each of whom are experts and innovators in the field of contemporary dance.

Spanning four weeks and delivered through digital platforms, Laboratori offers participating choreographers the opportunity to explore and interrogate their own practice, whilst testing new choreographic ideas and ways of working with our team of professional dancers.

Lead Facilitator - Catherine Bennett

Mentors - Shobona Jeyasingh CBE, Bebe Miller, Frances Rings

Choreographers - Marcus J Willis, Richard Chappell, Bakani Pick-Up, Thomas Carsley, Eleesha Drennan, Faye Tan, Aisha Naamani, Ed Myhill

National Dance Company Wales (NDCWales) has announced the mentor choreographers and freelance dance artists who will be part of Laboratori, a programme that pioneers new choreographic ideas and ways of working. International female figures such as Shobana Jeyasingh CBE, Bebe Miller and  Frances Rings will work as mentors guiding a cohort of fresh new choreographic talent. The artists will be working with NDCWales dancers.

Laboratori will be facilitated by exemplary performer and choreographer, Catherine Bennett of Volcano Theatre. Catherine has worked with Mr & Mrs Clark, National Theatre Wales, and has led workshops, masterclasses and residencies for Wales Youth Dance Company, Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, CandoCo, Stopgap, Greenwich Dance Agency and Random Dance

The choreographers selected for the programme are Cardiff-based choreographer Marcus J Willis, Richard Chappell, and Bakani Pick-Up; finalist of BBC’s Young Dancer, Thomas Carsley from Port Talbot; and former NDCWales House Choreographer Eleesha Drennan. They will join NDCWales artists Faye Tan, Aisha Naamani and Ed Myhill in Laboratori 2020.

Associate Director, Lee Johnston saidThe originality of these choreographers is exciting to connect with, and I look forward to the research and discoveries that these artists uncover over the course of Laboratori.


I am gratified that these internationally acclaimed choreographers have agreed to share their knowledge and experience through Laboratori. They all have artistic practices that are deeply relevant to the times we are in and their career resilience is also valuable to learn from”.

Laboratori will take place online from 14 September to 9 October (Monday to Friday). On Friday 9 October there will be an opportunity to share digitally what has been developed in the programme.


Laboratori is kindly supported by The Garrick Charitable Trust

Our Team:

Catherine Bennet – Lead Facilitator

Catherine BennettCatherine is a performer, director, choreographer, teacher and film-maker. She is Movement Director for Volcano Theatre, based in Swansea. Trained at the Rambert School, Catherine was a performer with Matthew Hawkins' Fresh Dances from 1994 to 1996 and a core member of Random Dance Company from 1997 to 2002. As a freelance dance artist, she performed with Houston Grand Opera and English National Opera, and participated in the 2003 Jerwood Bank Project with the Siobhan Davies Dance Company. Catherine has also choreographed work for Mr & Mrs Clark and National Theatre of Wales, and has led workshops, masterclasses and residencies for Wales Youth Dance Company, Bourne’s New Adventures, CandoCo, Stopgap, Greenwich Dance Agency and Random Dance. She is a Lead Creative Practitioner under the Arts Council of Wales Creative Schools programme.

Catherine is a performer, director, choreographer, teacher and film-maker. She has led workshops, masterclasses and residencies for Wales Youth Dance Company, Bourne’s New Adventures, CandoCo, Stopgap, Greenwich Dance Agency and Random Dance.





Shobana Jeyasingh CBE - Mentor

Shobana Jeyasingh is an internationally recognised choreographer who founded Shobana Jeyasingh Dance 30 years ago. She has created over 60 critically acclaimed works for diverse platforms including stage, screen and unconventional public spaces such as Palladian monasteries, fountain courtyards and city offices. Her work is noted for both its intellectual rigour and its visceral physicality.

Over the course of a distinguished career she has collaborated with scientists, gallery curators, composers, film makers, digital creatives as well as dancers and designers to make bold multi disciplinary work. Her work has toured extensively to Europe, USA, India and the Far East and is now part of the national curriculum in the UK.


Bebe Miller - Mentor 

Bebe Miller first performed her choreography at Dance Theater Workshop NYC in 1978. She formed Bebe Miller Company in 1985 to pursue her interest in finding a physical language for the human condition. She has collaborated with artists, composers, writers and designers along with the dancers who share her studio practice and from whom she has learned what dancing can reveal. Her work has been performed in Europe, South America, Asia and Africa and nationally at Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival, San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, REDCAT in Los Angeles and the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, OH. Her choreography has been performed by Kyle Abraham’s A.I.M. (Abraham In Motion), Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Oregon Ballet Theater, Boston Ballet, Philadanco, Salt Lake City’s Repertory Dance Theater, the UK’s Phoenix Dance Company and a host of colleges and universities. Over the last decade Bebe Miller Company has been involved in a variety of digital archive projects referencing the company’s creative practice in order to share the choreographic process with audiences and artists.


Frances Rings - Mentor

Frances is of Kokatha heritage and also of German descent. 

Frances made her main stage choreographic debut for Bangarra to outstanding critical acclaim with Rations, as part of the 2002 production Walkabout. Frances has followed this by creating six works for the company; Bush (co choreography), UnaiponX300, Artefact, Terrain and Sheoak. She has choreographed and danced in works for many of Australia’s leading dance companies and choreographers including: West Australian Ballet, Tasdance, Leigh Warren & Dancers, Meryl Tankard and Legs on the Wall. Internationally Frances has established important intercultural creative relationships with First Nations artists most notably Kahawi Dance Theatre (Canada) and Atamira Dance Company (NZ). 

From 2016 – 2018 Frances was appointed Head of Creative Studies at NAISDA Dance College. Recently Frances’s work, Terrain has been selected on the 2019-2021 Higher School Certificate Dance Syllabus. In 2019, Frances returned to Bangarra in the position of Associate Artistic Director.

The Choreographers

Thomas Carsley

Thomas Carsley is a recent graduate from Liverpool Institution for Performing Art. He started choreographing more when starting his training at LIPA and his style of dance and choreography comes from Contemporary/hip hop movement that includes experimentation to express the mood of the whole theme. Thomas also got to the grand final of BBC Young Dancer in 2019 and worked with different mentors including Ivan Blackstock and Kenrick Sandy.

Richard Chappell
Richard Chappell is an internationally renowned choreographer, living in Cardiff. Since 2013, Richard has led his own ensemble Richard Chappell Dance as a platform for his choreographic research and critically acclaimed performance work. Based in both Wales and the South West of England, Richard Chappell Dance creates memorable and moving dance at the forefront of theatre and site responsive performance with prestigious partners including the Royal Opera House, Exeter Northcott, Swindon Dance, DanceEast and Pavilion Dance South West.

Richard's creative process is rooted in collaboration, co-authorship and emotional connectivity. Alongside his close company of dancers, Richard collaborates with a wealth of different artists, including sculptor Anna Gillespie, dramaturg Neus Gil Cortes, composer Sam Hall and the electronic music duo Larch. Richard also loves to work in community settings, creating ambitious choreography for large intergenerational community casts with organisations such as Dance Blast, Dance in Devon and Torbay Culture.

Richard has created work for renowned international dance companies, including Stuttgart Ballet, English National Ballet, Transitions Dance Company and Frontier Danceland (Singapore) and guest lectured at Rambert School, ArtEz Institute of the Arts, Northern School of Contemporary Dance and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (Singapore).

Eleesha Dennan
Eleesha Drennan is an award-winning choreographer, recipient of the Sky Academy Arts scholarship award which launched the formation of Eleesha Drennan Dance in 2014 with the creation Channel Rose.

Eleesha began choreographing while dancing for National Dance Company Wales where she became House Choreographer in 2011, creating Phantoms of Us & Virtual Descent. She was awarded first prize for her performance of 'Whiskers' at the International Solo Dance Theatre Festival, Stuttgart 2012

Eleesha is currently working on a new dance production, All The Time In The World, commissioned by DanceEast with performances at Sadler’s Wells followed by a Welsh tour in 2021.

Further choreographic commissions include:
Studio Wayne McGregor, The Lost Estate, Vanara The Musical, The Place, EDge (LCDS), London College of Fashion, Grace & Growl Dance Company, Maiden Voyage Dance Company, Selfridges, Intoto (London Studio Centre), Fertile Ground, National Youth Dance Wales, RDC Youth, Mathew Herbert, (Ron Arad’s Curtain Call at The Roundhouse, London).

Eleesha is an Inaugural FreeSpace Artist at Studio Wayne McGregor and is supported by Sky Arts, Arts Council England & Arts Council Wales.


Ed Myhill
Originally from London, Ed grew up in Leeds and trained at Hammond Secondary School in Chester, followed by three years at Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. He joined NDCWales as an apprentice in Autumn 2015 and am now a full-time dancer with the Company. Ed has toured extensively across the UK and abroad including works from Alexander Ekman, Roy Assaf and Marcos Morau. In 2018, he created Why Are People Clapping?! with NDCWales as part of Alternative Routes, and later toured as part of the Roots 2019 tour and will be part of the One Another tour in 2021. A shorter digital version of Clapping premiered in the 2020 lockdown.


Aisha Naamani

Before training at London Contemporary Dance School, Aisha grew up in South Wales and was an associate of National Dance Company Wales from 2012-2015. Since moving to London, she has performed works by Richard Alston, Wayne Parsons (Rafael Bonachela), James Cousins and Hofesh Shechter amongst others. Aisha has had some of her own choreographic works shown at The Place and was a scholar of the Peggy Hawkins Scholarship Fund. Aisha joined NDCWales as an apprentice dancer in summer 2018, performing works by Matteo Marfoglia, Mario Bermudez-Gil and Caroline Finn before becoming a company dancer the following year.

Bakani Pick-Up

Bakani is a Choreographer and Dance Artist who creates improvisational works centred around practice and methodology on ‘Ways of Being’ within performative structures. Previous work has been supported by Dance4, Arts Council England, Yorkshire Dance, Kala Sangham Arts Centre & Wainsgate Chapel. 

Faye Tan
Faye was born in Singapore and trained at the Singapore Ballet Academy and School of The Arts before graduating from the Rambert School in London. She then joined Verve, the postgraduate company of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds, performing in works by Anton Lachky, Athina Vahla and Efrosini Protopapa. Faye joined Frontier Danceland (Singapore) in 2016, working with choreographers such as Shahar Binyamini, Thomas Lebrun, Edouard Hue, I-Fen Tung, Annie Vigier and Franck Apertet, amongst a varied pool of other makers. The work Faye did in Singapore also included outreach programmes, coordinating Frontier Danceland's youth dance training programme, teaching, choreographing, digital marketing, videography and photography. In May 2019 Faye worked with Richard Chappell Dance (UK) on Silence Between Waves, performing and working with local residents of various ages and abilities in Devon, before joining NDCWales for Rygbi: Annwyl I mi / Dear to me and subsequently as a company dancer in December 2019.

MJ Willis
Marcus Jarrell Willis has worked professionally with RIOULT, Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, Tania Pérez-Salas Compañía de Danza and Ailey II. Willis performed with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from 2008-2016. He is a YoungArts Level 1 award recipient and Presidential Scholar Nominee.

Willis has presented choreographic works in festivals across the United States and Europe. Commissions and residencies include creations for Ailey II, TU Dance, NY Choreographic Institute, with dancers of New York City Ballet, Company Danzante, Ballet Cymru 2, The Juilliard School, Purchase Conservatory of Dance, The Ailey School, University of Minnesota, Lucia Marthas Institute for the Performing Arts, Rubicon Dance, COCA, Satellite Collective, Dance Gallery Festival Level Up and 92nd Y Dance Introduction Series, among others. Willis is the Founder of MJ Willis Project- Inc, an independent performance collaborative, which made its debut in Wales in 2017, premiering "My Brother, Dear Sister”.

He was named Best Choreographer for TU Dance creation, Sensible Existence in City Pages 2018 Best of the Twin Cities. Willis was the 2018/19 Leverhulme Choreography Fellow at Rambert Dance in London, during which time he completed the solo creation, POM/POM, Portrait of Man/Pieces of Me and created work with selected dancers of Rambert 2. Currently, he is in the collaborative creation process of an evening length duet, The Sanctuary, which will premiere in Cardiff, joining the roster of a growing repertoire for MJ Willis Project-Inc.

National Dance Company Wales launched Laboratori in 2019 in partnership with Groundwork Pro, the Cardiff-based collective of independent dance artists. Laboratori is an opportunity to try new chorographic ideas and ways of working in the hope that, somewhere within the process, something new and unexpected might arise.

“Finding out what doesn’t work is as important as knowing what does.  And having the time to see the potential of something that doesn’t seem to work right now is really useful – and something we don’t always have time for when we’re in our usual rhythm of making a piece of choreography." 

-Fearghus Ó Conchúir.

In 2019, Fearghus invited Lea Anderson to be the first week mentor because of her history of making quirky and visually delightful dance for different kinds of settings, from a cabaret to a gallery. Fearghus also asked Éric Minh Cuong Castaing to be a mentor for the second week, to share some of his experience of working with dance, technologies (like Virtual Reality headsets and drones), and a diversity of performers.

The whole process brings together a number of the things that are important for National Dance Company Wales: to be a place where new ideas can emerge, ideas that in the long run will excite our audiences in Wales and around the world.  We want to support the continued professional development of the artists in our company as well as dance artists in the independent sector in Wales, and we know that part of that professional development comes from making those creative links between us. Since National Dance Company Wales is often on tour, these moments of creative exchange with our dance colleagues in Wales are precious. 

2 images, one of 3 people looking at a piece of paper, the second on someone wearing a vr headset looking to the left
3 pictures, one with a dancer on the floor reaching forward, the middle a dancer on her knees reaching to the sky, the third a dancer running her hand along a curtain