First Foot Forward: New Residency with Percussive Dance Artist Nic Gareiss Launches

Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland and The University of Edinburgh launches




A new tailor-made residency with international percussive dance artist Nic Gareiss

bringing research, creative dance-making and communities together


A national call out to reconnect with the custom of First Footing this New Year


Nic Gareiss voted Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2019


On Monday 10 December, The Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland (TDFS) and The University of Edinburgh – Institute for Sport, Physical Education & Health Sciences, Moray House School of Education, and School of Scottish Studies Archive – successful launched First Footing, a new nationwide, seven-month residency with international percussive dance artist and dance researcher Nic Gareiss.

The project’s foundation is a collaborative residency programme for dance and music practitioners across traditional and contemporary practices. The inaugural First Foot, Nic Gareiss, will work with TDFS to develop and implement vital collaborations spanning traditional arts organisations, educational institutions, dance agencies and community groups committed to the renewal of the Scottish step dance tradition.

A rolling programme of engagement and professional development opportunities will be delivered across Scotland in collaboration with local partners.

First Footing is the Scottish custom of the first person of the year to cross a home’s threshold. The First Foot usually carries a gift and is seen as a bringer of good luck and prosperity for the year to come. It’s relaxed, it’s personal, and it works to build meaningful connections between neighbours. This is what the residency aspires to – to open new conversations and build relationships that bring deeper levels of engagement, connectivity and support for Scotland’s dance traditions.

First Footing is keen to hear from First Foots across Scotland who are passing on the gift of dance this New Year and encourage dancers to share their dance traditions using the hashtag #FirstFootingDance.

Pia Walker, Convenor, Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland said: “The Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland is delighted that this first long-term residency has been taken-up by the talented Nic Gareiss. His unique understanding of and technical skill in percussive dance forms will promote and highlight Scottish step dancing and the many other types of Scottish traditional dance forms. The Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland want this residency to be the start of many more collaborative projects with many more partners nationwide, enabling us all to raise the awareness of the wonderful tapestry of Scottish dance to practitioners, the public and the world.”

The residency builds on previous work of the TDFS and The University of Edinburgh to collectively apply experience of teaching and learning dance and knowledge of the creative value of Scotland’s cultural traditions to charter new routes that connect artists, educators and academics.

First Foot Nic Gareiss will use primary and practice-based research in creatively exploring the embodied possibilities of the look and sound of Scottish step dance. This process will imbue the life of the residency through creative exchange and dialogue across dance and music communities.

Professor Rowena Arshad, Head of Moray House School of Education said: “Research tells us that dance enriches children’s lives; doctors now even advocate ‘social prescribing’ of dance classes to benefit health and well-being. What better way than to promote health, wellbeing and creativity in education that through a dance form that originates in Scotland. We are indeed really excited to host internationally acclaimed percussive dancer, Nic Gareiss, as dance artist in residence at Moray House School of Education.”

An important element of the residency, delivered in partnership with Fèisean nan Gàidheal, will engage grassroots communities in an outreach learning and professional development programme. This will include community performance and open workshops as well as masterclass for step dance teachers towards enlivening the tradition through the fèisean movement.

Nicola Simpson, Senior Development Officer, Fèisean nan Gàidheal said: “Fèisean nan Gàidheal is delighted to be working in partnership with the TDFS to support the First Footing Dance Residency and create new opportunities for fèisean to engage with traditional dance. I am sure Nic’s energy and enthusiasm for percussive dance will be a great source of inspiration both to fèis participants and step-dance tutors across the country and we look forward to seeing how the project develops over the coming months.”

Nic Gareiss is a percussive dance artist, musician and dance researcher. His work re-imagines movement as a musical practice, recasting dance as medium that appeals to both eyes and ears. He draws from many percussive dance traditions to weave together a dance technique facilitating his love of improvisation, traditional footwork vocabulary and musical collaboration.

Next to the launch of First Footing it was announced on Monday 10 December that Nic Gareiss was selected Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2019. An annual international list of leading young dancers and choreographers that represent the future of dance.

Paul Burns, Interim Head of Dance, Creative Scotland said: “Creative Scotland is pleased to be supporting the First Footing Dance Residency project, and this valuable investigation of the important social and culture history of Scottish traditional dance. The residency provides an opportunity for the Scottish dance community to learn from an internationally recognized step dance practitioners, and to deepen our understanding of the wider links this form of dance has across the globe.”


Examples of First Footing opportunities will include:

  • Community performances and open workshops
  • Masterclasses for percussive dance artists
  • Collaborative workshops for dancers and musicians
  • Residential week of workshops on “The Art of Treepling”
  • One-to-one artist development sessions
  • Festival and concert appearances
  • Free sharings of work-in-progress


Calendar of bookable events
This calendar will be updated throughout the residency as and when engagement opportunities are finalised with local partners.

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For more information contact:
Michelle Brady, Dance Network Co-ordinator, Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland | 0131 558 8137