Bristol Community Dance Centre Bristol Community Dance Centre

Bristol Dance Centre was founded in 1976 and is the longest serving dance dedicated organisation in the UK. Conceived and launched by resident dance practitioners, the project began at the Arnolfini. The success of a pilot programme of public and professional classes prompted an urgent search for a permanent home.

After a period in the crypt at St. Mary on the Quay Church the Centre moved into its’ current home, a former Victorian swimming pool in 1979. Though derelict these premises offered a dance space literally the size of a Victorian swimming pool with further potential to develop dance and ancillary facilities.

The motivation to create a dance specialist facility came from dance artists and the Centre’s founder Chair who had been the Chair of Bristol’s Western Theatre Ballet only to see them depart to Scotland due largely to the lack of dance facilities in Bristol. The Company went on to become the Scottish Ballet. Understandably the strategic importance of creating dance specialist facilities was consequently acute.

The public’s response to dancing at the former baths was positive and immediate. Regrettably the condition of the former baths turned out to be worse than either the owners, Bristol City Council, or the Centre had anticipated. In addition to rebuilding the South Wing of the building the Centre “unearthed” an extraordinary historic legacy. The Victorian baths are located on a former Elizabethan theatre in the round. This was reputed to have hosted William Shakespeare’s premier of the Merchant of Venice. The theatre also hosted the Lilliput players who following the mysterious destruction of the theatre moved to King Street to become the Bristol Old Vic.

Despite the ongoing backdrop of building renovations the public continued to wholeheartedly participate in the Centre’s services. Pioneering programmes of world dance and process based Contemporary techniques engaged the public stimulating ever growing interest in participatory dance opportunities. The Centre introduced the then little known dance forms including Salsa, Capoeira and Breakdance throughout the 1980’s. Process based Contemporary techniques including Contact and Release were also eagerly embraced by a wide public, becoming and remaining as popular as worldwide counterparts.

Throughout its’ formative years the Centre developed special relations with touring dance artists and companies including Sue Maclennan and the Kosh. International visiting artists including Mary Fulkerson, Douglas Dunn and Stephen Petronio have augmented the Centre’s programme via workshops and creative residencies. World performance premiers have included Jaleo from Seville, Dance Alliance from the Netherlands and the UK’s own Cholmondeleys. The Centre annually hosts the rehearsals of incoming companies to the Region including the English National Ballet.



Our vision is to complete a truly flexible facility capable of fulfilling a range of dance requirements and of presenting dance performance in many formats which challenge audience preconceptions.