Meet the Youth Dance England:

YDE Staff

Linda Jasper MBE, Director

Linda JasperAs Director of Youth Dance England, Linda Jasper is responsible, with the Board of Trustees, for the overall direction and management of the organisation.

Trained originally as a dancer and a teacher of dance, before starting Youth Dance England in 2004 she was Director of South East Dance, a national dance agency with a brief for dance for the screen and regional dance development. She was Senior Professional Training Tutor for the University of Surrey’s Department of Dance Studies in the 1990s and initiated and managed a county-wide dance programme through Berkshire County Council in the 1980s. In 2011 she was awarded a MBE for services to dance and in 2014 an Honorary Doctor of Arts from De Montfort University. She has served on various Arts Council panels and committees, was Chair of the Foundation for Community Dance (1992-1998) and Vice Chair of Culture South East (2005- 2009).


Claire Somerville, Programme Manager

Claire oversees YDE’s national programmes, including U.Dance, Young Creatives and the Dance Ambassador scheme. She plays a central role in developing and delivering various projects and events, namely the inspiring Young Creatives performances and the national festivals which form YDE’s flagship annual events; the next one of which will be U.Dance 2015, taking place in Plymouth from 22nd to 25th July.

Claire gained a First Class Hons degree in Performing Arts, before going on to study Contemporary Dance at TrinityLaban. She has worked in a range of arts and dance organisations in the East of England and London and has worked at YDE since 2008.



Rachel Nash, Projects and Administration Officer

Rachel is responsible for assisting and supporting on the delivery of YDE’s participatory programmes, including U.Dance, Young Creatives and the Dance Ambassador scheme. She is also responsible for dealing with the administration of the office and the National Dance Teachers Association CPD courses.

Rachel Nash graduated from Roehampton University in 2012, with a BA Hons in Dance Studies. She has interned on various events, including Dance: Make Your Move, and with several dance organisations such as Dance Umbrella and Move It & Perform. In addition to these roles Rachel also worked for the Barbican Arts Centre and as a Project Assistant for Dance Woking.


Vivian Tierney, Finance Manager

Vivian TierneyViv previously worked for Tate & Lyle for thirty years, twelve years of which were spent in Bermuda as Treasurer of Tate & Lyle Reinsurance, and the remainder in England where he was Financial Controller of the Tate & Lyle Pension Scheme and Secretary to the Trustees. He took early retirement in 2008 but realised he wasn't quite ready for that yet and joined YDE as the Finance Manager in June 2009.

At YDE Viv has responsibility for managing all financial operations of the organisation. Contact Viv for any finance-related queries.



Fern Potter, Head of Development & Strategy YDE, Dance UK, ADAD

Fern has been providing fundraising and development expertise for the dance sector for nearly 20 years, following a career as a professional dance artist. She specialises in developing organisations and implementing strategic frameworks for effective fundraising. In her current role, Fern is working for Dance UK, Youth Dance England and the Association of Dance of the African Diaspora.







Erin Brown-John, Digital Marketing and Membership Officer

Erin is responsible for digital marketing and member services at Youth Dance England.

Erin completed her BA in Communication at Simon Fraser University in 2010, with a focus on cultural policy and sustainable community development. She has worked in marketing and community engagement roles with a number of non-profit arts and advocacy organisations, including the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Arts Council, R2R Film Festival for Youth, Museum of Vancouver and OpenMedia. She is a Fellow of the Canadian Gemmological Association, a member of VIVO Media Arts and the Vancouver Experimental Theremin Orchestra.


Mariana Rocha, General Manager

Mariana gained a BA in Dance from the  Faculty of Human Kinetics (University of Lisbon, Portugal) and a MA in Contemporary Performance Art from Brunel University, London. She has worked in Events, Engagement Projects, Fundraising and Volunteering with different charities and is now responsible for Dance UK Corporate membership and is the General Manager for One Dance UK.




Hollie McGill, Administrator

Awaiting Information

YDE Board of Directors 

The Board of directors comprises Chairman Richard Alston CBE and 5 trustees and directors. 

Richard Alston CBE, Chair

Richard Alston choreographed his first work as one of the original students at the London School of Contemporary Dance. He went on to choreograph for London Contemporary Dance Theatre before forming this country’s first independent dance company, Strider, in 1972. In 1975 he left for New York to study at the Merce Cunningham Dance Studio and on his return two years later worked throughout the UK and Europe as an independent choreographer and teacher.

In 1980 Alston was appointed Resident Choreographer with Ballet Rambert and became the company’s Artistic Director from 1986-1992. During his time there he created 25 works for Rambert besides being commissioned to create works for the Royal Danish Ballet (1982) and the Royal Ballet (1983).

In 1992 Alston was invited to create a full evening of his own work for the Ballet Atlantique based in La Rochelle, France. He made another full evening for London Contemporary Dance Theatre at the 1994 Aldeburqh Festival and it was therefore a logical step to go on to form his own company, which he did when he took up the post of Artistic Director of The Place in 1994.

The Richard Alston Dance Company was launched at The Place in November of that year. Over the past fifteen years Alston has made over 30 pieces for this company. Alston was made an honorary Doctor of Philosophy (in Dance) at Surrey University in 1992 and in 2003 he received an honorary MA from University College Chichester. In 1995 he was named Chevalier dans I’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in recognition of his work in France and in 2001 he received the CBE in the New Year Honours list.

In June 2009 he was appointed Chair of Youth Dance England.


Trustees and Directors:


Andrew Carrick, Director

Andrew Carrick is Director of education consultancy EdComs, advisers to many prestige organisations (public, private and third sector) on their successful engagement with education. His work currently focuses on creating effective educational marketing strategies and campaigns, leading educational technology innovation, as well as producing award-winning programmes and websites for clients.

Andrew “discovered” dance relatively late when by chance he attended a dance rehearsal and was smitten. He has lost no time in embracing every opportunity to experience new and old works since “Day Zero” and champions dance with all the passion of a “convert”. Andrew is particularly interested in the opportunities for expanding the role of dance in schools. In his spare time he is an enthusiastic supporter of contemporary dance, music and theatre.

Andrew has served as governor in both primary and secondary schools, trustee for children’s charity Childhope and as a coach for Teach First. He is a History graduate of Oxford and Sheffield universities and King’s College London.


Will Hutchinson, Director

Will originally qualified as a lawyer, training at City law firm Slaughter and May before joining media firm Olswang. Following two years in a film financing and production company, Will worked at the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) where he was a key member of the executive teams responsible for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and Cultural Olympiad for the 2012 Games. Will has recently started a role as Head of Ceremonies Business and Culture Programme for the first European Games, to be held in Baku in 2015. 


Christopher Nourse, Director

Christopher Nourse is a specialist in dance management. Currently a freelance consultant, he holds part-time positions as Executive Director of The Frederick Ashton Foundation and Project Manager for the annual Dance Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. He was part-time Administrator of the National Dance Awards 2005 – 2010 and previously has been Administrative Director of Sadler’s Wells/Birmingham Royal Ballet, where he oversaw the Company’s move from Sadler’s Wells to the Birmingham Hippodrome, Executive Director of Rambert Dance Company, and Managing Director of English National Ballet, working with these companies throughout the UK and overseas. He also worked for many years at the Royal Opera House, latterly on the senior management team as Assistant to the General Director, with special planning responsibilities, and then as Administrative Director of the ROH Trust.

Born in Salisbury, Christopher was educated at Hurstpierpoint College, the University of Edinburgh (LL.B) and the Inns of Court School of Law. In addition to his non-executive directorship of Youth Dance England, Christopher’s voluntary posts include the Chairmanship of the Dancers’ Pension Scheme and Lead Trustee of the Dame Margot Fonteyn Scholarship Fund. He is also a Trustee of the Cecchetti Society Trust and a Governor of ‘The Royal Ballet’ (The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Royal Ballet School). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.


Susannah Simons, Director

Susannah Simons is currently Director of Strategy at Showcase and freelance arts strategist. Until November 2013 she was Head of Development at The Space a pilot project developed as part of the BBC's Public Value Partnership with Arts Council England and a senior strategist for BBC Radio and Music . She began her career in broadcasting as a presenter, presenting the PM programme on Radio 4 for 10 years , Today and The World at One ; Channel 4's Business Daily and in 1992 she helped set up Classic FM . She returned to the BBC in 2002 as Head of Policy and Outreach for BBC Radio and Music. 

She was Chairman of the National Youth Dance Company for 2 years having served on the board for 10. She is also on the board of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and is an advisor to Artis, a company looking at new ways of providing arts education in Primary schools. 


Richard Thom, Company Secretary

Richard Thom joined the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) in 1988 and was appointed Director of Finance and Administration in 1991. Graduating in 1972 with an Honours degree in Business and Administration from the University of Portsmouth, he qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1976 and became a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales in 1982.

Prior to joining the RAD, Richard worked in the oil, shipping and automobile industries with Saudi Aramco in Saudi Arabia and then with Inchcape Group companies in Japan and Guam. MI.
He represented the RAD on the Council of Dance Education and Training's Awarding Body Committee and in the 1990s was the Chairman of the Registration Board, as well as Honorary Treasurer. He has written business articles for the RAD's publications and for the Dancing Times, written From Ballet to Business (first published 1999) for distribution to RAD members and written a series of Members' Briefings on topics such as Buying and Selling a School, VAT and the Dance Teacher.

He has arranged collaborations with the RAD and third party organisations such as National Westminster Bank Plc. and Computer Software Group in piloting international payment schemes and software developments. He is, in addition to Company Secretary for Youth Dance England, a Director of Royal Academy of Dance Enterprises Ltd., Royal Academy of Dance asbl, RAD Dancing (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd., RAD Dancing (Thailand) Co Ltd and Royal Academy of Dance Singapore Pte Ltd.


YDE Patrons

Arlene Phillips CBE

Arlene Phillips



“I am delighted to be associated with YDE, the first national organisation to encourage all young people to dance. I am passionate about dance and would like to see all young people enjoying it and getting as much out of dancing as I do.”

Read Arlene Phillips' biography




 Kymberlee Jay

Kymberlee Jay

“I am honoured to be a patron for Youth Dance England. It has been my life-long goal to encourage as many young people as possible to become involved in and inspired by dance - an art form that has had a huge impact on my life. I look forward to working with Youth Dance England and communicating with even more young people, all of whom have the potential to achieve something great - not only within dance but also within their lives.”

                                          Read Kymberlee Jay's biography.

Carlos Acosta CBE

Carlos Acosta

“As patron of Youth Dance England I support its mission to provide the opportunity for every child and young person to dance. Dancing is my life and I know the benefits that I have gained through being given the opportunity to dance. I am passionate about dance and through my association with YDE, want to share this passion with young people across the country.

Read Carlos Acosta's biography.

YDE Alumni

Find out about some of the young people who have been involved with Youth Dance England.


Alexa Mason

Alexa MasonI began choreographing duets with a friend after having danced with Retina Dance Company at a Retina Springs workshop. This is where I first realised my passion for dance and choreography. We both soon became members of the Retina Youth Dance Company and continued to choreograph and perform our own duets. We entered YDE Young Creatives in 2009 and had the opportunity to perform our own work in the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Soon after this experience I performed alongside Retina Dance Company in Belgium. I then began training with the Centre for Advanced Training at Dance4 in 2010 where I was offered the chance to be a member on the judging panel representing the Young Creatives for a YDE competition. After this I joined Lewisham College for a year where I did an Access to Higher Education Dance course before moving to Falmouth to study Dance and Choreography. During this time I worked with Katie Green (Made by Katie Green) after entering another Young Choreographers competition and had the amazing opportunity to choreograph a 10 minute duet on two of Katie's professional dancers. My duet 'Oxygen' was performed at The Place Prize awards alongside Katie's own choreography 'Matters of Life and Death.' This gave me a huge insight into the world and methods of professional choreography and inspired me to continue creating work. After Debi Hedderwick saw my work I was selected, along with others to be a commissioned choreographer and performer as part of the Wirksworth Festival in 2012 and 2013 which gave me the chance and space to explore my ideas further in a professional environment and a chance to perform this to an audience. I am currently studying for 5 months at the HAMU Dance institution in Prague as an exchange student, studying classical Ballet, Contemporary techniques and Choreography before I return to Falmouth to complete my course. YDE Young Creatives was a great start to my Young Choreographic career.

Freya Thomas

FreyaMy first involvement with YDE was in 2010 when I took part in the Young Creatives programme in London in which I entered a duet. This was an incredible experience and gave me my first taste of working within a creative environment. In 2011 I was chosen to be part of the 'Dance Futures' project at the Royal Opera House where I had the amazing opportunity to choreograph a piece using dancers from The Royal Ballet. During this project I was mentored by Wayne McGregor and was fortunate to have his long term collaborator, Lucy Carter, design the lighting for my piece. It was very surreal seeing my work on the main stage of The Royal Opera House but an experience I will never forget. Since this project I have been studying at Northern School of Contemporary Dance and have been continuing with my own choreographic work taking a focus towards the realm of performance art. I am in my final year of my degree and have recently attained a job with choreographer Willi Dorner this year as part of 'Bodies in Urban Spaces', an outdoor performance taking place in Bangor, Wales. YDE was a great way for me to get my foot in the door of contemporary dance and I would recommend any young dancer or aspiring choreographer to take part in their programmes as it will definitely benefit your career!


Abi Taylor

Abi TI became involved with Youth Dance England when I took part in the pilot ‘Young Dance Entrepreneur’ programme (afterwards called ‘Stride!’) in 2008. At the time, I was doing regular work experience at Dancefest in Worcestershire and I was encouraged to apply. I had a great year being a Young Dance Entrepreneur and more recently, everything I learned about project management was very useful when I completed my Final Major Project at university.

I stayed in touch with Youth Dance England during my gap year where I worked with the Youth Dance Team at DanceXchange in Birmingham. I did lots of exciting things during my gap year including helping to run the ‘Youth Forum West Midlands’, working on a project called ‘Snap Dance’ and helping out with ‘U.Dance 2010’ when it came to Birmingham Hippodrome.

I’ve recently completed my ‘Dance Making and Performance’ degree at Coventry University and I’m looking forward to getting back out into the Youth Dance world. All of my work with Dancefest, DanceXchange and Youth Dance England has provided me with some excellent opportunities to gain lots of valuable experience. My passion is for teaching and project management work. I love the balance between contact time with young people and organising and running a successful project. This is the type of work I’m hoping to go into in the future.

Celina Liesegang

Celina LI began performing at a very young age, singing, acting and dancing but it wasn’t until secondary school that I was introduced to contemporary dance. I was a founding member of Kinetic Dance Company, and later joined Shift Youth Dance Company, which was where I first found out about YDE. With both companies I was involved in a number of YDE performances including Rumble and U. Dance. In 2011 my proposal for a piece was accepted for the Young Creatives programme. The same year I applied for the London Contemporary Dance School and am now in my second year. Since Young Creatives I have been both choreographing and performing in collaboration with a visual artist, presenting our work in venues such as St. James Hatcham, V22 and the Victoria & Albert Museum. For our most recent collaboration we made a short dance film, which premiered at the South London Gallery.

Tom Bowes

Tom BowesTom’s involvement with Youth Dance England started when he performed in the 2007 and 2008 National Youth Dance Festival as part of Cheshire Youth Dance Company at The Lowry, Manchester and Sadler’s Wells, London. As part of the 2008 festival, his choreography was performed at the first ever Young Creatives platform at the Purcel Room in the South Bank Centre, London. Following this, Tom was invited to speak at the All Party Dance Group Parliamentary Meeting for Youth Dance England. Tom trained at Roehampton University, London graduating in 2011 with a first class honours degree, where he co-directed and performed in Third Row Dance Company. Tom furthered his training at Trinity Laban receiving an MA in Dance Performance with merit. He danced in Transitions Dance Company’s 2012 national and international tour around the UK, Italy and Denmark. Tom is involved in Youth Dance; assisting on the Trinity Laban Centre For Advanced Training (CAT) scheme and as a dance practitioner on the CAT Outreach programme. Tom has worked with many youth dance companies including Richmond Youth Dance Company and Homegrown Youth Dance Company, choreographing works that were performed around the UK including Wandsworth Arts Festival and U.Dance. Tom has his own dance company Tom Bowes Dance, a newly developed collective that presents his creative work. The company is based in London and the North West of England, consisting of highly skilled and exceptional dancers and collaborators from around the globe. They provide contemporary dance performance, theatre and educational programmes. Tom and his company are currently involved in a number of independent projects that involve performing, teaching and making contemporary dance.

Declan Whitaker

DeclanIn 2011 Declan took part in YDE's Young Creatives platform which he said was a wonderful and rewarding experience. At the time he was training on a foundation course at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance but is now training at London Contemporary Dance School on the BA. Since Young Creatives he have been involved in a number of really exciting projects. In July of 2011 he was invited to perform at Dance Futures, an event that showcased Youth Dance alongside works by Wayne McGregor and dancers of the Royal Ballet. He performed his solo Overtone which was his Young Creatives piece. Declan described his Young Creatives experience: "it was incredible to perform on the main stage of the Royal Opera House in a programme filled with some of the biggest names in dance". In Janurary 2012, he was presented with another opportunity to perform Overtone. I was invited by Monica Mason and Wayne McGregor to perform in Draftworks - the Royal Ballet company's choreographic platform: "This was a thrilling experience and one that I am truly grateful for. Dancing my solo again at the Linbury nearly a year after I originally performed it on the same stage gave me a huge sense of progression and a chance to develop as a performer in the company of some inspirational artists." He is currently creating a piece on members of the Royal Ballet - which to him is a real dream come true. Declan says: "I have been very lucky but am sure that these great opportunities would not have arisen if I hadn't made the decision to post my application to Young Creatives!"

Chris Scott

Chris ScottChris first got involved with Youth Dance England through participating in the National Youth Dance Festival 2007 at the Lowry, dancing with Berkshire Youth Dance Company and Fuzzy Logic. He went on to perform again in a YDE National Festival in London the following year. In 2009, Chris was offered the opportunity to become a YDE National Young Dance Ambassador, a role which he was actively involved with for 3 years. During his time as Ambassador, Chris performed at the 2009 YDE Conference and the following year got to speak and interview Ed Vaizey MP on stage for YDE. Chris has had the opportunity to engage, inspire and talk to many young people about dance and the work of YDE all around the country, but also internationally in Australia and Taiwan.

Chris graduated from London Contemporary Dance School in July 2012. During his training he was awarded the Lisa-Ullman travelling scholarship to visit and train with companies in Australia. He also had the opportunity to participate in an exchange programme with training for five months at SUNY Purchase College in New York. Through Chris’ work and interest in young people and dance, he was invited by the World Dance Alliance and Dance and the Child International to be a key-note speaker at their 2012 international summit in Taipei, Taiwan. Chris is currently dancing and touring as an apprentice with National Dance Company Wales, whilst undertaking a post-grad diploma through London Contemporary Dance School.

Chris gave a speech at The 1st Global Dance Summit in July 2012 on Young People, Education, and Dance Training. A modified version of his speech was published in the Hong Kong Dance Journal. Read it here

Jessica Wilson

Jessica WilsonSince graduating from Middlesex University in July 2012, Jessica has been working as Marketing and Communications Assistant for the Royal Academy of Dance whilst still keeping up with the practical side of dance. This ideal combination has meant that she can be involved with 2 different sides of the dance world, contributing in different ways. She also writes for Dance Direct, the dancewear specialist, contributing blog posts each week to the site in addition to guest posts for other dance and theatre websites. Being able to write about dance has been very rewarding as it has reinforced her dance knowledge gained during her 3 years at university and has also enabled her to keep up-to-date with the ever-evolving dance sector. In addition to Dance Direct, she is also Assistant Editor of4dancers and contribute to TheatreFix and A Younger Theatre. She recently joined Rambert's youth dance company Quicksilver, and looks forward to what it will bring to her dance life.

Jessica performed at Refresh at The Place in February and continues to extend her dance writing by being one of the Resolution! reviewers for the season at The Place. She also performed in March with The Chelmsford Ballet Company in Coppelia as one of Swanilda's friends. 2013 is busy with rehearsals and writing already but it's the way I like it!


James Cousins

James CousinsJames first got involved with YDE during the National Youth Dance Festival 2007 when he performed at The Lowry as part of Berkshire Youth Dance Company. He returned the following year with the same company to perform at the National Festival in London, and stayed in touch with YDE from then on. In 2010, we offered him the chance to become a National Young Dance Ambassador which he took to heart and which allowed him to play an active role in YDE's Conference in September 2010 amongst other things.

During this time James had started studying at London Contemporary Dance School, and when he graduated he was selected by Matthew Bourne to dance in Swan Lake, which sent him touring around the world with Bourne's company New Adventures. James recently started his own company, James Cousins Dance, of which he is the choreographer, and has also won the inaugural New Adventures Awards prize through which he will receive choreographic mentoring from Matthew Bourne himself. These additional commitments have unfortunately meant James has had to give up his position as National Young Dance Ambassador, but we are delighted he has been able to develop his talent and work with such fantastic people until now, and we wish him all the best for the future.

James Wilton

James WiltonJames first got involved with Youth Dance England through Cornwall Youth Dance Company at YDE's National Youth Dance Festival 2006 at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. James has remained in contact with Youth Dance England ever since and has acted as a mentor for YDE young creatives in 2011 as well as acting as a programme assistant on U.Dance England 2010 in Birmingham.

During his training at London Contemporary Dance School two of James' works were toured nationally and internationally with LC3. Upon graduating his student work Drift was re-worked for touring with Scottish Dance Theatre and still remains in the repertoire.
James' first professional choreography The Shortest Day was the winner of the 2010 Sadler's Wells Global Dance Contest and the Audience Award for Best Choreography at the 16MASDANZA choreography competition in Spain. The work has been seen live by over 10,000 people since its creation.

James has been the recipient of numerous awards including a BBC Performing Arts Fellowship in partnership with Swindon Dance, the Blueprint Bursary through East London Dance and Sadler's Wells and has also been commissioned by EDge, Opera Graz and Northern School of Contemporary Dance.

Ella Thiele

EllaElla first got involved in YDE in 2007 as part of Cheshire Youth Dance Company (CYDC) and performed at the Lowry after a week long residential. In 2008 she returned performing in the National Youth Dance Festival in London with CYDC and with her own choreography for YDE's first Young Creatives project. Her work was performed in the Purcell Room at Queen Elizabeth Hall with feedback from The Ballet Boyz. Ella has been in contact with YDE ever since assisting in the 'All Party Dance Group Parliamentary Meeting' in 2008 and the 2009 YDE Conference. 

Ella pursued her professional training at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance graduating in 2011, during which she worked with choreographers such as Gary Lambert, Lizzie Kew Ross and performed works at the Southbank. She also worked intensively with Valarie Preston-Dunlop and Alison Curtis-Jones performing in the recreation of Laban's 'Nacht', as well as continuing to create her own work. Ella went on to become 'Trinity Laban Student Union President.’ Alongside this position she makes time to do Arts events management, community projects working for Wayne Mc Gregor|Random Dance as part of BIG Dance 2012, will be teaching choreography workshops within ‘Most Mira Youth Arts Festival‘ in Bosnia, and also performing in the Olympics Ceremonies 2012.


Youth Dance England are not currently recruiting.


One Dance UK is recruiting.



Volunteers required:

We are seeking highly experienced dance education professionals to join our

Expert Panel: Children and Young People’s Dance.

One Dance UK is the new industry body formed of the bringing together four dance organisations: Association of Dance of the African Diaspora (ADAD), Dance UK, National Dance Teachers Association (NDTA) and Youth Dance England (YDE).

If you are interested in playing a key role in informing the direction of the organisation’s work with children and young people in and beyond schools, please apply to become a member of the panel.

Application deadline – 22.2.16 by 10 am.

See here for more information.

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