Ailish Claffey is a freelance dance artist, choreographer and curator based in Kildare. Her choreographic work examines the complexity of human relationships and explores the lived experience of those she works with. Co-creating, facilitating and performing lie at the heart of her practice. As Dance Artist in Residence at ACRE Project, Celbridge, Ailish leads ‘Meet & Move 2023’ a weekly intergenerational workshop welcoming all ages and stages.

Ailish worked alongside Philippa Donnellan on ‘Dance Bualadh Bos’ – a dance performance created in collaboration with older communities in Kildare in 2022. The duo performed at venues across Kildare kindly funded by a Creative Ireland Bursary Award. Ailish designed and delivered ‘The Incubator 2022’ in collaboration with Dr Glenna Batson. This new intergenerational hub of co-creation consisted of 5-day movement workshops. Kindly funded by Kildare County Council Arts Service’s Arts, Health & Wellbeing Programme. As the artistic lead for Tipperary Dance Connects Programme 2022, Ailish curated ‘Own Grown Moves’ at Nenagh Arts Centre, presenting new dance work co-created with the Age in Movement group.

Ailish has worked within the community in the context of Dance for Health for the last 20 years. Ailish has worked with groups ranging from women prisoners at HMP Holloway Prison (Dance United) to adults engaged in rehabilitation (Eve New Horizons, Tallaght) to the young male (The Arts Council Ireland’s Community Dance Artist in Residence (DAR award) for Kerry County Council). Committed to developing both accessibility and visibility to the art of dance within communities, Ailish has designed and delivered many large-scale projects including H.S.E. Dublin, Kerry Local Sports Partnership, V.E.C. Kilkenny, South Dublin County Council, Bealtaine Festival, Dublin Dance Festival, Enable Ireland, St. John of God’s, Stewarts Care, Dance Ireland, Macushla Dance Club, Wicklow County Council, Youths at Risk among others.

Ailish was based in the Age-Related Health Care Unit (2015 – 2019) as Dance Artist in Residence at The National Centre for Arts and Health, Tallaght University Hospital (TUH), kindly funded by South Dublin County Council and The Arts Council, Ireland where she worked one on one with patients affected by dementia. Dr Hilary Moss cited this work in her paper for a special arts-based edition of the Journal of Dementia entitled ‘Narratives of Heath and Illness: artists residencies exploring the lived experience of dementia’. Ailish designed and delivered the dance programme to those attending the Age-Related Day Hospital and worked in collaboration with the physiotherapy department in relation to Falls Prevention, Parkinson’s Disease and Stroke Rehabilitation. After a rich collaboration with lead stroke physiotherapist Gillian Harte, supported by Gerontologist Prof Desmond O’Neill, Claffey and Harte share their experience outlining what is required to create successful collaboration within a medical context in Age and Ageing, Oxford Journal titled ‘Dance Artist and Physiotherapist Collaboration in Stroke Rehabilitation.’

Ailish’s dance film documentary The Dance Back Home received a Certificate of Excellence from the HSE Excellence Awards (2018). The film was commissioned by South Dublin Co. Co. and made in collaboration with visual artist Deirdre Glenfield in association with The National Centre for Arts and Health. Ailish’s solo Between Spirit and Skin, created in response to working in the Age-Related Health Care Unit, was performed at RUA RED Gallery as part of Oil & Water (June 2016) and programmed as part of Culture Night and Soundwaves Festival (2016).

Ailish designed and delivered Dance for Health workshops as part of the Arts and Health Module to first-year medical students at Trinity College Dublin (2018 | 2019) in collaboration with The National Centre for Arts and Health. Designed and delivered Dance for Health workshops as part of the Arts in Healthcare module to first-year nursing students at Dublin City University (2017 | 2018 | 2019) in collaboration with Deirdre Glenfield and Dr Breige Casey, Head of School of Nursing and Human Sciences. Emergence Mentoring Choreographer, NOISE Moves Youth Dance Festival (2018 | 2019), an initiative of South Dublin County Council’s Arts Office with the support of RUA RED, the Civic Theatre, and the Arts Council, Ireland. Ailish delivered workshops as part of the Young Dance Audiences Pilot Project, Dublin Dance Festival and NOISE Dublin, South Dublin County Council’s Youth Arts Programme supported by RUA RED (2013).

Dance Artist in Residence at RUA RED, South Dublin Arts Centre (2018 – 2019), funded by The Arts Council’s DAR Award and South Dublin County Council with support from Kildare County Council and The National Centre for the Arts. Ailish created and produced RAW, an evening of work presented at RUA RED Gallery Space (2018). Raw Portraits is a series of intimate films that celebrate ageing and the beauty of vulnerability. Resonating Raw live performance based on the poem ‘The Grief’ which was featured in the poetry collection, The Healing Station by the writer in residence at TUH (2013), Michael McCarthy. This work features a large diverse cast of 12 professionals and non-professionals, including a participant since day one of Claffey’s dance classes for people with Parkinson’s Disease, ex-professional ballerina Joanna Banks and comedian Leonie McDonagh among many others.

Curator (2016 | 2018 and 2023) Kildare Dance and Movement Summer School including the Dance for Health Seminars (Arts Council Invitation to Collaboration Scheme 2018) with leading Irish and International practitioners including Peter Lewton-Brain (Belgium), Director of International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS), Dr Jenny Elliot (Ire), CEO Arts Care, Dr Richard Coaten (UK), founder of the world’s first ‘Centre for Excellence in Movement, Dance and Dementia’ and Candoco (UK) among others.

As Dance Artist in Residence at McAuley Place, Naas, Ailish worked closely with Arts and Wellbeing Specialist, Carolann Courtney for Kildare County Council designing and delivering projects including Dance Unlimited (2018) ‘Meet and Move’ delivered in collaboration with Dr Glenna Batson as part of HSE Healthy Ireland. Co-curator and producer of the Dance for Health and Wellbeing symposium, Sensing Movement, in collaboration with The National Centre for Arts and Health. Co-curator of Last Night a DJ Saved My Life – a symposium concerned with men, movement, and mental health as part of First Fortnight Festival (2019) among others.

Founder and lead artist of Dance classes for People with Parkinson’s Disease at Dance House (2015 – 2019) kindly supported by Dance Ireland, Ailish continues her professional development including teacher training with David Leventhal, Mark Morris Dance Company, (NYC), renowned Functional Anatomist Irene Dowd (NYC), Dance for Cancer Care, Arts4Dementia, Theatre Directing (NUIM) among others.  Co-founder of HAVOC Dance and Co-director of Claffey | Christofi Dance, Ailish’s choreographic work and collaborations have been performed internationally including New York, Boston, Pennsylvania, Canada, Sweden, Bulgaria & Scotland in addition to various national venues including The Project Arts Centre (Dublin) & The Firkin Crane (Cork). Ailish has worked professionally with choreographers including Irish Modern Dance Theatre (Ire), Sara Rudner (NYC), Anneke Hansen Dance (NYC), Charlie Morrissey (UK), Laura Murphy (Ire), Shannon Cooney (Berlin), Philippa Donnellan (Ire), Cathy Coughlan (Ire) and Daria Fain (NYC). Having completed numerous artistic residencies both nationally and internationally, Ailish’s choreographic work has been performed as part of The Dublin Dance Festival, The Dublin Fringe Festival, Bealtaine, The Kinsale Arts Festival, Green Ribbon Week, Abundance Festival (Sweden) among others.

Ailish has been the recipient of awards including The Daghdha Mentoring Programme (2007), Community Dance Artist in Residence, Kerry County Council (2008), Dance Ireland Choreographic Mentoring Award (2009), Dance Ireland Choreographic Bursary Award (2010), The Arts Council Ireland, Travel and Training Award (2009 | 2011 | 2018 ), Culture Ireland Award (2012 | 2013), Community Dance Award, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (2013), Dance Artist in Residence, McAuley Place, Naas, Kildare County Council (2017), Dance Artist in Residence, The National Centre for Arts and Health, Tallaght University Hospital (2015 – 2022), The Arts Council Ireland DAR Award, RUA RED South Dublin Arts Centre (2018), The Arts Council, Agility Award (2021) The Arts Council Ireland, Dance Bursary Award (2022), Platform 31 (2022), Kildare Creative Bursary Award (2022), Artist in Residence Award, ACRE Project, Celbridge, Kildare County Council Arts Service (2022-2023).

Ailish’s work has been kindly supported by Dance Ireland, The Arts Council, Ireland, Culture Ireland, Kildare Co. Council, South Dublin Co. Council, The Meath Foundation, The National Centre for Arts and Health, Shawbrook Dance Centre, Fishamble: The New Play Company, Ten Gates Dancing (Canada), The Candy Factory (Pennsylvania), among others.


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