Sowing the seeds of international traditional dance in Scotland at springtime

Pomegranates festival 25 March-1 May 2023

featuring nearly 60 artists from across the world delivering workshops, shows, talks, tours and films

an inititaive of Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland established in 2022 as part of Edinburgh Tradfest

curated by Iliyana Nedkova, Wendy Timmons and Eleanor Sinclair

For all festival details and Duets – the festival exhibition of dance and drawing by Gabriel Schmitz, including how to book your tickets on Pay What You Can basis, please follow https://linktr.ee/pomegranatesfest

#pomegranates #traddance #dancearoundtheworld https://linktr.ee/pomegranatesfest

For the curatorial story of Pomegranates 2022, just scroll below

The story of the the inuagural Pomegranates festival 28-29 April 2022


Is the new certainty


Is the new stability

And language’s ability

To comprehend

Is starting to bend

And crack.

Ian McMillan


Over the past decades, uncertainty, displacement and border restrictions have become a concern for almost everyone – but especially for those, including traditional dance artists, who have migrated away from their countries and have adopted Scotland as their new home.

There is a long history of Scotland welcoming refugees, migrants and international artists, who have enriched its artistic production planting the seeds of diverse cultures. Over the past century in particular, Scotland has attracted waves of European and international artists, who came initially to seek refuge or to study and then chose to remain.

In an age of rising nationalism, it is important to celebrate and amplify the contributions of creative immigrants in Scotland. Whether they migrated from overseas, or are first- or second-generation immigrants born in the UK, these are artists whose family histories or migratory experiences have enriched both their practice and the wider Scottish artistic panorama.

As our culture continues to diversify, so do the definitions of traditional dance and Scottishness. Inspired by the vibrant contemporary artistic landscape of Scotland, Pomegranates 2022 set out to plant the seeds for a new festival marking International Dance Day every 29 April with in-person and online events across Edinburgh, while exploring the primary ingredients of traditional dance the world over. Featured were Scotland-based traditional dance artists, musicians and storytellers from diverse cultural backgrounds, including Scotland, Greece, Italy, India, Egypt, Congo, Bulgaria, China, Mongolia, Tibet, France, Japan and USA.

Pomegranates Festival 2022 Highlights. Camera and edit Euan Gilmour

Pomegranates opened on Friday 29th April 2022 with a day of workshops at St Leonard’s Dance Studio, University of Edinburgh. Spread in three two-hour sessions, the wokshops were led by trad dance artists Alison Carlyle, Yilei Chen, Jean-Christophe Denis, Kemono Lebe Riot, Kalubi Mukengela-Jacoby, Heather Rikic, Valeria Skafida, Ariana Stoyanova, Alexis Street and Muqian Zhou with the live accompaniment of musicians Sarah Hoy, Jonathan Bews, Chris Elmes, Helena MacGilp and Nemo Ganguli.

The festival culminated on 30 April 2022 at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. This finale commenced with the Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland Annual General Meeting where we looked back as well as forward by launching two new residencies for international traditional dance artists in a first-time collaboration with Citymoves Dance Agency in Aberdeen. The meeting was followed by a spectacular promenade performance and included a new headdress commission in tribute to Ukrainian traditional dance artists courtesy of costume designer Fiona Rose Gregory. Blending traditional dance styles from across continents into a collaborative group performance, all 13 featured dancers excelled on the stage with the support by the live improvised music by Tom Oaks – one of the UK’s top flautists and multi-instrumentalists and the moving image accompaniment on the big screen by Claudia Nocentini – the visual artist-in-residence who danced away with her iPad and stylus throughout the professional development workshop to create over 80 gestural life drawings.

Transatlantic video postcard sent by former Traditional Dance Forum of Scotland artist-in-residence Nic Gareiss (watch here) set the scene for the post-show conversation at the centre of which was the connection between dance and music asserting that heartbeat and breath are the primary ingredients of dance and rhythm. Amongst the speakers were trad musician Lori Watson of Traditional Music Forum of Scotland and the authors Jennifer Shoonover and Mats Melin (read more here) who joined in to introduce their newly published book entitled Dance Legacies of Scotland: The True Glen Orchy Kick (Routledge, 2020) – a collage of references portraying percussive Scottish dancing and explains what influenced a wide disappearance of hard-shoe steps from contemporary Scottish practices.

The festival concluded with an energetic ceilidh with young and old up on the dance floor. Caller Pia Walker provided dance instruction with music from Terrific Trouble Ceilidh Band. Enjoy some of the highlights in this brief video here which captures the spirit of our inaugural Pomegranates festival and anticipates next year’s celebration of dance and trad music from all around the world on our doorstep.

Iliyana Nedkova, Eleanor Sinclair and Wendy Timmons

Pomegranates Curators

Download Pomegranates festival programme here

Read the curatorial review by Eleanor Sinclair and Iliyana Nedkova as published on TDFS website and Newsletter on 7 June 2022. READ HERE

Pomegranates provided the context for launching two new residency opportunities for traditional dance artists of any cultural and ethnic background with a professional creative practice based Scotland to apply for two new residencies co-funded by TDFS and Citymoves Dance Agency, Aberdeen. APPLY BY 1 AUGUST HERE


Meet Claudia Nocentini – our Pomegranates screen dance artist-in-residence who danced away with her iPad throughout the professional development workshop and created over 80 gestural life drawings which provided the moving image accompaniment for the Pomegranates costume promenade.

“The work of this Bologna-born and Edinburgh-based visual artist is often inspired by the studio practice of dancers. Traditional ink brushworks and fast-paced calligraphic marks define her cinematic ‘sketchbooks’ of gestural life drawings.” Iliyana Nedkova

“Dance speaks to me of the depth and meaning of human relationships, of the grounding quality and weight of intimacy. The live performance instantly commands emotional connection and I tend to chose gestural drawing because it allows me to relate better with the dancers in movement. I set stylus to screen using my iPad without knowing what the dancers would do next, where they would move to in space. I concentrate closely on their movement and trust that my hand would follow almost without looking at the marks. I let my hand dance with them and since there is no time to describe the space they move in, I make marks and scribbles in motion by using the Zen Brush calligraphy app” Claudia Nocentini

Pomegranates festival poster features a detail of an image courtesy of Mats Melin

Mats Melin and Jennifer Schoonover were amongst our invited guests who joined our panel of respondents following the costume promenade. They also signed copies of their newly published book entitled Dance Legacies of Scotland: The True Glen Orchy Kick (Routledge, 2020) – a collage of references portraying percussive Scottish dancing and explains what influenced a wide disappearance of hard-shoe steps from contemporary Scottish practices.

For those who couldn’t make our Pomegranates finale, a special festival offer was available by entering the 20% discount code FLE22 at the checkout when ordering the book directly from the publisher’s website. CLAIM YOUR FESTIVAL OFFER HERE

Mats Melin who also served on the TDFS Board of Trustees is a Lecturer Emeritus in Dance at the University of Limerick, Ireland (2005-2021). He has worked and performed extensively in Angus, Sutherland, the Scottish Highlands, the Hebrides, Orkney, and Shetland, promoting Scottish traditional dance in schools and communities.

Jennifer Schoonover is a dancer and choreographer. She teaches movement principles, improvisation, dance pedagogy, and dance modalities including Cape Breton Step, Ceilidh, Highland, and Scottish Country dancing.



Pomegranates festival is a TDFS project curated by Iliyana Nedkova, Eleanor Sinclair and Wendy Timmons and funded by TRACS – Scotland’s National Network for Traditional Arts and Culture. In-kind support was provided by the Scottish Storytelling Centre and Moray House School of Education and Sport at the University of Edinburgh through the MSc Dance Science and Education and DannsEd. Additional in-kind support by the Bulgarian Cultural and Educational Centre Scotland.

Pomegranates was part of Edinburgh Tradfest 29 Apr – 9 May 2022 – a festival of longer tap roots in the Edinburgh Folk Festival, launched by TRACS in 2013, then curated by Soundhouse in collaboration with Transgressive North since 2019 and with TDFS since 2022. For nearly 10 years now Edinburgh Tradfest has provided a distinctive platform for folk arts, including music, storytelling and dance, in the capital city. It has asserted that Edinburgh is a hot house of talent, home grown and visiting, and Tradfest is an opportunity to see it all in play.

Pomegranates festival poster image courtesy of Zeynep Aciktepe at unsplash


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