Feature: British Dance Edition 2006

Friday 7 April 2006

British Dance Edition, the showcase of the best of British dance is taking place in Leeds over the next few days (9 – 11 February). It is aimed at promoters in the UK and abroad, but some of the performances are also open to the general public. Katie Nabbs is there to give us a series of reports…

See below for other feedback on BDE as well..

Hi, I’m Katie and I am a freelance dance writer. Over the next 3 days I am going to be the official londondance.com British Dance Edition (BDE) Blogger, keeping you up-to-date with all hot news, gossip and reviews from the 2006 biannual dance festival happening in Leeds. I plan to attend as many performances, screenings, receptions, parties as possible (there’s a lot going on!) and generally soak up the atmosphere! So, for those of you who can’t make it up North, check out my blog on a daily basis and find out just what you’re missing…

Thursday 9th February 2006 – ‘A Flourishing Oasis!’

Today has been brilliant start! I arrived in Leeds early afternoon, unloaded bags at the hotel room and then straight off to Yorkshire Dance to pick up my BDE Passport giving me access (passport stamps) to all the performances I want to see. What a fabulous idea! So with my documents all in order, a quick scan over the event guide, and a little tipple to get me in the mood, I head over to the opening BDE reception just next door at the Playhouse. The place is packed out and the energy is high. There’s a real buzz in the air as artists, promoters, dance managers and general festivalgoers mingle and network and get ready for a promising opening bill.

My seat in the auditorium was directly next to the Lord Mayor of Leeds. I asked him if he had seen any contemporary dance before and he said no….I told him he’s in for a treat!

Bush Hartshorn, Artistic Director, Yorkshire Dance introduced the festival, which was quite a performance in itself. I liked the comment that the Chairman of Yorkshire Dance made about Leeds transforming from a cultural desert to a flourishing oasis. Time will tell!

First up was Alfresco, choreographed by Luca Silvestrini of Protein Dance. This was a community piece featuring 35 dancers aged 2-70 years and everyone loved it! It looked at the lives of ‘ordinary people’ spending a day in the park; families, teenagers, fitness freaks and OAPS…it was feel good dance! Audiences were wooed with the scene when parents and their young toddlers flew in the air, swung round and round and attached themselves to colourful rubber rings as they spiralled around the stage.

Next was Rafael Bonachela’s E27SD performed superbly by Lee Clayden and Antonia Grove. I had seen this piece before, when it won the Place Prize back in 2004 but this time it was even better. I also got a chance to see Freshmess – One to Grow On – which was a fusion of hip-hop, street, break beat and contemporary with a live DJ on stage scratching the tunes. There was some really good stuff and I liked the way the piece evolved. I’ll definitely look out for them again. Michael Clark Company performed O Stravinsky Project Part 1 to end the evening, a total contrast from the other works which highlighted the diversity of the dance form.

I should also mention that there was a special surprise in the interval with the funky, fast and furious Black Swan Rapper, a form of traditional dance developed my miners in the 1800s; part Scottish jig part Morris dancing.

And if that wasn’t enough there was more.

Just a walk away from the Playhouse, and time for a gasp of chilly northern air, I find myself in The Wardrobe (one of the Leeds’ jazz bars) to experience balletLORENT’s La nuit intime – a site-specific piece performed in the underground bar. I was intrigued! It’s been ages since I’ve seen any of their work. I showed my stamp to the bouncers, walk down the stairs, and entered a new world. The smoky, underground atmosphere – where dancers swung from harnesses, fanned themselves with feathers, rocked on rocking horses, roller skated through the onlookers, and lived out their fantasies! The music was incredible, the costumes were daring. I’d like to do a separate review on this itself – or perhaps speak to the choreographer, Liv Lorent, about the making process which would be an interesting insight about the work.

Now back at the hotel I am quite exhausted!

Tomorrow is going to be fun and I’ll be back with the next instalment of BDE banter! See you soon…

Blog 2 Friday 10th February 2006 14.40h*It’s the second day of BDE and everything is well underway. Delegates are dashing from one performance to the next all over the city. I am now in the Yorkshire Dance reception, just back from *Protein’s performance The Big Sale at the Northern Contemporary Dance School.

There’s a relaxed kind of atmosphere on top of the light jazz music humming in the background. On the other side of the foyer theres a pink wooden G.O.D (Guardians of Doubt) confession box where BDE delegates are encouraged to ‘search their soul and confess commit their innermost thoughts about the funny old world of dance!’ I’ve had a peep but haven’t braved it in there yet. You’re asked to think about questions along the line of ‘who’s in charge of creativity, the artist, the audience, the programmer or the funder’, ‘Is British dance in need of a makeover?’ ‘Do our audiences deserve better?’ Something to think about, and there are occasional people disappearing in to the box and telling all…

The Big Sale, choreographed by Luca Silvestrini and performed by an international cast of seven dancers was fascinating and thought provoking, playing on all aspects of consumerism and exploitation in today’s society through all the different means; adverts, newspapers, television etc. Set amongst scaffolding and a stage full of junk; dustbins, discarded washing machines, ironing boards, bin-bags, The Big Sale was a fusion of text, live video, dance and physical theatre.

There are hilariously funny scenes, such as the shampoo- sponsored event that ends up being a hair bashing, girlie catfight. At the same time, Silvestrini creates more alarming confrontational scenes about war and rape which I felt were heavy at times for the audience to switch to. Although the BDE audience got the chance to get involved themselves with a mini massage exercise for some light relief!

OK. That’s all for now. I’m off to see the 4pm performance at the Courtyard Theatre featuring Probe, Rosie Kay and Gravity & Levity and still loads more to see tonight. Watch this space.

10pm – Friday 10 Feb I’m a bit behind with the blog due to technical difficulties.. but here I am again. I have seen quite a few things since last blogged – it’s great to have so much dance on tap!

Yesterday afternoon, at the Courtyard Theatre, I went to see a triple bill featuring Gravity & Levity, Probe and Rosie Kay Dance Company.

Falling Up’ by Gravity & Levity is the first piece to show, conceived and performed by aerial artist and dancer Lindsey Butcher. As the BDE audience found their seats, Butcher sat still in a hanging rope, with her body softly scooped, as if lying in a hammock. Four lights gently lit the space as Butcher elegantly twisted, turned and tumbled using the winding rope mechanism, climbing up and back down, almost disappearing up beyond the rig. Butcher chose a soundtrack composed by Daniel Weaver which was a soft, background saxophone score, suitably married to her supple movements and stretches. Her performance was beautiful to watch, and Butcher clearly has skill, but I was not convinced by her stage presence. Their second piece ‘Re-inventing the Wheel’ which featured Lee Clayden, was a dance with two artists and a wheel and explored the movements within the rocking wheel.

Next up Probe, a hip, young and emerging dance company – the hot name on everyone’s lips (and the image on the front of all dance programmes!). Probe, if you haven’t happened to have heard of them, are a new partnership between Theo Clinkard and Antonia Grove both with impressive CVs and their piece Fever to Tell choreographed by Mark Bruce was a sexy, funky and seductive duet, bound to be a hit and make a mark on their reputation. The sound score created an electric rock and roll environment and Grove’s sexy, sassy movements were hard to resist. I loved the cigarette dance; the long daring drags, the exaggerated exhales. This is definitely not to be missed – catch it when you can!

And finally, Rosie Kay Dance Company who performed an adaptation of their piece Asylum – usually a duet but due to injury Rosie performed a solo piece using a film backdrop. Rosie’s vocabulary is highly original and she takes risks which create an emotive piece which explores ideas around displacement and identity.

I tried to have an early night and headed back to the hotel only to find a group of colleagues having a cocktail. It would have been rude not to join them!…

Blog 4 – Saturday 11th February 2006 – Dancing babies*Day 3. This morning was an early start and also a busy one! First performance of the day was *Oogly Boogly, an event for babies (12-18 months old) and grown ups which was in the Space @ Hillcrest, on the outskirts of the city.

The organisation of BDE has been fantastic. All the performances, discussions, screenings are running smoothly and Leeds has a good variety of venues to host such a platform. Buses are organised to travel to venues out of the city, there are guides to walk you to and from venues and all in all Dance Yorkshire and all the team are doing an outstanding job. I’ve also just found out that there’s a BDE dance Fringe festival running alongside BDE organised by young Leeds based artists. There’s obviously a really vibrant dance community out here.

Anyway, back in the school hall, a huge colourful tent (made by Architects of Air) was located in the middle of the space and a short explanation about Oogly Boogly, which is a game, was given to the audience. Oogly Boogly sells itself as ‘an event, performance, game and an experience in which the young and their parents/carers are invited into a space free from toys and distractions and professional performers follow and amplify the children’s activity whilst the adults observe’. Sounds interesting…

Unfortunately, not all delegates could actually go inside the tent (promoters were prioritised), so we were invited to watch the ‘performance’ on a live video link, which obviously wasn’t the same as being inside the tent and soaking up the atmosphere. It was however fascinating to the see the process that takes place when the game starts and the babies begin to join in the performance as they totter, crawl and shuffle around the space and manipulate the movements that the four dance artists. Not only do the artists copy movement, but also sound, and with the toddlers being on the edge of verbal language there were lots of ‘eh ohs’ and ‘la las’ quite reminiscent of the Teletubbies! What was also enjoyable was being able to see the mini performances happen within the tent.

After about 45 minutes, the session ended and people came out exclaiming what a wonderful, emotional experience it had been. It was good to get a taste of the experience…and can even go and try it out back home with baby Isobel!

Blog 5 – Stephanie Schober / Jean Abreu – Saturday 11th February 4pm*British Dance Edition is about celebrating the best of British Dance and highlighting not only well-established artists and companies but also those emerging. *Stephanie Schober and Jean Abreu both fit into this category and were the line up at the Carriageworks this afternoon. I was excited about seeing Schober’s work for the first time, and revisting Abreu’s piece Fijis.

Stephanie Schober presented ‘Catch‘, a duet with Katsura Isobe which was inspired by the intuitive movement of the body. Schober’s movement vocabulary is fragile and intense and both dancers had a strong technical ability. Although the work didn’t grab me immediately, Schober definitely has masses of potential and will be a choreographer to follow in the future.

Comparably, Jean Abreu’s sensuous work fed me with energy and the two male, one female trio worked tremendously well. I really loved the sense of rhythm that ‘*Fijis*‘ created and the way in which Abreu choreographs taking us through a journey using lines and break out duets. It has an addictive start and finish but maybe the middle section is a little too long. The costumes by Tony Woods and the original sound score by John Metcalf fit the piece perfectly.

Now I’m off to see the next triple bill at The Courtyard. I may have 5 minutes to fit in a hot chocolate…if I’m lucky!

Blog 6 – Angika – Saturday 6pm

It’s now 6pm and I’ve just come out of a very diverse triple bill indeed with Angika, David Hughes and Colin Poole. It was scheduled to finish at 5pm but ran over so in a minute I’ll be off to another reception (yes more canapés and olives!). Just wanted to quickly tell you about some of the work that I’ve just seen, (shame I can’t write about all of them but don’t have enough time – might do some separate reviews later).

Angik*a are a London based company and their work fuses contemporary and classical Bharatanatyam dance, performed by five artists including choreographers *Mayuri Boonham and Subathra Subramaniam. The piece had an extremely promising start with beautiful, slow, controlled movements that created a hypnotic effect over the trance-like sound score by MTV Award Winning Composer Midival Punditz. The choreography was innovative and the costumes, designed by Gabriella Ingram, were delicate and elegant (bright yellow wide trousers and vests with colourful pleats). However, ‘Bhakti‘ was far too long, and towards the end of the piece I felt that the dancers were loosing part of their grace and not performing as well as they had started off.

Only four shows to go I wasn’t quite sure how much longer I could last and I think lots of people were thinking the same thing as me. There is only so much you can see and take in…

Blog 7 – Countdown

Back at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, the largest repertory theatre outside of London and Stratford, there was an exciting final line up for the BDE finale with Phoenix Dance Company/Russell Maliphant and Henri Oguike. These evening performances are also open to the general public and there was a full house. I only got to see the first two shows as wanted to come out and write up (although now I wish I would have stayed as Henri Oguike’s work was supposed to be fantastic). Phoenix, based in West Yorkshire, presented their work ‘See through Blue’ choreographed by Didy Veldman looking at the mysteries of underwater life. The cast were extremely strong and danced Veldman’s piece seamlessly.

Save the best ‘til last? – 10pm The FINAL performance! Nigel Charnock has to be on top ten list of of best shows and what a brilliant and brave end to a fantastic festival. His work ‘Frank‘ is exactly what the title suggests. Using his talents as dancer, musician, singer and comedian Charnock presented a raucous 50 minutes of insults, political banter, song, dance and general outlandish behaviour, which the audience couldn’t get enough of. This performance kept you on your toes and everyone came out on a high.

Party time!
It’s 1am and I have just come back to my hotel room. After the last performance we headed over to the official BDE Party over at Yorkshire Dance. There was a really good atmosphere and artists, delegates, promoters staff were all around having a drink and winding down after so much fun! I was tempted to have a bit of a boogie myself but couldn’t brave it as I saw all the professional artists at the side warming up and showing off (I’m not joking! ). Walked back and straight to bed. Goodnight!

Blog 8 – Time to go home. Reflections on the train journey back!

It’s Sunday morning and I am truly danced out – I don’t think I have ever seen so much dance condensed in to such a short space of time. The past three days have been absolutely exhilarating and inspirational but at the same time very tiring (worth it though). I thought that BDE went really, really well and the programme reflected the diverse range of dance that the UK offers. Leeds is a great city with loads of cultural stuff going on…it will be interesting to see what BDE 2008 is like when it happens in the European Capital of Culture – Liverpool. By the way, the artists and companies that I have mentioned in my blog over the past few days are just a small percentage of those featuring in the programme – it was impossible to get to see everything. Well, I hope you have enjoyed reading this diary as much as I have enjoyed writing it. If you have any comments please contact me through londondance.com. (Click on Feedback at the bottom of the page). Bye…


From a Leeds based dance artist: how come no-one is talking about diversions the dance company of wales who performed at bde on friday at the yorkshire playhouse to a full house, alongside charles linehan?? Diversions are up there with the best of them performing their new work by helene blackburn from quebec. I want this 12 strong company to be given some of the credit they deserve as they were breathtaking on friday and one of the best things i saw in the festival. Are they being ignored because they are from wales? Does anyone out there agree that they rock??

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