News: Ignition Dance Festival 2016

Monday 6 June 2016 by Philippa Newis

There’s no shortage of dance in London, right? Some of the world’s leading companies make their home in our capital, with The Royal Ballet in Covent Garden, Sadler’s Wells presenting the best of international dance, as well as producing world class new work in Islington and contemporary dance icons Rambert on the South Bank and The Place just off Euston Road. East London Dance, serving communities in and around Stratford for almost 30 years is soon to be joined by Here East, Wayne McGregor’s new studio opening in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park later this year – and Sadler’s Wells new Olympicopolis space in 2021. With English National Ballet moving from Kensington to Canning Town in 2018, the capital’s dance community is looking East for inspiration and accommodation.

So for those of us who call West London home, watching or participating in dance can involve a lengthy commute across town, writes Philippa Newis. Local opportunities to join in a class or see a performance are few and far between – so the cost of engagement increases and access is diminished.

Resisting the eastward migration is the aptly-named DanceWest, founded by dance artist Rosie Whitney-Fish. Barely a year old, the fledgling organisation is already making its mark in Hammersmith and surrounding boroughs. Rosie and her team are rising to the challenge of developing a community of professional dance artists and a programme of affordable, high quality classes for children and adults. Brought up in West London, Rosie found work as choreographer and producer thin on the ground. Swimming against the tide, she’s now harnessing her professional experience to forge educational and creative opportunities for choreographers and practitioners on home territory. “I totally believe that there is a thriving dance scene here,” says Rosie. “There are people taking part in hip hop to classical Indian dance classes; there are audiences, waiting for dance performances to happen, and artists wanting opportunities to create locally. What is needed is one place central point of focus and someone to try to bring it together.”

Central to this vision is Ignition Dance Festival. Now in it’s third year, it is the only festival of its kind in West London. The two day in July event showcases brand new work by pioneering choreographers at Kingston’s Rose Theatre. This leafy, well-heeled Surrey suburb might not look like a hotbed of innovation at first glance, but don’t let first impressions, or the lack of a tube line, put you off; Ignition looks set to become a regular fixture in the London dance world’s calendar.

This year’s line up includes a collaboration between ex-Rambert dancers Thomasin Gulegc and Estela Merlos; dancehall/hip hop artist Cindy Claes; Sally-Marie, winner of the New Adventures Choreographer Award in 2013; former dancer with Akram Khan, Salah El Brogy and Jane Coulston, founder/artistic director of Beyond Repair Dance.

This year, more support will be available for dance artists, including a larger bursary, two performance dates, dramaturgy input and production assistance. In a direct response to audience comments, chosen choreographers will create work based on a common theme: Dis-order. The festival is shaped by feedback from participating choreographers and audience members.

The desire to nurture a home-grown audience for dance and a strong community focus are two crucial driving forces behind Ignition. Each year, local groups are invited to participate in a performance on the festival’s second day. New in 2016, DanceWest is offering a community commission; a funded opportunity to create a curtain raiser for this event, working with the charity Stay Well and pupils from two local secondary schools.

While some of the big names in dance head East, DanceWest is starting to knit together a community of professionals and participants and a new generation of risk-takers and game-changers are also be found out West, where the apparently sleepy suburbs are harbouring a quiet revolution. It’s all good news for dance in London.

Ignition Dance Festival 2016 takes place on Sat 2nd & Sun 3rd July.

Philippa Newis is a freelance dance writer. She contributes regularly to and Twitter: @PhilippaNewis

Also in Kingston, this weekend the locally based Balletboyz present Frame – the first London Dance Film Festival across several venues. Over three days, 122 films will be screened including 11 world premieres and 28 UK premieres (more below).

Photo: Salah el Brogy Company by Jane Hobson

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