Interview: Introducing Cloud Dance Sundays...

Monday 13 May 2013

Ella Robson Guilfoyle at Cloud Dance Festival Photo: James Rowbotham

It’s been a couple of years since London has had an edition of Cloud Dance Festival, the platform for new contemporary dance – but now it’s back with a series of Sunday evenings at the Lion & Unicorn, Kentish Town – starting next Sunday, 19 May. Producer Chantal Guevara tells us more about the programme and her plans for future events…

Its good to have Cloud Dance Festival back in action – tell us about your Sunday evening programmes…
I can tell you, it’s wonderful to be working on shows again! I went freelance last autumn, and one of my first plans was to try and set up a regular venue-based platform, and also to programme a range of other shows, including mixed bills and individual companies.

The reason Cloud Dance Festival has been on hold for so long has been the difficulty of finding suitable venues. One thing the last few years have taught me is that successful dance platforms are all venue-based for a reason, and that it’s a huge challenge to make the Festival financially sustainable without a home base. So that’s why the collaboration with Giant Olive at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre is such a wonderful opportunity. It’s a really great fit: they want to build up their dance programme again, and of course, I want to have a monthly platform. As we’ve moved around so much, I’m really looking forward to being based in one part of London and working on developing dance audiences there. My aim is to make it a “potted”, laidback version of Cloud Dance Festival. The theatre has specified they want “good dance”, and so I want to use this opportunity to feature talented choreographers and companies, for example John Ross, who’ll be performing at the launch show.

I’m also keen to programme artists from outside London. Of course there are Festival favourites such as Taciturn from Liverpool, but I’ve recently been touring the northern dance agencies, meeting local artists and watching their work, and this would be a wonderful opportunity to help artists like them develop a London audience base for future work.

And it’s a real highlight that Giant Olive have offered a box office split, so the artists can receive their share of the box office. It’s really wonderful to be able to offer artists paid performances – and to see them fired up about selling tickets!

Is a pub venue going to work for dance?
Normally I’d hesitate, but the Lion and Unicorn isn’t just any pub theatre. Antonia Franceschi [ex New York City Ballet] is a Resident Artist; Ballet Black performed there in 2009, and a gala performance in 2011 saw performances by Ballet Black and others, choreographed by Richard Alston, Mark Baldwin, Martin Lawrence and Jonathan Goddard. So a lot of Lion and Unicorn’s appeal is their history of presenting dance work by significant companies and choreographers – and doing it really well.

While it’s a small space for dance, it’s still a reasonable size [it seats 60], and it allows artists to present their work in a more intimate setting and connect more closely with their audience.

Who’s on your first bill?
I knew that I wanted John Ross to perform Man Down, if he was available, and thankfully he is. It’s a wonderful solo which hasn’t yet had the exposure it deserves, so hopefully this is a first step in addressing that. It’s a very powerful solo, so it will be intriguing to see how it works in the space.

Tom Jackson Greaves, the runner-up for Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures Choreographer Award, will be reworking his solo Vanity Fowl specifically for this performance, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how the audience responds to that. It’s a solo which uses theatrical dance, humour and film to trace the downfall of an earnest young man – amid a lot of feathers.

Surrey-based choreographer Rachel Burn completes the triple bill, with her latest work Pull Through, Flick, which uses filmic imagery, offset by quirky ideas.

There were only three weeks between Giant Olive and I agreeing on this and the first show date, so quite a lot of people weren’t available to perform, or it was too short notice, but I’m really pleased with this lineup – and hopefully it will set the bar for future shows!

And what do you have planned for future performances?
All fingers crossed, the big thing for the coming months is the long-overdue return of Cloud Dance Festival. I’m in discussion with four theatres about a July festival, and have already started discussions with a few about a November edition and beyond. I’ve already got a few people pencilled in for both shows.

For the Sundays shows, the follow-up show will be on 21 July, and if the first show is a success, then we’ll start planning further dates throughout the summer and autumn. What’s great about that is that it means I can have an ongoing application process, where people can apply for a range of dates.

As I’ve spent the last two years (without Cloud Dance Festival) checking out a lot of emerging choreographers and companies, there are quite a few people I’m keen on presenting during the Sundays shows, so the line ups may well turn out to be predominantly handpicked, but still selecting at least one applicant per show. I’m really looking forward to seeing how it develops.

Cloud Dance Sundays at the Lion & Unicorn start Sunday 19 May.
More details & booking

Cloud Dance Festival have three free tickets up for grabs for this Sunday! For your chance to win enter here

Cloud Dance Festival: Lacuna, 5 – 7 July, Bernie Grant Arts Centre
application details and further information:

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