News: Dance Umbrella announces plans for Autumn 2012

Wednesday 11 July 2012 by Carmel Smith

Dance Umbrella presents Shobana Jeyasingh's 'Too Mortal' in churches this summer. Photo: JP Masclet

Dance Umbrella – London’s annual festival of contemporary dance from around the world – is doing things differently this year.*

For the first time, it will run for an intensive ten days in just one venue: the Platform Theatre at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, part of the new King’s Cross development. In another new venture, Artistic Director Betsy Gregory has invited the acclaimed choreographer Jonathan Burrows to join her in co-curating the festival. She says:

“In 2012, an exceptional year for London, I wanted Dance Umbrella do something adventurous and unusual. For the first time in the festival’s 34-year history, I decided to ask an artist to co-curate the programme with me and I am thrilled that Jonathan Burrows, a choreographer who I admire enormously and whose close relationship with Dance Umbrella goes back to the very origins of the festival, accepted my invitation.
Much of the work Jonathan and I have invited has been performed to great acclaim in cities throughout Europe but is new to the UK. Many of the artists are making their UK debuts in the festival and all are creating work which is in the forefront of developments in dance today and gives us a glimpse into the future.
Another departure is that this year’s festival is in a very different format from previous years in that it is taking place, almost entirely, in one venue, the new theatre spaces at Central Saint Martins. Immediately that we discovered this new venue, Jonathan and I realised that for this particular programme, which crosses many artistic boundaries, it was the perfect location, set within a university environment which fosters creativity, enquiry and questioning.”

Betsy and Jonathan promise a programme of adventurous new work ‘which broadens the definition of dance’ and ‘represents the frontline of current practice’. The main focus will be on work from a younger generation of artists from France, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Bulgaria, Ecuador, USA and UK – most of them UK or European premieres.

There will be 24 theatre-based performances and seven days of site-based works over its ten day run. Most days will see three performances presented in the two theatres at Central Saint Martins plus ‘speed talks’ in the foyer, video installations and exhibitions. As well as the theatre-based pieces, two artists will present their work in the surrounding area, one outdoors and the other in a public library.

When Arts Council England announced a 43% cut in funding for Dance Umbrella from 2012 onwards Betsy Gregory said “The Arts Council of England has recognised the value that Dance Umbrella brings to the arts in London. At the same time they have set us a severe challenge: to bring a vibrant programme of new dance to London but with severely reduced resources.”

It looks like the festival which has been bringing cutting edge dance to London for over 30 years is well on target to meet that challenge – and rise beyond it.

Dance Umbrella is currently presenting Shobana Jeyasingh’s new work Too Mortal (pictured) in churches in London and Worcester , with performances this week (12 – 15 July) at St Pancras Church, Euston Rd, NW1. More details

The full Dance Umbrella 2012 programme will be announced later this summer.

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