Let’s Dance International Frontiers 2016 has been a great success, 10 days filled with thought provoking dialogues, networking and innovative dance. This years festival was curated around Black women in dance and showcased the strength, beauty and courage as Black women took centre stage throughout LDIF.
The festival began with the team taking residency in New Walk Museum and Victorian Art Gallery, with Catherine Dénécy preparing to showcase the UK debut of her new work Mi-Chaud, Mi-Froid (you can read more about this in her interview here). Set to the backdrop of 19th century artwork, Catherine entranced the audience with the help of Exxos Métkakola, Jerôme Castry and Stephané Castry, DJ, drummer and bassist respectively. It was a real treat to be able to have Catherine’s new work to celebrate International Dance Day and launch LDIF16. Drawing on politics, resilience and passion, Mi-Chaud, Mi-Froid set the bar for the rest of the programme.
The main programme kicked off with Signatures, a showcase of 7 new innovative works by emerging artists, the audience were treated to an eclectic mix of work from Protocol Dance Company, Jessica Faux, Alex Rowland, Exzeb Dance Company, Nu Projeks, Louisa Robey and PanicLab, followed by discussion on the work. Signatures is an opportunity to develop engaging and diverse work, and the artists did not disappoint. See the highlights of Signatures 2016 here.
Autograph provided the opportunity for Dan Daw, Cameron McKinney and Rhian Comley to present their developed work, having appearing in Signatures in 2015. Cameron’s work reflected on the issues facing the Black community, in a cleverly crafted piece juxtaposing video and music clips from Prince to Kanye West, to Chris Rock. Rhian took on comfort zones and why we react and respond in the ways we do. Dan Daw in partnership with choreographer Graham Adey took a look at the world, in a moving and very personal piece.
For LDIF16, we were thrilled to be able to show the UK premieres of two new dance documentaries. A Ballerina’s Tale followed the career of Misty Copeland, the first African-American ballerina to take a principle role with American Ballet Theatre. As Misty has drawn new audiences to see her perform, the film drew new audiences to the Phoenix. A quick spoiler alert for those who didn’t get chance to see the film, one particular scene where she visits the physiotherapist that had many audience members wincing! It was key that the film reflected not just on the politics of being a Black dancer in the world of classical ballet, but addressed the physical demands and threat of injury that all dancers face, with reference to the weight placed on Misty’s shoulders. The first UK preview of Black Ballerina also addressed these issues, and it was a real privilege to hear the stories of trailblazers such as Raven Wilkinson and Joan Meyers-Brown, and form a dialogue championing and highlighting the need for diversity in ballet, and in the wider dance ecology.
These themes continued into the conference; Black Women in Dance, which in a day filled with dialogue and dance; capturing both a social history and looking to the future. Jawole Willa Jo Zollar opened the proceedings with her keynote presentation in which she highlighted the work of Urban Bush Women’s choreographic centre and the need to decolonise dance methodologies. Adesola Akinleye, Deborah Baddoo, Hilary S. Carty, Catherine Dénécy, Pam Johnson, Mercy Nabirye, Maureen Salmon, Jessica Walker, Sharon Watson and Pawlet Brookes all contributed to the debate with their stories highlighting the intertwining strands of creativity, infrastructure, agency and education and training. Those attending were also treated to performances from Tara Lopez, Edison Herbert and Jessica Walker. The team are now preparing for the publication of the conference findings, so watch this space for more news soon!
Adesola Akinleye also presented a beautiful site specific solo at Leicester’s historic Guildhall. Passing (2): the price of a ticket looked at the notion of movement biography, which played with light and projection and a personal reflection on Adesola’s life. In the silence of the 600 year of parlour Jessica Walker mesmerised those watching with Tick the box (mixed other), both pieces more than a worthy reason to venture out on a raining Wednesday evening. Funmi Adewole also officially launched Blurring Boundaries, with her coy conclusion that you would have to buy the book to find out more!
LDIF16 was also fortunate to be able to feature Lights Steps, a new work by Adesola Akinleye and her company DancingStrong, for children and their families, which provided plenty of opportunities for those watching to participate and join in.
The LDIF16 workshop programme to encourage dancers to engage with new techniques and styles. Cameron McKinney’s Loft Technique workshop provided an opportunity for dancers to think and practise how to connect floor work in their choreographies, whilst embodying Cameron’s own diverse range of influences. The Urban Bush Women workshops introduced young dancers to a practical experience of working with a leading dance company and left many dancers with new skills to incorporate into their own choreographic practise.
For the finale of LDIF16; Urban Bush Women with the UK debut of Walking with ‘Trane, Side A and a reimagining of Nora Chipamaurie’s dark swan, which had a standing ovation and left audience members lost for words. A once in a lifetime opportunity to see the company in Leicester 30 years after their first performance here, and a time when there is so much energy and passion in the city.
We hope you enjoyed LDIF16 and look forward to seeing you at events in the future.
We would love to hear you thoughts, so if you have a spare 5 minutes please share with us your favourite moments of LDIF16.
Photos: Matt Cawrey, www.mattcawreyphotography.com and Mac Daniel V. Palima