dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Huge range of performances across the city
Birmingham will be dancing in the streets with the return of the Birmingham International Dance Festival this month.
The festival, held from September 21 to October 3, features a huge range of dance performances including hip hop, contemporary, capoeira and circus alongside digital, augmented reality and film - plus the chance for people to take part in dance workshops. The live program, which includes free events aimed at all ages, follows a hugely successful digital festival in June that attracted audiences from across the world.
This year's festival features largescale works including Message In A Bottle, set to music by Sting, and Canadian company The 7 Fingers with Passagers, which blends circus skills and acrobatics, both at Birmingham Hippodrome.
Open air work takes place at venues including Midlands Arts Centre, Handsworth Park, Centenary Square and Chamberlain Square and includes pieces by Autin Dance Theatre, 2Faced Dance Company, DamaeDance, O'Driscoll Collective, Alleyne Dance, Far From The Norm and Requardt & Rosenberg. And in Digbeth, Eastside Projects hosts group exhibition LOOP and a series of discussions while Grand Union stages work from Paris-based Benny Nemer.
DanceXchange CEO Debbie Jardine says the aim was to ensure something for everyone. "For people coming to the festival, we want to be able to say dance can embody many forms. If we just presented one company then we would be giving a very singular view of what dance can be for people. It's about embracing every possible kind of dance that moves people. It's about opening up the conversation of what is dance and who can do it?"
This year is the first time BIDF has been split into two halves with the September programme also showcasing some of the work and learning from the June digital festival. Presenting dance online also meant that, whereas in the past BIDF has been focussed on bringing people to Birmingham, the June festival took Birmingham to the world.
Debbie says: "One of the huge plus points from the digital edition of the festival was how many people engaged with us from across the globe. We reached audiences in more than 70 countries, with an online audience of over 9,000 - it would have taken years to build that kind of attendance had it only been in a live form. Our online industry showcase was also attended by around 300 delegates from all over the world and our discussion and workshop events were hugely popular."
In terms of programming September, DanceXchange head of artistic programmes Lucie Mirkova says the emphasis has been on variety and quality. "BIDF is a large-scale festival and we have tried to do as much as we can to bring a volume of work and to ensure a celebration in the city in the best way we could under the current circumstances. We started with looking at what we could bring forward from the planned festival in 2020 and we also wanted to acknowledge our own learning over the past year through the Black Lives Matter movement, so we have looked at what we could present in Birmingham that reflected that."
And Lucie adds: "The festival is about people being inspired by live performance again and coming together as a community. It will be organised in a way that people feel safe but it will still be a renewed experience of something we haven't felt for a long time."
Live audiences will also have the opportunity to watch films specially commissioned for the digital festival back in June, including Don't Play with L(Kn)ives by Brooke Milliner, Anywhere Is A Dance Floor by Jason Guest and Fatt Butcher and a series of Minute Films. "We have always wanted to have a large-scale screen as part of our outdoor festival programme and this year is a great opportunity for us to do this and show some of the incredible work we commissioned for the digital festival in June," Lucie says. "Saturday, October 2 in Centenary Square is a mix of digital and live and I'm excited to see how that will be for the audience. To watch those films in the public space, including one actually made in Centenary Square, will be such a good experience."
BIDF has joined with Punch Records and Saathi House through Gallery37 North to commission two works that will premiere at the festival this autumn: 'Born to Protest' by Just Us Dance Theatre; and 'Like Mercury' by Houston Dance Collective and world champion beatboxer and musician Bellatrix. Both projects are being developed with communities in NorthWest Birmingham through a series of free workshops in the lead up to the festival.
This builds on projects already taking place, says DanceXchange head of learning and participation Alex Henwood. "A lot of our ongoing work at DanceXchange is about empowering communities and people, going to them and working with them collaboratively in a way that amplifies their voices in the work. Going outside the city reflects what we are doing on a long-term basis and the festival gives us a chance to shine a light on all the work we are doing."
Alex has high hopes for this month's festival. "I want people to feel pure joy," she says. "You know that feeling when you can't stop smiling. After the difficult time, we have had in the last 18 months, the idea that we are all together again watching live work - that gives you a joy in your heart. I want people to be inspired, have a great time - and then come again next year."