Leicester is getting ready for the dance highlight of the year with Serendipity hosting Let’s Dance International Frontiers LDIF17 for its seventh year, bringing phenomenal, world-class international dance to Leicester this spring.
Every year LDIF is launched on 29 April, the International Day of Dance, a day that celebrates dance all around the world as an integral part of human culture and human nature. This year Urban Bush Women are returning from New York to launch LDIF a 10-day festival of dance, films, workshops and conferences exploring identity and choreographic practice.
Urban Bush Women, based in Brooklyn NYC, are a company that seek to bring the untold and under-told stories of disenfranchised people to light through dance. They are returning to Leicester on 29th April at the Mercure Hotel for a second year running, to bring the story of jazz great John Coltrane through movement and music.
“The event itself is in celebration of jazz greats, with other elements to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth on 25th April, and International Jazz Day on 30th April. We’re hoping it will be something really special. If you’ve seen Urban Bush Women perform you will know that this is one not to be missed, and for music lovers we have live music from Grammy Award winning jazz pianist and composer George Caldwell,” says Pawlet Brookes, Serendipity’s Artistic Director.
“This year we are also really excited to be hosting the internationally acclaimed Philadelphia based dance company PHILADANCO!” Brookes continues. “They are probably not as well known in the UK as they should be; their founder and artistic director Joan Myers Brown has been instrumental in the US for breaking down barriers to enable African American dancers to gain access to training and opportunities. In 2012 she was awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Barack Obama.”
One integral part of LDIF is supporting and commissioning young emerging dance talents. Signatures is an annual event which platforms some of the best emerging dance talent. Each will be presenting new work exploring issues around identity, gender and growing up. Two of these artists are third year dance students from De Montfort University.
Student Mac Daniel V. Palma is presenting a solo work, Sekseneutral, which explores masculine and feminine movements and aims to bridge the gap between both genders. “My work touches on the vulnerability of male dancers,” he says. “Men have always had to have a strong persona; I want to find a balance and a fluidity of gender. I dress day to day to be aesthetically experimental and blur boundaries of gender dress. This has informed my dance practice and has been the influence for the piece.”
As well as a third year dance student, Mac is also an intern dancer for local company Fuelled Dance Theatre. “I wanted to be part of a dance company to see how it works and challenge my introvert-ness as a solo artist. I am very excited to have such a great opportunity, and humbled that my solo was chosen to be part of signatures.”
LDIF’s conference is the centrepiece of the festival, and this years theme of ‘identity and choreographic process’ asks the question of how culture and training influences choreographic vocabulary and how identity is revealed through dance. The event is at the City Hall on 9th May, hosted by Pawlet Brookes, with speakers including Francis Angol, Delia Barker and Sandie Bourne, among others.
“The conference this year, and the underlying theme of the festival, ‘Identity and Choreographic Practice’, is exploring how culture and training influence choreographic vocabulary, and also touch upon how identity is revealed in practice,” Brookes explains. “So we have a keynote speech from Joan Myers Brown, who will tell us a little of her own life in dance, alongside panel discussions of Black dancers breaking the glass ceiling of classical ballet, how colonisation and creolization has broken way to new aesthetics and the complex heritage of contemporary dance.”
Leicester is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the UK and LDIF reflects and highlights cultural wealth and beauty. “LDIF features artists from all over the world, but dance is a universal language, which means everyone is able to watch a dance performance and gain something from it. It’s also a recognition that the roots and origins of certain styles and dance techniques have,” says Brookes.
This is showcased in CLAY, a performance by British Flamenco dancer Yinka Esi Graves and American contemporary dancer Asha Thomas at AAC on 7th May, a piece showing exploring the influence of African People’s Dance on Flamenco, something that is only just being recognised.
During such a politically turbulent time, with hate crime on the rise and racist activity becoming even more prevalent post-referendum, platforming and giving a voice to quieted voices is even more important than ever. In this respect, LDIF is arriving at exactly the right time, offering a platform for diversity and giving a voice to dancers from minority groups.
For more information about Let’s Dance international Frontiers and for the full programme visit www.serendipity-uk.com