International Dance Festival under way

Birmingham’s biennial International Dance Festival is now in to its third week, and so far appears to have been a great international triumph.

There’s ongoing coverage over at the well produced festival website and also updates at West Midlands Dance to digest, but it’s worth noting the range of venues, variety of events and scope of artistic programming have really done an excellent job of bringing together a proper festival – not just a bunch of conservative shows in over-priced, high-brow venues, but a real effort to bring new, varied and genuinely interesting work to the venues and the streets for free.

In addition to the acclaimed visiting stage productions at Birmingham Hippodrome, Rep, DanceXchange and Town Hall (The Observer has already hailed Akram Khan’s Gnosis production as this year’s ‘most enthralling programme of dance’), there has a been a big programme of events across the main city squares and streets.

The Invisible Dancin’ strand has been running most days along High Street, Birmingham, at 1.00pm and 4.30pm, and continues until Sunday – not to give too much away, but it’s well worth trying to catch the flash-mob style emergence of an improvised dance movement along the street, accompanied by a growing number of excellent busker-like jazz and folk musicians, including the appearance of renowned international jazz saxophonist Paul Dunmall last week.

The big-budget Utopia drew good crowds to Victoria Square, evolving daily over the bank holiday weekend, and involved 40 international dancers from India, Russia, Africa and Spain, alongside the ever-tremendous fifteen-strong Birmingham-bred band The Destroyers.  Utopia produced a fantastic range of new choreographed dance, sets and performance over several multi-level stages, somewhere in between a trippy Alice in Wonderland meets Clockwork Orange, all enacted to Destroyers’ tracks and commissioned compositions from Frank Moon.

The flamenco workshops have also pitched local artists alongside their international counterparts, with Ana Garcia and guitarist David Shepherd working with the visiting flamenco dancer Olga Pericet through the bank holiday workshops, pulling participants from across the UK and Ireland. Olga’s Madrid-based Chanta la Mui play this Wednesday and Thursday at Town Hall.

There’s much more going on across the city with the festival running until the weekend – check out the festival website for lots more info.

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