Coming Up at the International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014

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With the International Dance Festival Birmingham 2014 now over a week underway, there are still plenty more exciting shows to look forward to before the month is through.

After their eagerly anticipated openings last night, both Sylvie Guillem’s 6000 Miles Away and the Aakash Odedra Company’s double bill Murmur & Inked will be returning this evening to the Birmingham Hippodrome, on the main stage and in the Patrick Centre, respectively. Widely hailed as one of the world’s greatest dancers, in 6000 Miles Away, Sylvie Guillem performs William Forsythe’s Rearray and Mats Ek’s Bye, set to Beethoven’s last sonata. Meanwhile, in Murmur and Inked, Aakash Odedra collaborates with choreographer Lewis Major, the Ars Electronica Futurelab and Oliver Award-winner Damien Jalet, to explore themes of dyslexia and the transformation of the body through scarring and tattoos.

Bye, solo choreographed by Mats Ek for Sylvie Guillem 2010

From Thursday through to the weekend, you’ll be able to catch some awe-inspiring acrobatics from groundbreaking Montreal circus company Les 7 Doigts de la Main in Séquence 8 at the Birmingham REP, as well as some impressive work from Birmingham City University’s School of Architecture, which will be displayed in a Millennium Point open exhibition titled All of Birmingham is a Stage.

OOn Friday and Saturday, Company Decalage will present a world premiere double bill of Match & Half Way to the Other Side in the Hippodrome’s Patrick Centre, while outside, Corey Baker Dance will be giving passers-by the chance to experience some traditional Maori Haka dancing in Centenary Square.

Lord of the Flies

Next week’s festivities will kick off on Tuesday with Border Tales from Luca Silvestrini’s Protein, a witty, satirical show blending dance, dialogue and live music, and taking place in the Patrick Centre. From Wednesday, the Hippodrome’s main stage will be taken over by Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures for a chilling yet beautiful dance adaptation of William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies. Finally on Saturday, those a little more strapped for cash can enjoy an array of free, outdoor dance performances at Put Your Foot Down in Spiceall Street, near the Bullring.

There’ll also be lots to see and do during the last week of the festival (more on this soon), including DJs, dancers, workshops and demonstrations and Sadler’s Wells’s Breakin’ Convention, and an exploration of Argentinian tango in Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s M¡longa, both in the Hippodrome theatre.

Milonga-22-05-13-Theatre Jorat-298

For more information on all upcoming shows and to book tickets, visit the IDFB website.

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Requiem: Ex Cathedra and Cas Public in Concert Dansé

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It may well be my Catholic upbringing, but to me, fast-paced, energetic and often noisy dancing doesn’t quite seem a natural fit for a solemn religious requiem. While watching Concert Dansé at Symphony Hall last night, I can’t deny that there was a part of me that felt like the show itself answered choreographer and DanceXchange director David Massingham’s question (discussed in the programme) as to why there haven’t been more dance productions set to organ music.

Criticisms aside, however, Concert Dansé was nothing short of spectacular. Though I’m still not convinced they weren’t mismatched, the show combined what were by far the most incredible dancing and some of the most beautiful singing that I have ever had the privilege of experiencing.

After organist Alexander Mason and cellist Andrew Skidmore opened the production with a gentle, instrumental prayer by Camille Saint-Saëns, mezzo soprano Martha McLorinan led the singing with a breathtaking solo rendition of Jules Massenet’s Pie Jesu. The full Ex Cathedra choir then took to the stage for an uplifting performance of Aaron Copland’s In The Beginning. Described by conductor and Ex Cathedra founder Jeffrey Skidmore as “one of the great choral works of the 20th century”, In the Beginning was delivered with perfect clarity, while sparse yet powerful lighting evoked the initial darkness and creation of light detailed in the lyrics.

It was not until after the interval that Cas Public emerged onto the dramatically lit stage, to dance alongside Duruflés Requiem, magnificently sung by Ex Cathedra and accompanied by organ and cello. From the outset, the dancers’ outfits seemed strangely out of place in the context of a Mass of remembrance for the dead, and once the movement began, the strangeness of the combination was only confirmed. Though the performers’ skill was quite astounding, blending the skill and discipline of traditional ballet with the speed and energy of more contemporary styles, it largely failed to match the gravity and emotional resonance of the sung Requiem.

The highlights of the performance were guest appearances from ballet dancers Karla Doorbar and Max Maslen, as well as acclaimed Kathak and Bharatnatyam dancer Aakash Odedra, all of whose movements were much quieter and more restrained than Cas Public’s. Odedra’s fluid, graceful motion in particular seemed to respond directly to the music, reflecting its tone and momentousness rather than simply following its rhythms. Sadly though, his turn onstage was but brief.

Despite my reservations, this was a fascinating show, and one I felt was pitched well for the International Dance Festival: although dance is generally a little out of my comfort zone as far as art forms go, I was truly blown away by some of the performers in this production, which were definitely enough to persuade me to see more.