International Dance Festival Birmingham: Sideways Rain by Alias

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Created by acclaimed director and choreographer Guilherme Botelho and performed by his award-winning company Alias, Sideways Rain is an unbroken hour of mesmerising, cinematic sound and movement that sees sixteen dancers repeatedly cross the stage in countless different ways.

Skilful, powerful and athletic, the cast perform complex and impossible-seeming manoeuvres, crawling, sliding, somersaulting and tumbling their way round in endless circles. Though the stage is bare and the dancers are few in number, the show itself seems to span vast expanses of time and space, from the evolution of man to the hectic, relentless bustle of modern-day cities, all the while accompanied by a soundtrack which is by turns uplifting, nightmarish and hypnotic.

The dancers begin on all fours, scrabbling like insects or plodding and prowling slowly like large mammals. Gradually, they begin to rise and walk, and yet for most of the show, little changes: still they move aimlessly and repeatedly across the stage, always heading towards the inevitable as various “characters” appear and disappear, endlessly completing the little circuits of their lives.

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Days, weeks and even years seem to pass before anyone pauses to consider their condition, and this happens just twice in the whole show. First, a couple stop and stare at each other as crowds rush past them, their eyes wistful and confused as they seem to trawl each others’ depths for meaning. When one then drops to the floor and rolls away, the remaining dancer is left alone, wandering the stage and curiously observing those around her, before she, too is finally pulled back into the indiscriminate tide. The second time, another dancer stops suddenly, as if shocked or startled, and proceeds to try to wake those around him out of their collective trance. Naturally he fails: those around him appear to share a sort of hive consciousness, whereby if one moves to avoid him, everyone on stage makes the same movement. Eventually, a push from behind shunts him back into the crowd.

These short interludes make us feel as though there should be some sort of climax – as though the all the incessant, dizzying and almost involuntary movement must stop somewhere. But a satisfying resolution is something we are never granted. In the end, the dancers return, disrobed and laid bare, to their creeping and crawling prehistoric state, suggesting, perhaps, that we have never really moved on at all.

Is it an incitement to stop and think about the world around us, to consider our place within it and to find our own meanings; or is it simply an expression of an absence of meaning and the futility of humanity’s drive towards change and progression? Guilherme Botelho doesn’t give us any easy answers….

Images by Jean-Yves Genoud.

International Dance Festival Birmingham – Get Ready for a Month of Dance Shows!

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From now until Sunday 25th May, a series of exciting dance events will be taking place in venues across the city as part of this year’s International Dance Festival Birmingham.

Jointly produced by the Birmingham Hippodrome and DanceXchange, the IDFB ranks among the world’s biggest dance festivals, and aims to showcase a diverse array of talent in styles and settings ranging from ballet to urban fusion, traditional Maori to circus skills, pop-up street performances to seated theatre shows. Whether you’re a die-hard dance fan or simply interested in finding out more, you’re almost guaranteed to find something to catch your interest on this year’s jam-packed schedule!

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Having already kicked off with a collection of short works by the Birmingham Royal Ballet at the Crescent Theatre, the programme of events continues this evening with the Midlands Youth Dance Festival, organised by Dance4 in collaboration with DanceXchange.

On Tuesday, I’ll be attending Sideways Rain, a contemporary dance performance by Genevan company Alias and the first of several shows taking place at the Hippodrome over the next few weeks (watch this space for my review). Other shows coming up at the Hippodrome include Kidd Pivot’s Tempest Replica, Sylvie Guillem’s 6000 Miles Away, New Adventures’ The Lord of the Flies, Sadler’s Wells’s Breakin’ Convention and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s M¡longa. The theatre’s Patrick Centre will also be taken over at different points during the festival by Murmur & Inked, a double bill from the highly sought-after Aakash Odedra Company; the world premiere of Company Decalage’s Match & Halfway to the Other Side; Aerites’s witty, hip-hop fusion piece Planites; and Protein’s Border Tales, a satirical blend of dance, dialogue and live music.

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Elsewhere, Symphony Hall will play host to the world premiere of Concert Dansé, a unique collaboration between Birmingham’s Ex Cathedra choir and Québécois dance troupe Cas Public, while at the Birmingham REP, you’ll be able to catch some spectacular circus skills in Séquence 8 from Les 7 Doits De La Main. The IDFB will even be extending its reach beyond Birmingham’s borders to Coventry’s Warwick Arts Centre with Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre‘s sharply contrasting Petrushka and The Rite of Spring shows.

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If you don’t have much cash to splash this month, though, you needn’t miss out on the festivities: there will also be plenty of free outdoor shows taking place at Village Green, Cannon Hill Park and throughout the city centre. These include Corey Baker Dance‘s mobile, audience-led Headphones (follow @IDFB #headphones on Twitter to find out the exact locations on the day, and send in your dance styles and music genres choices); traditional Maori Haka demonstrations; Denada Dance Theatre’s “duel of seduction”, Young Man!; Candoco Dance Company’s Tennesee Williams-inspired duet, Studies For C; and various freestyle and urban shows from professional and community groups. Work by students from Birmingham City University’s School of Architecture will also be displayed in an exhibition at Millennium Point titled “All of Birmingham is a Stage” .

For more information on times and locations, and to book tickets for indoor shows, visit the IDFB website.

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International Dance Festival Birmingham: Breakin’ Convention & £10 Dance Shows

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With a diverse array of contemporary dance productions – some costing as little as a tenner to attend – the International Dance Festival Birmingham will return to the Hippodrome this Spring. Featuring a range of home-grown performers as well as international stars, there’s plenty to look forward to for dance fans and interested newcomers alike.

First, on Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th April, you’ll be able to see Alias‘s acclaimed Sideways Rain for just £10. Described as a “powerfully visual examination of human nature,” the show features 14 dancers crossing the stage with “hypnotic”, “mesmerising” movements. Next, on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd May, Kidd Pivot will present Tempest Replica, an innovative retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, mixing dance, original music, text and special effects, with tickets again available for only £10. Performance work assembled by Sadlers Wells associate artist Crystal Pite is combined with a “rich visual design”, including masks, projection and imaginative costumes. Families are warned that the shows may contain nudity or adult themes, and as such, are not recommended for children under 12.

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Following this, on Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st May, the Hippodrome will welcome back Breakin’ Convention, which will bring together emerging local talent with acclaimed hip-hop stars for a series of “jaw-dropping” shows. Hosted by Hip-Hop Guru and Sadlers Wells Associate Artist Jonzi D, the two-day festival will include performances by all-male company Antics, young Staffordshire dance group Company Elite, Birmingham duo Marius and Andrei, Nottingham’s NuProjeks and Wolverhampton’s 6-year-old YouTube sensation B-Girl Terra, along with her sister Eddie and their b-boy crew, Soul Mavericks. Many of these performers have already achieved huge success on stage and screen elsewhere, with Antics having made it to the finals of Sky’s Got to Dance contest, while B-Girl Terra’s amazing performance at the Pro Chelles competition in Paris gained her six million YouTube followers, as well as appearances on popular TV programmes such as the Ellen DeGeneres Show.

ILL-Abilities_BC12_Credit Belinda LawleySharing the stage with these Midlands-based artists will be RADA-trained hip-hop storyteller Ukweli Roach, the multi-award-winning French hip-hop group Wanted Posse and the internationally acclaimed ILL-Abilities, a dance troupe who aim to smash stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding disability, testing their own limits as well as challenging their audiences’ views.

The jam-packed festival, co-produced by DanceXchange, will spill out across the theatre foyer and and into public spaces beyond with various pre-show events, freestyle sessions, live DJ demos, workshops and a hip-hop marketplace. A full schedule is set to follow soon.

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Click here for more information about the International Dance Festival Birmingham, or visit the Birmingham Hippodrome website to book tickets.

Top photo by Paul Hampart Soumian. All other photographs by Belinda Lawley.

New Season Launch – Autumn and Winter at the Birmingham Hippodrome

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After the fabulous free theatre we’ve enjoyed over the last few weeks across Birmingham’s city centre, the summer may finally be over, but the fun is far from it! The Birmingham Hippodrome has just announced a new season packed full of all sorts of exciting shows to brighten up the cold, dark winter days!

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18389_sFrom October through to Spring next year, you’ll be able to enjoy a range of smash-hit musicals, National Theatre shows on tour, contemporary dance, world-class opera and ballet from the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Welsh National Opera, and of course, the return of the world’s biggest pantomime this Christmas.

The new season kicks off next month with the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café, E=MC² and Tombeaux (3-5 October) and later The Sleeping Beauty, (8-12 October) followed by the National Theatre’s War Horse (16 October – 9 November). If you want to get yourself some War Horse tickets, act fast, since the show is almost sold out already!

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Alongside the War Horse run, two additional special events will be taking place: Only Remembered (Friday 8th November), a concert featuring live readings from the original War Horse novel by its author Michael Morpurgo and music from John Tams and Barry Coope, and a War Horse-themed sleepover (Friday 25th October) that will see the Patrick Centre transformed into World War I-style trenches.

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Towards the end of the month, there will be more opportunities to experience free outdoor shows in Birmingham. Make sure you wrap up warm for Illuminate! (25-27 October) a three-day light spectacular featuring interactive street projections from Shanghai, dance performances and The Lanterns of Terracotta Warriors, an extraordinary exhibition originally created for the Beijing Olympics.

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Throughout November, the Welsh National Opera will present Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca (12 & 16 November) and Gaetano Donizetti’s new Tudors series: Anna Bolena (13 November), Maria Stuarda (14 November) and Roberto Devereux (15 November). 

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As Christmas approaches, the Hippodrome will be helping you to get into the festive spirit with a Birmingham Royal Ballet production of The Nutcracker (22 November – 12 December), as well as its excellent, all-star pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (19 December – 2 February). This year’s panto will star Gok Wan, Stephanie Beacham, Gary Wilmot, John Partridge and winner of the BBC’s Over the Rainbow series Danielle Hope.

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February is a great month to catch some ballet at the Hippodrome, with two more productions from the Birmingham Royal Ballet (Three of a Kind from 19-22 February and The Prince of the Pagodas from 25 February – 1 March), as well as Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake (5-15 February).

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Meanwhile, March is the month for music, with three WNO operas and two exciting musicals.  The Welsh National Opera will present Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata (4 & 8 March) as well as two brand new productions, Manon Lescaut (5 & 7 March) and Boulevard Solitude (6 March). From 11-15 March, award-winning producers Music & Lyrics will be presenting their take on Fiddler on the Roof, starring Paul Michael Glaser and, towards the end of the month, the theatre’s stage will be flooded with 12,000 litres of water every night as part of its Singin’ in the Rain performances (18 March – 5 April), starring Maxwell Caulfield and Faye Tozer.

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In April, Wet, Wet, Wet frontman Marti Pellow will star in Evita (8-19 April), while a brand new musical based on the classic TV series Happy Days will star Sugababes’ Heidi Range (22-26 April). The Happy Days musical is written by the series’ creator Gary Marshall, with creative consultancy from Henry Winkler, TV’s original “Fonz”.

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May sees the return of the biennial International Dance Fest Birmingham, co-produced by the Hippodrome and DanceXchange. The festival will kick off with Sideways Rain (29-30 April) by Genevan contemporary dance company Alias, and will also include Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s M!longa  (23-24 May), international hip-hop festival Breakin’ Convention (20-21 May), a new adaptation of William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies by Matthew Bourne (14-17 May) and a performance from acclaimed ballerina Sylvie Guillem in 6,000 Miles Away (6-7 May). Bourne’s new production will feature young New Adventures dancers from the West Midlands as part of efforts to inspire a new generation to get involved in dance. 

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As Spring leads on into summer, the National Theatre‘s five-star comedy feast, One Man, Two Guv’nors will arrive in Birmingham (26-31 May), providing an excellent opportunity to catch this highly-praised production if you missed it in London. One Man, Two Guv’nors is an adaptation of Carlo Goldoni’s classic 1743 comedy The Servant of Two Masters, reimagined in 1960s Brighton by Richard Bean.

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So it comes full circle back to summer. Next summer’s big musical show will be Wicked (9 July – 6 September). It may seem a long way to plan ahead, but tickets for Wicked are already being snapped up by audiences. In September, the Hippodrome will also be showing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. Check back here for details about when tickets go on sale.

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To book tickets and for more information, visit the Birmingham Hippodrome website.

Happy watching!