Dancing Around the World at Edinburgh International Festival

Dancing in the Streets: Janice Parker
Dancing in the Streets: Janice Parker

Dancing in the Streets

From: 20 Aug 2021

To: 21 Aug 2021

Dance Base
14–16 Grassmarket
Edinburgh & the Lothians

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Dancing in the Streets premieres a series of films from cities around the world. Edinburgh International Festival commissioned four internationally-renowned choreographers to create short films responding to the pandemic. It’s the first time that each has used film as a medium for dance.

Each choreographer introduced their film premiere with a live dance performance and took part in an interview afterwards. Unfortunately, Alice Ripoll was unable to attend in person due to Covid restrictions but did appear live by video link. The host for the interviews was Freddie Opoku-Addaie of Dance Umbrella UK Festival in London.

‘Home’ is a theme that has ignited a creative spark this past year and a half. Home might be felt in the body, or the place you were born, or the place you live or with your family. We have all had to reflect on our sense of ‘home’ during lockdown and all its uncertainties. No longer able to perform in theatres or practise in studios together, how have dance-makers and performers navigated this?

Dancing in the Streets: Gregory Maqoma Retrace Retract (c) Moeletsi Mabe
Gregory Maqoma, Retrace – Retract (c) Moeletsi Mabe

Gregory Maqoma, Soweto
Gregory Maqoma is an award-winning dancer, choreographer, teacher, director and scriptwriter from Soweto. He founded Vuyani Dance Theatre in 1999 and became Associate Artistic Director of Moving into Dance Mophatong in 2002. He’s renowned for bringing local dance forms to an international platform.

Retrace-Retract reflects on contemporary life in post-apartheid Soweto townships on the outskirts of Johannesburg, South Africa. Here, Maqoma infuses contemporary dance phrasing with local pantsula dance, style and culture. 

The dancers move through symbolic locations around Soweto, starting with a commuter taxi, to inside the Freedom Charter monument in Kliptown, to Soweto Theatre and railway line. Photography is directed by award-winning Moeletsi Mabe with powerful poetic words written and narrated by Jefferson Tshabalala. 

Maqoma aimed for minimal editing to focus on dance over film styling. In Retrace-Retract he has created something compelling and unpretentious. 

Dancing in the Streets: Alice Ripoll © Renato Mangolin
Alice Ripoll, Chronicles of Life and Dance © Renato Mangolin

Alice Ripoll, Rio de Janeiro
Alice Ripoll’s current work explores contemporary dance through urban and street dance styles from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Her shows are performed internationally and to great acclaim.

Ripoll’s unscripted film, Chronicles of Life and Dance, celebrates the lives of her Rio-based dance group – all locals from the favelas. They shared a rented house ‘bubble’ in Rio, February 2021 –  initially to rehearse for their latest tour, which was then cancelled. 

At first reluctant to make a film, Ripoll agreed to try something creative from the two weeks they lived and danced together. The result is a natural exploration of self-expression and connection through dance.

We follow them as they improvise new material and develop their own practices. There are some fascinating insights into the local passinho dance style – evolved from the favela funk parties of Brazilian underground music culture. Ripoll explains how she prefers to use the difficulties and challenges of each dancer in their creative work rather than any rehearsed techniques.

Dancing in the Streets: Janice Parker
Janice Parker, Small Acts of Hope and Lament

Janice Parker, Edinburgh
Janice Parker is an award-winning choreographer, movement director, teacher and mentor. She has worked with all ages and differently-abled performers. As a movement facilitator for performance-based and community dance projects, she brings a vibrant spirit of inclusivity to dance. 

Small Acts of Hope and Lament was inspired by a daily dance practice in Holyrood Park near her Edinburgh home throughout lockdown. As the months passed, this became her sustenance and nourishment. She began recording herself using an iPhone 6 and sharing with friends as a way to stay connected. 

Creatively edited to great effect in a triptych form, each image lends an element to its adjacent one. This adds dimension to the work whilst embracing the meditative quality of the film.

We get a sense of how the body responds to each moment in this duet with nature and each passing season. Notice the ambient sounds of the park and of soft body sensing its way around elemental forms. Her reflective narration adds honesty and authenticity. Parker infuses everything she touches with empathic energy that cannot fail to inspire.

Dancing in the Streets: Omar Rajeh copyright Maqamat
Omar Rajeh, The Odor of Elephants after the Rain, copyright Maqamat

Omar Rajeh, Beirut
Currently based in Lyon, France, critically-acclaimed choreographer and dancer Omar Rajeh founded Beirut International Platform of Dance in 2004.  He is co-founder of Citerne.live, an interdisciplinary digital space sharing dance performance live with a global audience. 

The Odor of Elephants after the Rain presents three solo dances within the urban setting of Beirut, August 2021. This is a landscape devastated by civil war and the more recent port explosion. Partly shot using a drone in plan view, the urban landscape is concrete and metal, or bridges over motorways. Dancers appear hemmed-in and with a sense of trauma expressed through face and body.

The experience of Beirut is one that Rajeh explains cannot be done through words. He sourced locations that convey the architecture of a ruined body within an urban cityscape – dancers trapped and feeling alone in the chaos of the city. There is a sense here of dance as a universal communicator crossing barriers of language and culture. It’s a powerful conclusion to this series of diverse dance film premieres. 

Dancing in the Streets brings a spotlight to dance forms that are far removed from the dance studio. We get a true sense of place and identity expressed and explored through dance.

These are all must-see films that beg to be viewed more than once. See them all online now – available until 18 September 2021. Book your free ticket through the festival website to get access anytime at home. Find out more at https://www.eif.co.uk/at-home-support

With thanks to Artmag contributor Julie Boyne for this review.

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