Dance International Glasgow: 2019 preview

Tramway's biennial dance event, Dance International Glasgow, is back this October. The Skinny chats to senior curator LJ Findlay-Walsh about the 'myriad of conversations' that make up the festival, and covers the highlights

Article by Roisin O'Brien | 27 Sep 2019
  • V/DA, Grin

If dance isn’t really your thing, Scottish Ballet might be the only company that flits across your radar. Most cities have their lofty Festival or King’s Theatre equivalents, but compared to the abundance and variety of theatre-focused performance spaces, dance houses are in short supply.

Institutions like The Work Room (Glasgow) and Citymoves (Aberdeen) fund artists in the creation of work but do not programme regular year-round performances (Dance Base in Edinburgh curates a festival programme in August). Visiting dance companies are mostly composed of London-based stalwarts like Rambert Company or Richard Alston Dance Company, while the brilliant Scottish Dance Theatre (Dundee) are one of only a few repertoire-based companies in Scotland.

Enter Tramway and their bi-annual festival, Dance International Glasgow (DIG). Tramway programmes performance throughout the year, but DIG is their explicitly movement-focused three-week festival.

Senior Curator of Performance, LJ Findlay-Walsh, emphasises the year-round partnerships that go into making the festival. "You can be forgiven for thinking that a festival is a moment in time, the work comes and goes, but really it represents… a myriad of partnerships and conversations that connect the city to Europe and beyond, that endure long after the audiences have left the building." She continues: "I think that’s important, particularly in these unsettling times."

The festival is an almost unintentional 50/50 split between Scottish and International artists. DIG features performances in theatre spaces, responses to Tramway’s visual arts programme, talks and workshops, and, as Findlay-Walsh describes, pieces that "traverse the streets of Govanhill in an act of resistance, considering the impossibility of the stage as a place of freedom for the black performer," referencing the "wonderful" NIC Kay from New York and their work pushit!

"I think there is a misconception that dance can say less about who we are and where we are than some other creative forms. The work in DIG definitely challenges this notion," she emphasises. If you’ve never been to a dance performance before, or don’t know where to begin, DIG is a great place to start seeing the wealth of work on offer from contemporary artists.

Scotland-based Artists at DIG

If you want to check out what’s on your doorstep year-round, V/DA should be your first port of call. Having premiered their latest work, Sonic Séance, at Take Me Somewhere this year, they return with a reworked version of 2017’s Grin. Directed by Mele Broomes (VOID, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2018), you can expect pulsating sounds and emphatic, powerful movement, as the performers subvert hyper-sexualised notions of African and Caribbean dances.

Farah Saleh (Brexit means Brexit!, TMS 2019) is a Palestinian dancer based in Scotland. In What My Body Can/t Remember, Saleh attempts to recover gestures from dancing under curfew in 2002 in the West Bank. Saleh’s work often gently invites the audience in, and uses movement in a personal, interrogative way, rather than artificially distanced from its viewers.

Glasgow/Berlin-based choreographer Colette Sadler brings Temporary Store, an intellectually grounded and physically curious exploration of the body in a futuristic place between virtual and physical reality. Sadler was the creative genius behind Scottish Dance Theatre’s 2019 Fringe performance, RITUALIA.

SDT themselves bring The Circle, choreographed by Emanuel Gat. A conventionally ‘performed’ piece, it is nonetheless an anarchic tribute to the dancers’ interrelationships, performed to a live recording of electronic musician Squarepusher. For something more immersive, go see their performance of Looping: Scotland Overdub by 7Oito, which embraces ceilidhs and Brazilian street festival vibes: the collective performance is led by the company of dancers.

Reckoning with dance history

In the 1960s in Greenwich, New York, a group of dancers formed the Judson Dance Theater. In their rejection of spectacle and ‘skilled’ dance, and in response to the emotional heavyweights of their Modern Dance predecessors, postmodern dance was born. Deborah Hay was one of the founding members, and has been invited by performance group Nora to create Where Home Is on them. Expect zeal and affection; don’t expect narrative or logic.

Trajal Harrell brings Dancer of the Year to DIG for its UK premiere. In his previous work, Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church Series, he imagines what might have happened if someone from the voguing ball scene in Harlem had come downtown to perform alongside the early postmoderns at Judson Church. In this solo, he reflects on what it is to be named ‘Dancer of the Year’, a title bestowed on him by Tanz magazine in 2018.

Moving to broader terrain, Alesandra Seutin/Vocab Dance’s GIANT responds to Rwanda’s turbulent history, looking at the power that stories can consciously or subconsciously play in our lives. GIANT promises to be a stark and uncompromising performance, mixing movement, song, text, film and photography.

UK and International Work

DIG sees the World Premiere of Endling from Rob Heaslip (UK/IRE) in what looks to be a fascinating combination of vibrant, acidic colours with the funerary and mourning rituals of Scottish and Irish Gaels, through dance, vocals, music and design.

Solos and duets are often the defining set-up of emerging artists, a reflection of both artistic choice and funding limitations. Australian artist James Batchelor brings two works: his solo HYPERSPACE and duet DEEPSPACE. HYPERSPACE is slow and hypnotic, as Batchelor minutely maps different shapes and constellations, adorned with tiny tattoos of organic materials on his bare chest. Both HYPERSPACE and DEEPSPACE are creative responses to an opportunity Batchelor and his collaborators had to accompany a scientific expedition to sub-Antarctic islands in 2016. A duet from Frauke Requardt & Daniel Oliver, Dadderrs, considers experiences of neurodiversity in a standing show with optional audience participation. 

If you’re seeking a grand ensemble piece, French artist Gisèle Vienne brings Crowd. With 15 performers, and a stage covered in soil and debris, Crowd looks at the experiences of a party crowd in a rave scene.

Out of the theatre

If the thought of another fifty minutes sat in a dark space starts to test your new-found love of dance, DIG’s Dance in the Gallery programme shows ongoing developments in this strand of contemporary dance.

Tramway’s major new installation UNTIL from Chicago-based artist Nick Cave will have programmed performances in response to the work throughout its duration: artists Aya Kobayashi and Claricia Parinussa will present their works. Taking place within Tramway’s Galleries will be Ultimate Dancer’s Hevi Metle, which draws on a feminist approach to alchemy to explore matter and form. Hevi Metle will also include an integrated touch tour and visual descriptions. 

Escaping even further from artistic spaces, Moving Out, co-commissioned by Tramway and The Work Room, supports artists in expanding their practice for outdoor and public sites. SKETCHES by Katie Armstrong is a carefully crafted and often humorous series of duets that have been filmed in iconic locations across Glasgow’s Southside and will be shown off-site. Dance activist Kate E. Deeming presents Four Corners, in partnership with children from four local primary schools, with the hope of showing the power of movement to cross boundaries of geography, politics and culture.

 Whether you like your dance served dramatic, big and probing, or intimate and whimsical, you’ll find it in Glasgow this October.

Dance International Glasgow is at Tramway, Glasgow, 4-26 Oct