DanceEast unveils a new season and celebration of Suffolk culture

The Black Album by Avant Garde Dance, part of DanceEast's spring season 2014

The Black Album by Avant Garde Dance, part of DanceEast's spring season 2014 - Credit: Archant

Regional dance agency DanceEast have announced a spring season packed with dramatic new productions which will form part of a new co-ordinated contemporary arts provision which will take in new work from the New Wolsey Theatre, Robert Pacitti’s company and Gecko.

Brendan Keaney, the new artistic director of DanceEast.

Brendan Keaney, the new artistic director of DanceEast. - Credit: Archant

DanceEast’s artistic director Brendan Keaney said that the combined programming was designed to celebrate the world-class theatre being made in Ipswich.

Institute by Gecko, part of the DanceEast spring 2014 season

Institute by Gecko, part of the DanceEast spring 2014 season - Credit: Archant

“There is a strong sense amongst us that if we share and plan together we can raise the profile of Ipswich and the culture offer. Amazing work is taking place here but not enough people outside the town know that. We want to be proud of Ipswich and the world class work that is being produced here.”

A Darker Shade of Fado by Nuno Silva, part of the DanceEast spring 2014 season

A Darker Shade of Fado by Nuno Silva, part of the DanceEast spring 2014 season - Credit: Archant

He said that the DanceEast spring season gave them a wonderful opportunity to shine the spotlight on a wide variety of young companies and choreographers and allow them to offer something different to a series of diverse audiences.

Running on Empty by Probe dance

Running on Empty by Probe dance - Credit: Archant

“The spring is a time of rebirth and renewal, a time for new ideas and we will be introducing a programme of new work to reflect this. I want to develop this as a theme over time – that the spring is a time to see new work by rising companies or choreographers, or even new work by experienced companies and that the autumn is a time for maturity and reflection where we bring in work that has been well received elsewhere or has been made by dance companies that have had time to build up a good reputation.

Border Tales by Protein Dance, part of the DanceEast spring 2014 season

Border Tales by Protein Dance, part of the DanceEast spring 2014 season - Credit: Archant


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“All the work both in the spring and the autumn will be of the highest quality but the spring programme will be more concerned with offering choice, developing new audiences, building up links with the community and allowing new companies to develop work that can go on elsewhere.

U.Dance East, youth dance showcase, part of the DanceEast spring season 2014

U.Dance East, youth dance showcase, part of the DanceEast spring season 2014 - Credit: Archant

“I always say that the spring programme is rather like a box of chocolates. It’s full to the brim of different types of fillings and you won’t like everything but there will be plenty that you do like. I don’t happen to like orange creams and there will be orange creams in the spring season but other people will enjoy orange creams and not like my preference for nut-clusters or a caramel.

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“What I am saying is that the secret is to come along and give it a try. There are lots of different types of dance for lots of different types of audience. I have made a conscious effort to produce a diverse programme which will make up the most packed spring season that DanceEast has ever produced.

“We have a wonderful facility here on the Ipswich Waterfront and I want people to get used to coming here. Every Friday there will be something on – as well as plenty of performances at other times – but I have made sure that there is something on most Fridays so people get into the habit of coming. It won’t be a case of asking: ‘Is there something on?’ Rather it will be a question of: ‘What’s on?’

He said that his other great goal was to get Ipswich recognised as a international cultural centre. “We have a world-class facility here in the Jerwood DanceHouse and quite rightly we have booked international companies to perform here. We have world-class dancers, who usually perform in vast arenas in London, performing to Suffolk audiences in our 200-seater studio theatre on the Ipswich Waterfront. That is something to be celebrated. It would be very hard to get that up-close and personal with international performers anywhere else.

“I want people to get used to coming to the DanceHouse but also acknowledge what a special and rather wonderful venue it is. We are so lucky to have it. Many towns and cities across Europe would give their eye teeth to have a dance and performance venue like this.”

He said that the spring season also tried to offer opportunities to engage with the community and offer people the chance to perform as well as watch top professionals.

“In the coming months we will be offering showcase events for our young companies and community groups to perform in a professional environment and also for a few lucky people they will have the opportunity to appear on stage alongside some of the world’s leading dancers.

“There’s a heavy emphasis on community participation. The season opens with Border Tales (Feb 12-15) with Luca Silvestrini’s award-winning Protein dance and they will be having six members of the community performing on stage with them. It’s a piece about immigration which combines dance, dialogue and live music and all the community participants have been chosen because they have some experience of immigration.

“They have a story to tell and they will be helping to create the piece.”

Brendan said that Luca and Protein have good memories of working with DanceEast in the past and are anxious to build up a strong working relationship. “Their last show here, LOL, was a huge success and went onto tour, to great acclaim, around the world. There was very few places where it didn’t get to.

“It was a great hit with the British Council and Border Tales is his next big project. He wanted to experiment with longer runs and we thought we would join in with that experiment.”

He said that the combination of dance, humour and local history will attract a wide audience and a longer run will allow time for good word-of-mouth to spread.

The first of the regular Friday night events will be Running on Empty (Feb 28) choreographed by Antonia Grove, formerly of Ballet Rambert. “Antonia is an amazing dancer. She is always pushing herself to do different work and Running on Empty is the story of a man and woman and their hopes, dreams and fears. This is definitely one for a younger audience. It’s absurdist and at times challenging. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but she is an extraordinary performer and it’s coming to us fresh from a two -week run at The Soho Theatre”

Running On Empty will also form part of DanceEast’s One Night Stand campaign where audiences will be offered a half-price drink and be given an opportunity to talk over that night’s performance and other elements of the spring season with Brendan and other staff members.

“It’s all about establishing a rapport with our audience and what we learn will inform what we do in the future. Going back to my box of chocolates, I may discover that I am the only one who doesn’t like orange creams and so will have to change the programme accordingly. It will be good to talk to people and find out what they think.”

Brendan said that one of the events he was most looking forward to in the season was Finding Home (March 15) with Tom Hobden Dance. Tom is architect behind DanceEast’s highly successful Boys From Babergh – a project designed to get more boys involved with dance.

“Tom is one of our great assets and I would love to project him more into the national arena. I think he is a very interesting artist and someone should be proud of. Finding Home brings together Boys From Babergh and two other district projects and it will involve 200 inter-generational performers drawn from right across Suffolk.”

The final piece will be performed at the Jerwood DanceHouse, the Apex in Bury St Edmunds and the John Peel Centre in Stowmarket.

Part of the We Are Ipswich initiative sees Macbeth – Blood Will Have Blood (March 29) being performed at the DanceHouse studio.

“This was a New Wolsey project and they thought that it would look better in our space and we were delighted to be able to host this. There is only one public performance but there are a number of schools performances which are completely sold out.

“It will have an incredible atmosphere because the seats are all going to be curtained off and the audiences will sit on the floor among the performers and will feel very much part of this startling world.

“The New Wolsey are one of the best theatres in the country and we are very pleased to be working alongside them. They are doing a brilliant job there and they are very collaborative and we are looking forward to building on this relationship. It is great to move audiences between venues because again it emphasises the very best quality work going on across Ipswich.”

The other New Wolsey production being staged at The DanceHouse is Gecko’s latest production Institute (May 1-3). Gecko is a New Wolsey associate company and was offered to the DanceHouse because the production would look better in the intimate environs of the studio theatre. “Gecko are an amazing physical theatre company. They are very much of the moment. It’s a very fine line whether they can be described as a dance company or a theatre company. They combine the best elements of both worlds in order to tell a story or explore ideas. Created by their artistic director Amit Lahav, Institute, is an intimate exploration of what it means to care. It’s funny and incredibly moving and features some breath-taking choreography. It’s a captivating exploration of the way we care for and nurture ourselves and each other.

“They know this shape very well and although Gecko is a physical theatre company they mostly use dancers. Again what is fantastic is that Gecko are one of the most exciting and highly regarded companies in the world and they are based in Ipswich, they are an associate company of the New Wolsey Theatre and they rehearse and develop their new work at the DanceHouse before taking out to tour the world. I think that is something we should shout about.”

He added that Robert Pacitti will be presenting new work rising out of the SPILL Festival at the DanceHouse as a We Are Ipswich strand in the autumn programme.

The Black Album, presented by Avant Garde Dance, is a performance designed to attract youthful audiences to the DanceHouse that may not have considered attending before.

“Avant Garde Dance are a much talked about company at the moment. In France there is a strong movement which uses street dance styles as contemporary dance whereas in this country when you see street dance it’s just normal street dance put on a stage. Avant Garde are a company which are at the forefront of using the French model in this country – using street vocabulary to make contemporary dance work.”

Then A Darker Shade of Fado (May 9) will introduce a new work based on traditional Portuguese singing which can be equated to a European version of The Blues from the southern United States. Fado are narrative stories of people’s lives and family relationships.

The piece has been created by versatile dancer and singer Nuno Silva. Nuno was last seen in Ipswich performing in Arthur Pita’s production of God’s Garden. His individual work includes contemporary dance, classical opera and West End musicals.

The spring season will also present showcases for U.Dance East, (Feb 23) a regional youth dance drawing talented young dancers from across the east of England, Salsa Night (March 21), Family Funday (March 23), High Voltage (June 21-22) a showcase for DanceEast performance groups and End of Year Show (July 26) for the DanceEast Centre for Advanced training.

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