The region’s dedicated dance venue is springing towards spring with its most ambitious programme yet, as DAVID WHETSTONE reports
No arts organisation springs into a new year with quite the grace and athleticism of Dance City and its new spring/summer season is presented as its most ambitious so far.
“We’re extremely excited about the current season,” says Anthony Baker, artistic director and joint chief executive of the Newcastle-based regional dance centre.
“We’re bringing some of the biggest names in dance to Dance City and the quality of the work is second to none.”
Some of the biggest names in contemporary dance, including Motionhouse and Scottish Dance Theatre, are bound for the venue but emerging choreographers from across the North and Scotland will feature in Northern Platforms on March 5.
The new season brings more companies with more multiple performances to Newcastle than in past years. It also features three new works specifically for children and families.
At a glance, it looks like a programme designed to reach out beyond the core dance audience with colour and humour part of the mix along with drama and beauty.
The season opens on February 7 with two pieces from the company of Swiss choreographer Renaud Wiser.
The London-based company bid successfully for a Dance City commission last year and Who Killed Bambi? is the result.
Dance City will host the premiere with subsequent performances lined up around the country.
In the new work, according to the company website, “the performers engage in a narrative evoking the natural hunt of a pack of wolves and a strange dinner party where the food is one of the guests”.
It adds that the piece is meant as a critical look at our modern society, taking inspiration from “recent political examples of individuals standing against the group and the subsequent hunt to silence them”.
Up next, with performances on February 12 and 13, is acclaimed Midlands-based dance company Motionhouse whose dance-rooted works also draw inspiration from theatre, acrobatics and film.
The company, founded in 1988 by Kevin Finnan and Louise Richards, is known for its dynamic performances. Last year it toured the United States, Hong Kong and Japan with a work called Scattered.
Broken, premiered in 2013, has toured extensively to great acclaim. According to the company, it “probes our precarious relationship with the earth, luring the audience into a world of shifting perspectives”.
Kevin Finnan says: “Broken is a trademark Motionhouse production. It is a visual spectacle that seamlessly integrates physical and emotive dance theatre with dazzling digital imagery, music and set design.”
One of the pieces aimed at youngsters is Varmints, created by dance company Travelling Light with the backing of Sadler’s Wells and others.
Inspired by a children’s book written by Helen Ward and with illustrations by Marc Craste, it tells of a woodland creature’s struggle to preserve a world in danger of being lost to an ever-expanding city.
Varmints, suitable for people aged seven plus, toured nationally in 2013 with one reviewer calling it “enrapturing for children and adults alike”.
There will be morning and afternoon performances at Dance City on April 8.
Scottish Dance Theatre will be at Dance City for three days in April, kicking off with two evening presentations of a double bill.
Winter, Again, by Jo Strømgren, is described as a Nordic fairytale in which a community struggles to hide its dark misdemeanours beneath a blanket of snow. The musical accompaniment is from Schubert’s famous song cycle, Winterreise (Winter Journey).
Accompanying it is Dreamers, a new work by Anton Lachky which is to premiere in Scotland next month.
On April 25 the company will also give two performances of Innocence which is deemed suitable for children aged three plus.
“Innocence invites little ones (and their adults) to explore William Blake’s imagination,” state Dance City, describing the piece as “a magical theatrical journey led by Scottish Dance Theatre’s captivating dancers with live music, songs, giggles and animal noises”.
What those three-year-olds will make of William Blake is anyone’s guess but there’s only one way to find out.
The third work of the season aimed at youngsters is HOP, coming along on June 27 and suitable for ages four plus.
First performed in 2011, it is based on the myth of Icarus and was the debut production of Dutch company Nevski Prospekt.
These are just some of the forthcoming highlights at Dance City which is keen to raise its profile as a venue as well as a place where dance is made and classes are held.
To this end, posters have been displayed outside the building and those with an NE1 postcode, who have never visited Dance City before, can buy their first ticket – either to a class or a performance – for just £2.
“We are trying to develop our audience in all kinds of ways and we’re keen for people who live close to Dance City to come in and see what we do,” explains communications manager Nina Byrne.
Dance City, the only North East venue dedicated to presenting dance, has a 250-seat theatre and tickets can be bought for as little as £5.
Full details of the new season can be found on www.dancecity.co.uk