A year ago, just after the first lockdown started, I remember Pawlet Brookes, Artistic Director and CEO of Serendipity UK, producers of Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF), telling me that she thought it would probably be 2022 before the festival could be held again fully live. Sadly, it has indeed come to pass that the 2021 event will be largely online. The good news, as she now says, is that while LDIF20 might have been the first digital lockdown festivals, we can reasonably hope that LDIF21 will be one of the last.
This year’s theme, ‘Socially Engaged Art: Can Dance Change the World?’ was chosen long before events made it seem particularly relevant, Brookes explained at the festival launch. As such, LDIF will consider how those in the arts can continue to make things more accountable, and how do we continue to open up boundaries so that everyone can join in. It will also look at Black Lives Matter, although as she points out, that’s a topic LDIF has always been steeped in.
“If the events of the last year have taught us anything, it is that we live in an ever-fluctuating world where we have to be creative and responsive. As we move through this challenging period arts and culture will be crucial in playing a key role in reengaging society, helping mental and physical health and stimulating the economy, with this in mind,” she says.
LDIF21 will feature a full programme to be enjoyed outdoors and online at home. As well as performances and the now regular exhibition, audiences will have a number of opportunities to be involved in the conversation online alongside leading artists and practitioners. There will also be workshop opportunities for emerging and mid-career artists.
As always, LDIF21 will open on International Dance Day, April 29. Launching the festival will be the Colonisation in Reverse: Jean-Léon Destiné Exhibition that looks at the colourful career of acclaimed Haitian choreographer Jean-Léon Destiné (1918-2013), known for his work that addresses Haiti’s history of resistance against colonialism and slavery. It will feature archival materials, some never before presented in public. The exhibition will be available at www.colonisationinreverse.co.uk from April 29 and available to see in person at Curve in Leicester from 17 May, in line with the UK Government COVID-19 Road Map.
Also part of the launch day will be an online showing of the film series Born to Manifest by Jospeh Toonga in anticipation of a live outdoor performance of Born to Protest to take place as part of LDIF+ in Leicester in June 2021. Born to Protest is hip hop dance theatre follow up to the 2019 male duet Born to Manifest that illuminates the experiences of young black British men, and responds to the relentless incidents that continue to occur today, and champions cultural identity and challenges racial stigmas.
A range of national and international dance performances will be online. Streamed from Curve, Black British Dance Platform (April 30) is a showcase of new work by British based artists from the African and African Caribbean Diaspora. Work from three artists; Dani Harris-Walters, Paris Crossley and Fubunation has been selected as part of an initiative to affect long-term change in dance through leadership and collaboration.
Also streaming is Spirit of Jazz by BOP Jazz Theatre Company (May 5) who captures the individual and collective human spirit and creative expression of the jazz dance as a theatre art form. Also available online steamed from the US and Spain will be a Dance Double Bill with Yinka Esi Graves and Maya Taylor (May 7-8) with two new pieces of dance from the change making choreographers. Graves’ films will show her continuing work on her Disappearing Acts, which it is hoped to present live in 2022.
This year’s festival conference is Creating Socially Engaged Art: Can Dance Change the World? (May 4), which seeks to highlight the impact that Black women in particular have made to the international dance ecology.
Other discussion and conversation events include Black British Dance Platform in Conversation, Digital Dance and Discussion (May 1) and Globally Connecting: International Association of Blacks in Dance In Conversation (May 7).
New for this year is the appointment of an artist-in-residence. Throughout the festival, German illustrator and artist Patricia Vester will capture her original responses to all the festival events, documenting and encapsulates movement and dance through visual art. Her work will be showcased during Black History Month later in the year.
A LDIF+ programme will take place in late June, supporting continuing professional development opportunities for dancers and choreographers. The programme will feature masterclasses from Dollie Henry (June 19) and Jonzi D (June 20), alongside the performance of Toonga’s Born to Protest.
For a full event listing, visit www.serendipity-uk.com.