Birmingham International Dance Festival returns

David Mead

Following its postponement in 2020, good news for West Midlands dance lovers is that the Birmingham International Dance Festival (BIDF), is returning this summer, albeit with a somewhat different look.

Produced by DanceXchange and one of the city’s signature festivals, this year’s event comes in two parts. First, a largely online summer edition from June 3-13, which will feature film world premieres and digital screendance commissions. Then in the autumn, from September 21-October 3, there will be a live outdoor programme.

At the heart of the BIDF summer edition will be a brand new dedicated digital platform, BIDF TV, launched in collaboration with ZOO, one of the major dance presenters at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and which pioneered online presentations at last year’s festival.

The full programme of dance on screen, workshops, classes and panel discussions will be announced in May but highlights will include the online world premiere of the newly filmed Chotto Xenos from Akram Khan Company, which takes young audiences back in time to explore the largely forgotten stories of First World War colonial soldiers; Birmingham Royal Ballet’s new short film The Burning Building by Javier de Frutos, plus the first screening of the company in City of a Thousand Trades, choreographed by Miguel Altunaga, which will receive its live world premiere, just before broadcast, at the Birmingham REP.

Kennedy Junior Muntanga in Akram Khna's Chotto XenosPhoto Jean Louis Fernandez
Kennedy Junior Muntanga
in Akram Khan’s Chotto Xenos
Photo Jean Louis Fernandez

June will also see the premiere of region-wide youth participation dance and digital project, Beyond Borders, led by DanceXchange, the West Midlands Dance Development Leaders Group and Arts Connect.

A Midlands Made screendance programme will feature premieres of two films produced by The Motion Dance Collective: Don’t Play with L(Kn)ives by Brooke Milliner and Anywhere’s A Dance Floor, a new collaboration between choreographer Jason Guest and drag artist and cultural producer Fatt Butcher.

There will also be a screendance showcase curated in collaboration with Flatpack Film Festival.

The programme for dance professionals features Outdoor Dance Collection 2021 (ODC21), a dance and outdoor arts industry programme of events which includes UK Dance Showcase and Dance & The Outdoors Symposium.

The BIDF autumn edition will be live with an extensive outdoor programme showcasing local touring, youth engagement, co-productions and digital work. Highlights will include an international showcase, Outdoor Dance Collection 2021; and again, the programme will include workshops and classes for public and professional dancers.

Although theatres are scheduled to have reopened to socially distanced audiences by the time BIDF takes place, Debbie Jardine, Chief Executive at DanceXchange, explains that the decision to split the festival as it is was taken following Government advice given earlier this year, which indicated that outdoor performances may well not be permitted until late summer. “We decided to embrace the opportunities this presented to reach existing and new audiences both at home and internationally.”

She notes that having the first part online allows BIDF to “celebrate and champion the cutting-edge work now produced for the digital space responding to the huge outpouring of artistic creativity in this new medium, and rising online audiences. Splitting our festival into two parts, moving our outdoor edition to a more Covid secure date in the autumn, created space for this exciting new all-digital programme in our usual June spot in the dance calendar, providing fresh opportunities to commission original work and showcase some of the best UK and international screendance.”

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