Coming soon! Birmingham’s three-week dance-fest with something for all

SeeingDance editor David Mead looks ahead to May’s International Dance Festival Birmingham.

It’s nearly here! The International Dance Festival Birmingham, the city’s biennial dance-fest,  is now less than a couple of months away.

Since the inaugural festival back in 2008, IDFB has brought many top-notch international companies to the city. Just as important, though, and sometimes more interesting, are the smaller, less well-known choreographers and ensembles. Remember the fascinating series of works in 2010 under the banner Outspoken, a mini-festival of performances, film and discussions within the main event that showcased contemporary dance from the Arab speaking world?

Once again, the 2016 programme brings dance to suit every taste: ballet, contemporary, physical theatre, hip hop, flamenco…you name it, it’s there in the city’s theatres, streets and squares. As always there will be plenty of free performances, creating a buzz outdoors, and lots of opportunities to take part and get moving yourself.

Nederlands Dans Theater 2 in Alexander Ekman's CactiPhoto Rahi Rezvani
Nederlands Dans Theater 2 in Alexander Ekman’s Cacti
Photo Rahi Rezvani

Down on Hurst Street, the Birmingham Hippodrome’s main stage plays host to five large-scale productions. Kicking things off on May 3 and 4 are one of Europe’s finest, Nederlands Dans Theater 2, in a cracking-looking programme that includes works by Johan Inger (to songs from Van Morrison) and Edward Clug alongside the Hans van Manen classic, Solo, and Alexander Ekman’s joyous, fun Cacti, which really does include…cacti! The same week sees Carlos Acosta drop by (May 5-7) with his A Classical Farewell, his final UK tour dancing classical works.

Week 2 sees the return to IDFB of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan with Lin Hwai-min’s spellbinding Songs of the Wanderers (May 10-11), a paean to spiritual pilgrimage danced to soulful Georgian folk songs by the Rustavi Ensemble. It’s all brought to life on a set that includes no less than 3½ tonnes of grains of rice. Lin recently told me that he is considering retiring the work from the repertory for good, so these could be the last ever performances.

Taking up an idea pioneered by Sadler’s Wells, Dance Sampled (May 17-18) presents a selection of different dance styles in one night, for a special low price. The line-up includes Company Wayne McGregor, Birmingham Royal Ballet, world tango champions German Cornejo and Gisela Gallessi, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Faun and much more. IDFB are also promising fun dance activities pre-show in the foyer.

Rounding off the Hippodrome programme is the UK debut of the highly regarded Vancouver-based Ballet BC (May 20-21) with a compelling contemporary ballet program, the highlight of which must surely be Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo.

Olga PericetPhoto Paco Villalta
Olga Pericet
Photo Paco Villalta

The fascinating and varied Patrick Centre programme is so jammed with promise it’s hard to know where to start. Olga Pericet is one of the most celebrated flamenco artists of the moment. She regularly packs out theatres across Europe, so IDFB have done well indeed to present the world premiere of Sin Situlo (May17-18), with special guest Jesús Fernández. IDFB will also give plenty of opportunities to sample flamenco first-hand with flamenco workshops and a Peña Flamenco evening.

Later the same week, on May 20, the Centre welcomes Aakash Odedra, one of the most promising young choreographer-dancers around. His Echoes, which blends traditional kathak with the contemporary received much acclaim when premiered at Leicester’s Curve last year. On the same programme is the pure kathak Incede, choreographed by Padma Bhushan Smt Kumudini Lakhia and danced by Sanjukta Sinha. There’s another contemporary take on India from Hemabharathy Palani and Subhash Viman with Trikonanga & Twine and Morphed the following evening.

VerTeDance in CorrectionPhoto courtesy VerTeDance
VerTeDance in Correction
Photo courtesy VerTeDance

For something a little different, try Correction by VerTeDance from Prague (May 13-14), one of the must-see shows of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe. The work stems from Jiří Havelka’s notion that we are all tied by who and what we are, and while much of time we could break free, we choose not to do so. The seven dancers never move their feet. They can’t. Their shoes are glued solidly to the floor! It’s a bit of a slow burner, but includes plenty of inventive and hugely entertaining dance. Oh, and there’s fabulous live music too, courtesy of The Clarinet Factory.

The Patrick Centre hosts several UK premieres. Hungary-based Csaba Molnár presents Eclipse, and József Trefeli and Gabor Varga JINX (May 6-7). Eclipse, premiered in Budapest only last December, brings the improvised masses of party culture to the stage. We are promised a new, fictitious, comic-like world through the reinterpretation of the stereotypical situations. Monchichi is by the outstanding French/German Company Wang Ramirez (May 10), who so wowed Sadler’s Wells last year. Compagnie Philippe Saire from Switzerland present Black Out (May 3-4), a sort of dance meets graphic art experience performed with thousands of black granulated fragments.

Peeping Tom in 32 rue VandenbrandenPhoto Herman Sorgeloos
Peeping Tom in 32 rue Vandenbranden
Photo Herman Sorgeloos

If you like your dance theatre decidedly surreal, then head down the A45 towards Coventry, for Peeping Tom’s 32 Rue Vandenbranden, at Warwick Arts Centre on May 19-20 is a must. Is it a dream, a nightmare, or something altogether more weird? At times, darkly comic, at times poetic, it’s mesmerising; and I’ll guarantee there are moments when you’ll be left asking “How do they do that?”

Back in Brum, the Rep hosts two shows. Spanish ensemble Aracaladanza, another returning IDFB visitor, present Vuelos (may 10), inspired by the genius that was Leonardo da Vinci. But take the serious hat off, because this is a company full of playfulness who take a decidedly witty and imaginative approach to dance. And adults, ignore the fact it’s described as “family friendly.” It is, but it’s also hugely entertaining for all.

Hofesh Shechter Company in Political MotherPhoto Victor Frankowski
Hofesh Shechter Company in Political Mother
Photo Victor Frankowski

Later that week the building is sure to be rocking (and probably its neighbours too) as Hofesh Shechter brings what his become something of a signature work, Political Mother, to town. With its band of live guitarists and drummers, it is loud, very loud, and aggressive, but it’s also startlingly good theatre.

Heading slightly further out of town in that direction, Smoke and Mirrors by The Ricochet Project at the Crescent Theatre (May 17-18) combines acrobatics, contemporary dance, contortion and more

IDFB is noted for producing large-scale work for outdoor spaces. This year the action moves to Centenary Square for The Machine Show (11-14 May), a brand new dance and circus spectacular, with dancer and choreographer Melanie Lomoff and hip-hop dance icon Salah (both from France), headlined with live music by the French band Rinôçérôs. CUBES, Created by Tamsin Fitzgerald of 2Faced Dance and David Massingham of DanceXchange will be part of Machine Week.

CUBESPhoto Dani Bower
Photo Dani Bower

Also outdoors are world premieres of two new touring works for outdoor places and unusual spaces commissioned and co-produced by DanceXchange for IDFB. Both are winners of DanceXchange’s Big Idea commissioning strand. Corey Baker Dance (New Zealand/UK) will present Phone Box (1, 4-14 May), a light-hearted solo using acrobatic and physical movement that aims to bring to life that most iconic of British street furniture: the red phone box. ZoieLogic Dance Theatre’s RIDE (11-14 May), meanwhile, tells the story of three strangers hitch-hiking on an unknown path; a journey set around an iconic, custom built car that comes to life and, we are promised, reveals its own hidden surprises.

Two important dance sector conferences will take place during the festival: The Bench Annual Conference at the DanceXchange (May 17) is the culmination of the first year of a three-year programme run by 2Faced Dance from Hereford, developed to respond to the lack of equality faced by female contemporary dance choreographers. At mac in Canon Hill Park, Navadisha 2016 (May 20-22), programmed by New Dimension and Anita Srivastava in partnership with Sampad South Asian Arts, celebrates the popularity and diversity of the British-based South Asian dance sector and looks at future challenges.

New to IDFB in 2016 is the Festival Hub at Municipal Bank on Broad Street opposite the Rep and the Library of Birmingham. The Hub will be a meeting place for artists and the public and will house a programme of events. The Municipal Bank will also be home to an exhibition of kinetic sculpture by Japanese artist Shun Ito.

Returning favourites include Paint the Town Red (various dates) presenting flamenco, bhangra and swing in unusual spaces; and Put Your Foot Down (May 7), a spectacular day of free dance performances and workshops from local to international artists.

For more details and a full list of what’s on, visit Tickets are now on sale for all shows with various multi-buy offers.
For details of the BENCH conference, visit
For details of Navadisha 2016, visit

SeeingDance will be at most shows, bringing reviews throughout IDFB 2016. Keep an eye on the website, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.