Let’s Dance International Frontiers celebrates 10 years

David Mead looks ahead to Leicester’s annual Spring dance-fest.

Produced by Serendipity, the diversity-led arts producing organisation and its CEO and artistic director Pawlet Brookes, Leicester’s annual dance festival returns at the end of April. Diversity has always been the watchword at Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF), and as it marks its tenth birthday, Brookes has put together another super-looking, wide-ranging programme of live dance and other events with artists and companies from around the world.

Award-winning, celebrated American choreographer and dancer Kyle Abraham’s first visit to LDIF with his company A.I.M. in Pavement will be long remembered. LDIF20 opens in dynamic style on World Dance Day, April 29, as he returns with a one-off UK performance of his new solo, Cocoon, at Leicester Gallery, De Montfort University.

Also returning this year after making their UK debut at LDIF in 2017 are PHILADANCO! from Philadelphia, who will close the festival with two performances of a mixed bill at the Curve on May 15 and 16. When Dawn Comes by Christopher Huggins is a psychologically driven work showcasing dancers in a joyous celebration, Tommie-Waheed Evans’ With(in) Verse entwines the ideas of spirituality and sorrow, virtuoso lifts and turns sets the tone for Gene Hill Sagan’s La Valse, and Anthony Burrell’s Conglomerate pays homage to the rich history of black dance in Philadelphia that inspired his own journey.

Kyle Abraham in CocoonPhoto Christopher Duggan
Kyle Abraham in Cocoon
Photo Christopher Duggan

Signatures is LDIF’s platform for as yet undiscovered talent, which this year will feature new work from Spain, Tanzania, France and Sweden at the Curve’s Studio Theatre on May 6. The same venue also hosts the US-based, British-born disabled dancer and choreographer Alice Sheppard in Where Good Souls Fear, an investigation of colonial excess, on May 7. Autograph, the stage for new work by young British artists developed by Serendipity, is at the Guildhall on May 13.

Artincidence, a performance art company from Martinique, take audiences around the New Walk Museum on May 9, when Annabel Guérédrat and Henri Tauliaut present their site-specific contemporary piece Nudes Descending the Staircase. Set specifically on the museum’s spiral staircase, it is inspired by the title and controversial side of Marcel Duchamp’s painting Nu Descendant un Escalier (1912).

The seminal programme Biography will welcome Brooklyn-based dancer and choreographer Reggie Wilson who will perform Introduction, a very personal recount of his experience of the Spiritual Baptists religion in Trinidad and Tobago.

A first for LDIF in 2020 is a curated photographic exhibition. Running from April 30 at Leicester Gallery, Vijay Patel Building at De Montfort University, Black Men in Dance: Masculinity In Motion will feature rare photos and footage from the past up to the present day.

Starting May 5, this year’s LDIF conference and workshop theme is ’10 Years, 10 Countries, 10 Voices: Black Classics’. Keynote speakers at the conference are Eduardo Vilaro, choreographer, educator, artistic director and CEO of Ballet Hispánico in New York City and the award-winning dancer and choreographer Cynthia Oliver, graduate director at the University of Illinois. Featured speakers include Thomas Prestø, artistic director of Tabanka Dance Ensemble in Norway who gave a masterclass at last year’s LDIF; Alice Sheppard; and the dancer, choreographer, writer and curator Makeda Thomas, who splits her time between Trinidad and New York.

Annabel Guérédrat and Henri Tauliaut,who will present Nudes Descending the Staircase by ArtincidencePhoto courtesy Serendipity
Annabel Guérédrat and Henri Tauliaut,
who will present Nudes Descending the Staircase by Artincidence
Photo courtesy Serendipity

Other talks and workshops will be led by international speakers and dance practitioners including Léna Blou, the French Caribbean/Guadeloupean dancer, choreographer, and educator.

The Phoenix Cinema joins in the action with screenings of two dance documentary films. On May 11, it will show Step, the 2017 film directed by Amanda Lipitz that focuses on a Baltimore girls’ high school dance team, and that won the US Documentary Special Jury Award for Inspirational Filmmaking at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. The following day, there will be the opportunity to see The Passionate Pursuits of Angela Bowen, the 2016 biopic by Jennifer Abod and Mary Duprey about the black lesbian feminist activist, classical ballerina and renowned dance teacher, who died in 2018.

Pawlet Brooks says, “The tenth anniversary of Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF20) is going to be very special. I’m thrilled that we’re celebrating ten years of bringing dance from around the world to audiences in Leicester, and that we have, over those ten years, supported and developed work by a huge number of talented young artists.

Looking back, she says, “Some of my highlights would have to be Catherine Dénécy’s performance in LDIF16 in the Victorian Gallery at New Walk Museum. Seeing a space transform through dance was quite remarkable, and sense of time and place really seemed to sweep over the audience. It really was a ‘you had to be there’ moment. Last year, Ronald K. Brown/Evidence’s performance was also one of those moments where everyone was just suspended in time, the company really have that ‘je ne sais quoi’ and no one wanted to leave after the show.”

Let’s Dance International Frontiers runs from April 29-May 16 at venues across Leicester. For further details of shows and other events, and to book tickets, visit https://serendipity-uk.com/programme.