Interview With…Pawlet Brookes

The Artistic Director chatted about what to expect from this year’s Let’s Dance International Frontiers 2019.

Coral Dolphin of Evidence Dance Company (c)Ayodele Casel.

Tell us about the theme of this year’s festival – Black Dance: A Contemporary Voice? Black Dance: A Contemporary Voice is about recognising and celebrating how dance from the African and African Caribbean diaspora has shaped, influenced and informed contemporary dance practice. From the aesthetics and techniques which have influenced dancers and choreographers from around the world, to the underpinning of historical, social and political context.

The theme connects the LDIF19 programme and encourages freedom to explore the complex relationships of how new vocabularies have been created through cross cultural collaborations, and what this means to the international dance community today.

From the launch at Leicester Cathedral with Haitian choreographer Jeanguy Saintus and his company Ayikodans, to the conference and workshop programme to the finale performance with Ronald K. Brown/ Evidence: A Dance Company, the theme underpins the entire festival.

Why is it important for you to put diversity at the heart of LDIF? Representing cultural diversity is integral to the work that Serendipity does, both through LDIF and our year round programming. By representing practitioners, dancers and choreographers from different backgrounds we are reflecting the ever-changing and cultural landscape of the UK. Our mission is to showcase work of the highest calibre, and to show that work from the African and African Caribbean diaspora is professional, cutting-edge and at the forefront of contemporary dance.

What are you most excited about for LDIF19?There are so many fantastic performances, films, workshops, masterclasses and of course the conference programmed for LDIF19. However, I’m particularly looking forward to the launch of the festival on April 29th to mark International Dance Day, at Leicester Cathedral. We have commissioned Haitian choreographer Jeanguy Saintus to create Reflections with his company Ayikodans to open the festival. Reflections is rooted in Jeanguy’s native Haiti’s Vodou culture, whilst focusing on the diversity of forms, genre and style.

The idea of pushing the boundaries of working in different spaces and places is really energising, and we are grateful to the cathedral for having an open mind to collaborate with LDIF and allow us to celebrate the launch in this way.

You’ll be welcoming back to the festival Antoine Hunter, and Jeanguy Saintus – what is it about those artists that you feel have special appeal to the LDIF programme/audience? It was really importance for us to invite back both Antoine Hunter and Jeanguy Saintus, who made their festival debuts as part of LDIF18. Both choreographers inspired audiences at the festival, in two different ways. Antoine Hunter and Urban Jazz Dance Company really de-mystified some of the barriers around inclusive dance, and what it means to be a deaf dancer and choreographer. They showed how we can make dance more accessible and ensure that deaf and disabled artists should and are part of the mainstream. Jeanguy’s presentation at the Ancestral Voices: Dance Dialogues Conference and the LDIF+ programme really invigorated a dialogue around creating an aesthetic that while rooted in tradition, reflects a modern Caribbean culture.

Tell us about the work that Serendipity has been developing for the Signatures, Autograph, and Biography programmes -Signatures is a platform that puts out an open call. From those who apply, 5-7 artists are selected based on the innovative concepts and the engagement of their work, and are then asked to create a new commission which is a shared as part of LDIF. The variety and creativity is the applications we receive is always refreshing. We are in the process of choosing the artists for 2019, and have 109 applications from 36 countries to choose from, so in terms of reach and opportunity, Signatures can be a really important stepping stone on how in terms of providing opportunities for emerging artists as they build a career.

Autograph is the next stage, where we select two artists from the previous Signatures cohort to develop their work further. This year we are delighted to be working with Misato Shimizu and Ofelia Balogun, who will be presenting their respective work The Fly and Il Salice. Both artists will explore experiences where languages, cultures and identity traverse, and it is really exciting to be able to see how Misato and Ofelia have developed personally and professionally over the last year.

Biography is a platform that recognises the work of established practitioners who have paved the way and put their story centre stage. For LDIF19 we are honoured that the American cultural historian, performer, choreographer Brenda Dixon Gottschild will be at LDIF19 to share stories of her distinguished life and career, her quest to bring the cultural contribution of the African diaspora to the fore and her vision of performance as a highly charged socio-political medium. Gottschild is famous for using her background as a dance performer and as a professor of dance to create works that bring racism, gender and societal questions to the forefront of discussion – we are thrilled that she will be joining us at LDIF19.

Which companies have you booked for the first time and how did you discover them? This year we are delighted to present Ronald K. Brown/Evidence: A Dance Company in their LDIF and Leicester debut. Ronald K. Brown is a trailblazing African American choreographer, behind many popular works for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and his own company Evidence. For LDIF, Evidence will be presenting a triple bill; Torch, a tribute to Ron’s friend Beth Young, Come Ye, set to the music of Nina Simone and Fela Kuti, and the popular Four Corners (part of the Ailey repertoire). We have our patron Joan Myers Brown to thank for putting us in touch with Ron and his company, as the founder of IABD.

Let’s Dance International Frontiers 2019 will launch at the The Place in London on the 5th March. The festival will run in venues across Leicester from the 29th April until the 11th May.

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