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Dance Umbrella 2011

Posted on June 23, 2011

merce cunningham dc   secondhand 02 photoby anna finke

This year’s Dance Umbrella includes the the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s farewell performances, Rosemary Lee’s large-scale free outdoor performance by professional and non-professional dancers, classic revivals from Karole Armitage and Lucinda Childs, a celebration of Richard Alston, performances at the Gate Theatre and the Victoria and Albert Museum and dance from South Africa, Italy, France, Canada and Israel.

The Merce Cunningham Dance Company opens its London visit with an intensive weekend at Stratford Circus (October 1–2), including performances of Squaregame, films and an opportunity for audiences to try out and perform the short 1963 work Field Dances. The farewell season ends with three programmes at the Barbican, from 5–8. The repertory will be PondWay, Second Hand, Antic Meet, Roaratorio, RainForest and the ravishing BIPED. At the Linbury Studio Theatre, French artist Jérôme Bel’s Cedric Andrieux, a biographical solo looking at Andrieux’s career, especially his eight years with the Cunningham company.

Square Dances, inspired by the public squares of London, is a free, site-specific performance choreographed by Rosemary Lee. Four groups of professional and non-professional dancers, including 9–11-year-olds, dance students, 50 men and 100 women will create a performance unique to the locations in Gordon, Woburn, Queen’s and Brunswick Square. Each dance will be repeated six times daily over the weekend of October 8–9. Square Dances is accompanied by live bells, from a single toll to a specially commissioned score by Terry Mann.

The Karole Armitage company returns to London for the first time since 1985. At the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Armitage Gone! Dance perform Drastic-Classicism and the UK premiere of Two Theories: Quantum and String (October 11–12). As part of the Victoria and Albert Museum’s autumn exhibition Post Modernism: Style and Subversion 1970–1990, the company dance Watteau Duets on October 14. The V&A will be the 50th London space in which Dance Umbrella has presented dance.

DANCE, at the Barbican from October 18–22, is a rarely performed work by Lucinda Childs, a member of the Judson Dance Theater collective who has not been seen in London since Dance Umbrella 1994. Created in 1979, to music by Philip Glass, the work has been restaged with a complete restoration of Sol LeWitt’s original film.

At The Pit, Barbican, the award-winning Canadian theatre collective bluemouth inc. makes its Dance Umbrella debut with Dance Marathon (October 13–16). This performance event was inspired by the endurance contests of 1920s and 30s America. As bluemouth inc. guide brave couples through box step and lindy hop, the judges will pick off participants until one triumphant couple is left standing.

Richard Alston took part in the first ever Dance Umbrella performance in 1978. This year’s Focus on Alston strand includes performances at The Place (October 19–22) of Alston’s new work to Mozart’s fifteenth piano sonata, a new work by Martin Lawrance, Robert Cohan’s sextet In Memory and Early Days, a collage of extracts from early Alston works including Wildlife, Still Moving Still, Something To Do and Rainbow Ripples. Alston will also introduce Springboard, a showcase for emerging talent, and will take part in A Feeling For Practice at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, exploring the revival process with Candoco Dance Company.

Candoco is at the Southbank Centre to celebrate its twentieth anniversary (October 14–15). Turning 20 is a triple bill of new works by French choreographer Rachid Ouramdane and the UK’s Matthias Sperling, plus the restaging project Set and Reset/Reset, a collaboration between Candoco and the Trisha Brown Dance Company. This will be the first time Brown’s classic Set and Reset has been performed by dancers with and without disabilities. From October 9–15, there will be a week of associated events to celebrate the anniversary, including classes, workshops and film screenings.

Emanuel Gat returns to Sadler’s Wells from October 10–11, with the UK premiere of Brilliant Corners, his latest work. Commissioned by Dance Umbrella as part of ENPARTS, the new work has a cast of 10 and an original score composed by Gat.

The Gate Theatre, joining Dance Umbrella for the first time, hosts two collaborative works. The Difference Engine, a festival co-commission, is the second collaboration for Ben Duke, Will Duke, Zoë Svendsen and Dario Palermo, with an interplay between dance, live and electronic music, video and animation. It runs from October 13–22. Logobi 05 (October 24–28) is the latest in a series of duets initiated by Monika Gintersdorfer and Knut Klaßen. Richard Siegel, formerly a dancer with William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt, meets Franck Edmond Yao from the Ivory Coast for a discussion and exchange of dance forms.

Several companies make their Dance Umbrella debuts at The Place. Catarina Sagna presents the UK premiere of Basso Ostinato (October 13–14), while Mamela Nyamza, Benoît Lachambre and Louise Lecavalier (the star of Edouard Lock’s La La La Human Steps) bring the UK premiere of Is You Me (October 25–26). Returning artists include Nelisiwe Xaba, in a double bill with work by fellow South African Nyamza (October 28–29).

For the seventh festival running, the Brief Encounters strand presents short works by new and established choreographers, performed before main stage shows. This year’s encounters are with Claire Cunningham, Matthias Sperling and circus artists Mathurin Bolze and Hedi Thabet.

Tickets for all performances are available from 0844 412 4312 or from

Picture: Merce Cunningham Dance Company in SecondHand. Photograph: Anna Finke.

Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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