British Dance Edition 2008

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Michelle Lefevre

Festivals for contemporary dance are by no means unusual but the British Dance Edition (BDE) stands out for the simple reason that it manages to cram an unspeakable number of performances into a very short space of time, just 3 days in total.

The raison d'Être for this kaleidoscopic melee of dance madness is the presence of hundreds of producers and promoters from around the globe who book touring productions for their venues and, ironically, other dance festivals.

Attending BDE is like taking part in a dance orientated speed date. You quickly move from performance to performance, venue to venue, over a period of 3 days with shows starting early in the morning and running late into the night. It is not for the faint hearted.

Over the years BDE has emerged from its early teething troubles when it was the British stage of a pointless dance competition called the Bagnolet (the full name was unspeakably long and no one could ever remember it) into what we have today. A 3 day intensive of some of the best new dance work this country has to offer.

During the festival's early years performances were restricted to showing only small snippets of work but this has since changed and the companies must show a full length performance. This rule change means a better experience for the audience and an increase in the volume of caffeine you need to consume if you have to see all the shows!

For 2008 the BDE will be held in Liverpool and the organisational reigns are in the hands of Merseyside Dance Initiative, one of the UK's regional dance agencies. We asked Ruth Adkins, BDE Project Co-ordinator a few questions about the festival, here's the least you need to know.

What new features are you planning on introducing for BDE08 that will be different from last year in Leeds?

We hope BDE08 will build on the successes of BDE06, but because we're in planning stages for some of the key features of the programme it's a bit early to give out details.

Each BDE is different and the host city's various venues and characteristics all have an impact, so we're putting together a programme of events that fits what Liverpool has to offer. Without succumbing to scouse stereotypes, don't be surprised if you're invited to take a 'Ferry 'cross the Mersey'. We'll keep you updated as the programme shapes up via email updates and the website.

The open application procedure is a great addition how will you be striking a balance between established companies and new dance makers?

We're really pleased with the open application procedure, as it offers the opportunity for all dance makers based in Britain to apply and we feel will give us a fair idea of what is out there in British Dance.

After spending some time getting out across the country to see work, we will endeavour to programme a balanced percentage of new dance makers and those who have not been seen at previous BDEs, in amongst the companies who are more established or have presented at BDE before.

What should new dance makers take into account before submitting their work for consideration?

The BDE2008 selection criteria says that 'work must be available to tour in 2008 / 2009'. New dance makers should think about what support needs to be in place to make the most of performing at BDE. Every company or choreographer whose work is shown needs the capacity to follow up interest generated and promote their work beyond BDE, which can take a fair amount of admin, marketing and management.

MDI is a lot smaller (in terms of organisational size) than many of the NDA's how are your plans going to deal with the increased workload of organising dozens of companies, performances and promoters over the hectic 3 days of the BDE?

Well, we're not that small... MDI has a permanent 8-strong team and works in close partnership with the North West's other regional dance agencies - Cheshire Dance, Dance Initiative Greater Manchester and Ludus Dance - which are all in full support of BDE. As BDE is an ANDA project, there will be opportunities for National Dance Agency staff to take up a secondment to MDI.

We also have well-established links with local universities and colleges. Many a work-based learning placement has given valuable support to MDI projects in the past and BDE volunteer support has been agreed from LIPA and John Moores University amongst others.

MDI has also been producing a major dance festival in Liverpool for the last 15 years, LEAP takes place in March and means we already have strong working relationships with many of the venues on board for BDE08. For details of this years festival:

5. Will the 'Trade Fair' still be a feature of the festival?

The trade fair didn't feature in last year's BDE but will be reinstated for 2008 so that more artists can profile their work even if they're not performing.

How big a part will the internet and new technology play in the festival?

Hard to say at the moment, although already five times as many artists have applied to perform via our online application page than have requested the forms in any another format. We're interested in new technology and we are just down the road from FACT (Liverpool's centre for Film, Art and Creative Technology) so watch this space...

When the festival is all over how will you quantify its success or otherwise?

Previous BDEs have been evaluated through feedback, forms and follow-up with artists. MDI is working to develop a tracking project that will extend beyond the end of BDE08. It takes time to quantify the impact of an event like BDE as dance company and venue touring schedules range from 6 months to 2 years in advance. This time the evaluation will be ongoing for at least 18 months and will hopefully support the plans for 2010.

How much sleep do you think you will al be getting in the two weeks prior to the start of the festival?

None. We're already in training - the office mantra during BDE will be 'sleeping is cheating'.

British Dance Edition starts in February 2008 but you can get your applications in to take part right now.

[ BDE 2008 Website ]

[ MDI Leap Project ]

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