DanceLive festival has all the right moves

Ponydance's nightclub-set Anybody Waitin' opens DanceLive. Picture: Maria Falconer
Ponydance's nightclub-set Anybody Waitin' opens DanceLive. Picture: Maria Falconer
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SEVEN years ago, it was a minnow in the dance festival pond. Today, DanceLive is a fully paid up member of the big league, with companies from around the UK and beyond heading to Aberdeen for three weeks this October.

The 2013 line-up features 26 live performances, with a selection of films and classes also on offer – a far cry from its humble beginnings.

“When Ian Spink started the festival in 2006, it had five new performances,” says current festival director, Jenny Phillips, “so it’s grown quite a lot. We want to keep the strengths of what Ian originally intended, which is bringing cutting edge dance to the north east of Scotland, that wouldn’t be programmed up here otherwise. But as its grown, we’ve tried to make it a lot more accessible as well.”

The breadth and diversity of dance at this year’s festival would suggest Phillips has achieved her aim. Some works challenge, some simply entertain, many do both. From Ponydance’s hilarious, nightclub-set Anybody Waitin’ to Smallpetitklein’s deeply moving take on 9/11, Within this Dust, nobody could accuse DanceLive of lacking variety.

But it’s not just the emotional intent that runs a wide gamut – so too do the movement styles. Contemporary dance comes in many forms, and Phillips has pulled together a programme that veers from physical theatre (Theatre Ad Infinitum’s Translunar Paradise) to clowning (Slava’s Snowshow) via seemingly more straightforward dance from Jasmin Vardimon Company, Scottish Dance Theatre, David Hughes Dance, plan B and many more.

Although as Phillips points out, nothing is that straightforward these days. “I think those cross-artform barriers don’t really exist anymore,” she says, “and most companies are doing something that maybe isn’t what you might think of as straight dance. So if it includes movement or physical theatre then I think it totally fits in with what DanceLive is all about.”

Filling the three weeks with works that appeal to a wide range of audiences has been important for Phillips, building on DanceLive’s ongoing ability to bring in newcomers.

“I think a lot of people feel dance is not for them before they’ve tried it,” says Phillips. “But the wonderful thing about DanceLive for me is that last year people said they came along the previous year with a friend, not knowing anything about it, and now they’re coming back on their own. So it’s about taking that little risk – because actually, it might be for you.”

• DanceLive 2013, various venues, Aberdeen, today until 31 October.