Small-scale dance opens broader horizons for region

Northern Ballet production of The Great Gatsby
Northern Ballet production of The Great Gatsby
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As far as public performance art goes, it’s easy to think that it won’t get any better than 2012.

The Olympics were opened with a performance directed by Danny Boyle, someone who learned his craft in regional theatre – just over the Pennines in Oldham in fact – and it was a site-specific theatre performance that launched the Games. That’s not all – the Opening Ceremony featured contemporary dance at the heart of the performance.

Yorkshire Dance, the agency that promotes the artform in the region, is hoping to capitalise on the groundswell of interest in dance engendered by the Olympics.

“It is one of the strongest seasons of dance we’ve seen in Yorkshire in a long time,” says Wieke Eringa, artistic director of Yorkshire Dance.

“Last year was amazing for us and we’re really starting to see the benefit of having such a strong concentration of centres for dance in Yorkshire.

“In Leeds alone there are now eight venues that can and do programme dance and we have two companies in the city that are touring internationally.”

With Phoenix, Northern Ballet Theatre, Northern School of Contemporary Dance and Yorkshire Dance, Eringa argues that the region has the strongest offering of the art form anywhere in the country outside of London, and Yorkshire’s theatres have over the past few years embraced dance like never before.

But that’s not the only reason dance is so healthy in the region – it has a home here at every level. Tonight sees the latest season of Friday Firsts, an intriguing idea launched by Yorkshire Dance last year.

The organisation, based in what has become known as the Cultural Quarter of Leeds, began showing experimental work at its studio on regular Fridays throughout 2012. It has fed the appetite in the city for work at the fringes of the genre.

“The idea was simple – a lot of work being made in the dance world that can’t fit on the big stages wasn’t finding a space here. We wanted to make sure that the work being made at the more experimental, more ‘interesting’ end of the 
scale was finding an outlet, was finding a way to get 
to its audience,” says Eringa.

Experimental small scale dance? You might consider it a difficult sell, but, as the artistic director says, there are hundreds of people in Leeds studying or performing dance who are interested in this work – and many more audience members again 
who might want to see work being produced at the 
more avant-garde end of 
the scale.

If you like your dance more mainstream, you will also find plenty to enjoy in Yorkshire this season. Bradford Theatres, which Eringa saves special praise for, continues with its commitment to bringing the best in the world to the city, opening with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo next week.

Another venue giving an impressive commitment to showcasing dance is Huddersfield’s Lawrence Batley Theatre, which is playing host to the Jasmin Vardimon Company and the Rosie Kay Dance Company, both considered among the top British contemporary dance companies in the UK today, as part of its dance season.

Friday Firsts, Yorkshire Dance, tonight and March 1. To see Yorkshire Dance’s round up of the dance season in Yorkshire, log on to www.yorkshiredance.com