THE LOWRY has embarked on its biggest season of dance ever - 41 dance performances by twelve different companies - providing a fascinating range of mainly contemporary dance designed to appeal to anyone who loves watching dance; no specialist knowledge is required, and prices compare favourably too.
“The increase in all-male dance companies and the appreciation of the physicality of dance is also part of the reason why the make-up of the audience is changing."
We amateurs might need to pretend nobody is watching for us to dance at our best, but for professionals there’s no such a barrier: audiences are welcome. And who doesn’t love watching dancers? Gene Kelly’s swishing and swirling in Singin’ In the Rain, Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk, Rudolph Nureyev’s repeated leaps and Diversity’s modernity have all drawn huge admiration, support, and smiles, from all quarters.
Luckily for the professionals, the diversity and size of the dance audience is growing as popular culture and technology reminds us just how much fun it is to watch, even if our knowledge is limited to what we’ve learnt from the comments of four Strictly judges.
The big draw of the Lowry season will surely be DESH, performed by Akram Khan. You’ve probably already seen his work, even if you’ve never attended a performance. Khan performed in and choreographed a beautiful section for Danny Boyle’s Olympic opening ceremony. Red-clad dancers accompanied by Emeli Sandé singing Abide With Me, brought a moving period of reflection and contemplation in response to the theme of ‘mortality’.
Khan, of Bangladeshi heritage and Wimbledon-born, brings a flowing fascinating fusion to his work. As a child he trained in the classical South Asian dance form 'Kathak' and as an adult trained in contemporary dance in Leicester and Leeds. He’s worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company and with Kylie Minogue.
Having seen his performance at Edinburgh International Festival this summer, I’m very excited to learn he’s bringing his signature show to Salford. DESH is a full-length contemporary solo in which one man tries to find his balance in an unstable world.
The two-night run on Thursday 13 and Friday 14 November also heralds the opening of his exhibition One Side To The Other in The Lowry gallery on Saturday 15 November. As part of the arts centre’s Performer As Curator occasional series the exhibition will feature works by the artists who have influenced and inspired Kahn’s choreography.
Another major attraction is internationally acclaimed Brazilian dance company, Grupo Corpo. From Friday 17 to Saturday 18 October twenty-two performers will combine the precision of classical ballet with the sensuality and passion of Latin dance rhythms in two pieces: Sem Mim and Parabelo.
Sem Mim (without me) is inspired by the celebrated Sea of Vigo Song cycleby Martín Codax, and given an original score by Galacian Carlos Núñez and Brazilian José Miguel Wisnik. Dancers will weep the absence or celebrate the imminent return of the lover-friend at sea.
Parabelo is more obviously Brazilian, using regional rhythms from rural Brazil, so we can expect lyricism and intense variety, energy and passion.
Another top pick is a piece by Company Chameleon, The Lowry’s resident dance company, having experienced their performance in Cathedral Gardens during last month’s Urban Moves festival. Two men danced a strong masculine piece centred on bonding, loyalty and frailty.
The company premieres their new work Beauty of the Beast next week Wednesday 22 and Thursday 23 October). It looks at 'the different faces of masculinity or maleness – the beauty, the beast, the idiot, camaraderie, strength, vulnerability and sensitivity' and is based on research with young offenders, a tradition at least as old as West Side Story.
We asked Anthony Missen, Co-Artistic Director of Company Chameleon, about the audiences they drew, given the preponderance of women attending dance performances. He said me the company’s choice of subject matter and approach has helped them attract a larger audience with an increasing proportion of men:
“Our outdoor performances have definitely helped us to reach out and widen who we talk to through our work, this includes more men. People have said there's something really cool and streetwise to seeing our work in an urban setting, in the middle of a city, maybe this appeals more to the male sex.
“The increase in all-male dance companies and the appreciation of the physicality of dance is also part of the reason why the make-up of the audience is changing. Fitness, stamina, flexibility and strength play a big part in all of our performances and this is something that males feel comfortable with respecting.”
Usually while out attending dance performances it's an all-female affair, here's hoping to change a few minds with this production, maybe even take some of the Confidential's male editorial team along... I doubt Gordo is ready, mind.
My fourth recommendation would be Rising (Friday 28 and Saturday 29 November), an evening of works performed by a rising star of British South Asian Dance, Aakash Odedra, featuring solos by an impressive range of choreographers including Akram Khan and Odedra himself.
There’s plenty more on offer in the season:
The Five and The Prophecy of Prana (Tuesday 11 to Wednesday 12 November) tells the story of an evil emperor using sorcery to harness the five elements until the Guardians of Prana took back control. Superhero comics, manga, kung fu movies and hip hop combine in this show by Boy Blue Entertainment. Boy Blue will also be involved in the Signatures Youth Greater Manchester dance showcase in January 2015.
Of Land And Tongue will be performed to a super-limited audience in The Lowry’s 360 degree-view Compass Room on Sunday 16 November. Performed in the round, Of Land And Tongue brings the audience into the heart of the action.
In December, Candoco Dance Company present an evening of two new full company works. Playing Another (Tuesday 2 to Wednesday 3 December) features choreography by Thomas Hauert and Hetain Patel, performed by a contemporary company of disabled and non-disabled dancers.
As a festive treat, Matthew Bourne’s Edward Scissorhands returns to The Lowry from Tuesday 25 to Saturday 29 November. This magical dance production adapted from Time Burton’s Edward Scissorhands has carved a place in the hearts of thousands across the world since its premiere in 2005, and features music by Danny Elfman.
Finally, international sensation STOMP! comes to Salford as part of the Salford and Old Trafford Family Arts Festival (Tuesday 28 October to Saturday 1 November). Their visit will include a flash mob performance on Manchester’s Metrolink tram on Tuesday 28 October. Passengers travelling from Piccadilly Station to MediaCityUK between 11.30am and 12pm will have the chance to catch the show for the price of a tram ticket.
Full details of the dance season can be found at www.thelowry.com/get-involved/dance/home
The Lowry Information & Box Office
0843 208 6005
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays M50 3AZ
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