Six of Britain’s best-loved dance companies are getting ready to perform next weekend on the beautiful Waterfront Stage at Latitude Festival 2014. This year’s programme includes an outdoor staging of Atomos from Wayne McGregor | Random Dance and performances by James Cousins Dance and National Youth Dance Company alongside Cuba’s Ballet Revolución, international Tango stars German Cornejo and Gisela Galeassi and English National Ballet. We caught up with Candoco and Sonia Sabri to find out what they’ll be looking forward to at the festival.
“It’s great to be part of Latitude,” says Birmingham’s Sonia Sabri, who is making her Latitude debut with the contemporary Kathak solo Ekalya on Saturday 19 July. “It’s a great institution and it’s a great location to be performing on the waterfront, so we’re all very excited.” Ekalya is performed by Sabri with three musicians, led by tabla maestro Sarvar Sabri, and the upbeat composition draws on the geometrical designs and fast, rhythmic footwork of classical Kathak.
“We really want to create a rapport with the audience – especially outdoors,” says Sabri. “It’s really trying to amplify that energy; even if the audience are just walking past they should be stopped through the energy that we are projecting from our work, and hopefully they’ll watch the whole piece!” Although this is Sabri’s first Latitude, the company has performed at outdoor festivals previously and will be outdoors again as part of WOMAD at the end of July.
On Sunday 20 July, London’s Candoco dance company is returning to Latitude for a second time after its 2012 debut with Trisha Brown’s Set and Reset (Reset). “In 2012 it was brilliant,” says producer Nadja Dias. “The sheer number of people seeing the work is fantastic, and the stage is a wonderful setting.” This year, the company is bringing new duet Two For C, created by Javier De Frutos specifically for outdoor touring.
“We were very much interested in how we can bring audiences close to us, what happens to the choreography, the movement when audiences are close up to the dancers,” explains Dias. “Javier explored this idea of intimacy. We have what we call our travelling carpet, this wonderful four by four metre carpet that resembles a living room; we have this couple trapped in their relationship and their kind of old, stale living room carpet and their two chairs. It’s important outdoors that you have a clever way of framing the work.”
Performing outdoors – whether at a street theatre festival as Candoco recently did in Rouen, or in the lush environs of Henham Park – brings an entirely new set of demands for choreographers and performers who usually work in the theatre. “I think you have to be constantly aware of the four sides – you don’t have the proscenium arch, you don’t have the audience here and here is the stage, basically audiences can look at it from all four sides so as a performer you really do have to be aware of that,” says Dias.
Do festivals like Latitude help dance companies connect with new audiences? “I’m very passionate about what I do, I live to dance and I would like to share that with every audience, whether they’re indoors, outdoors, large or small,” says Sabri. “I want to be able to give them a sense of that passion through our work, and give them an experience that they haven’t had before.” The Waterfront Stage is located on a central thoroughfare through the Latitude site, and it’s not uncommon for audiences passing by on their way to another arena to be arrested by something happening on stage and stop to watch the performance.
“I think the recommended playing time is 25 minutes because there’s so much distraction outdoors,” says Dias, “so I would think 25 minutes is a good length for a work, and I think it’s actually a really nice way of introducing people to contemporary dance.” Both Sabri and Candoco have seen their audience reach rise as the result of outdoor touring, and Dias has noticed new people in (indoor) theatre audiences as a result of the company’s work outside.
Latitude, with its strong dance programme, is a slightly different proposition. “There are certainly people going to Latitude who are dance audiences,” adds Dias. “I really think people do look at that programme and say, ‘Oh, I will go and see these two hours of dance performance’ because they really get a very nice variety.” Sabri agrees: “It will be great to see James Cousins, and Akram Khan’s Vertical Road – I’ve seen it before and it will be interesting to see it translated onto younger dancers.”
Both companies are hoping for a fine weekend (although since 2012 the Waterfront Stage has been covered, allowing performances to go ahead in light rain), and for enthusiastic audiences for their very different performances. ““I would like everyone who hasn’t been to Latitude to come along,” says Sabri, “because I think it’s a great festival and a great chance to see work!”
Latitude 2014 takes place from Thursday 17th to Sunday 20th July in Henham Park, Suffolk. Full lineup and other info at www.latitudefestival.com
Candoco will be touring Two For C throughout July and August, followed by a new double-bill of indoor work this autumn. Touring details
Sonia Sabri Company will be performing Ekalya and Jugni throughout this summer and autumn at events including WOMAD and the Ediburgh Mela 2014. More at www.ssco.org.uk