Thursday 16th to Sunday 19th July 2015
Henham Park, Suffolk
Who’s Who in the Latitude Dance Line-UpJuly has just arrived and with it comes Latitude, the annual music and arts festival at Henham Park in Southwold (you might know it as ‘the one with the techni-coloured sheep’). The eclectic festival is ringing in its tenth anniversary this year with a sizeable dance programme to complement its many music, theatre, comedy, film, cabaret and literature offerings.
Latitude has a long history of quality dance programming – English National Ballet, Wayne McGregor | Random Dance, Hofesh Shechter and Ballet Black have all graced its illustrious Waterfront Stage in years past – and the 2015 line-up looks set to continue the tradition, with Rambert headlining.
Sadler’s Wells is presenting much of the programme, as it has for the past seven years, with all but one act taking place on the aforementioned Waterfront Stage, a platform assembled in the middle of a shimmering lake. The striking setting naturally lends itself well to Swan Lake variations, of which there have been several over the years – I can still remember the stunning figure the Ballet Boyz cut when they performed Act III of Matthew Bourne’s version on the floating stage back in 2010, the first year I attended the festival.
As the biggest name on the roster, Rambert has the primetime Saturday afternoon slot. The London-based contemporary company, Britain’s oldest national dance troupe, performed at Latitude in 2011 with a new piece from Tim Rushton, artistic director of Danish Dance Theatre. This year it’s returning with an old favourite: Christopher Bruce’s 1994 work Rooster, a sassy celebration of the swinging sixties set to some of the Rolling Stones’ biggest hits, including “Paint it Black” and “Little Red Rooster.” Latitude already favours a retro, Summer of Love-style vibe (ex-hippies comprise a not inconsiderable portion of the crowd), so this piece should fit right in.
Preceding this main event are Thursday and Friday performances of Titanium by Rojas and Rodríguez, the duo behind Nuevo Ballet Español. The piece – which features an all-male cast and an on-stage band – fuses flamenco, hip-hop and breakdance, a blend that went down well in Spain, where the work won a National Dance Award during its European tour in early 2015. Here in the UK its reception was mixed when it appeared in May as part of Sadler’s Wells’ 2015 flamenco season: some reviewers loved the busy set-up and the composite styles; others found the structure chaotic and the music bland. I haven’t seen Titanium, but I suspect its promise of showy dance battles will go over well with the rowdy festival crowd.
On Sunday afternoon Sadler’s will be showcasing the finalists from this year’s BBC Young Dancer Award, which saw 20 performers aged between 16 and 20 go head to head in a televised contest this spring, competing in one of four fields: ballet, contemporary, hip-hop and South Asian. Connor Scott, a 16-year-old contemporary dancer from Blyth, emerged as the winner and will perform one of his pieces from the competition; four other finalists – Kieran Lai, Harry Barnes, Vidya Patel and Jacob O’Connell – are also set to appear.
Another set of teenage dancers will appear during the National Youth Dance Company’s performance later Sunday afternoon. The three-year-old company – hosted at Sadler’s Wells in London – consists of 38 performers from around the UK, all between 15 and 19 years old. Each season NYDC welcomes a new guest artistic director: this year’s is contemporary choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, whose new work Frame[d] will premiere at Latitude. Much like Alexander Whitley’s Frames, which Rambert debuted earlier this year, Cherkaoui’s work features a scaffold of detachable metal poles for the dancers to deconstruct and reassemble. The sight of these props on the already precarious floating stage should be an exciting one to witness.
Rounding off the line-up are two dance theatre offerings. First is Company Chameleon’s Beauty of the Beast, an all-male work choreographed by artistic director Anthony Missen. The Manchester-based company debuted the piece – which charts a throng of lads and their shifting group dynamics – back in 2014 and received a lot of positive feedback for the intensity and variety of emotions on display. The work is the last showing on the Waterfront Stage.
Meanwhile, over in the Theatre Arena will be East London Dance with Club Life, a musical that dances its way through the history of clubbing, hitting on influential eras like the ‘60s Northern soul movement and the ‘90s house scene. The piece is directed by Nathan ‘NEO’ Gordon – who’s choreographed for the likes of Kylie Minogue – and features a handful of dance crews, including Lauren Fitzpatrick & Madeleine Gould, Boadicea Ladies, Soul Mavericks, BirdGang, and InDaHouse.
In between performances are a handful of dance workshops, hosted by Ipswich-based Dance East, taking place in Pandora’s Playground. Hip-hop, belly dancing and capoeira are among the sessions on offer.