Dance Guide: Our picks of what’s on

Deb Ashby

We’ve teamed up with Dance Manchester to bring you our picks of the best dance shows Manchester has to offer.

The challenge: dare to go and see unfamiliar things by names you don’t know in places you wouldn’t expect. That’s what the best of this upcoming season of dance has to offer, should you wish to accept.

As the Director of Dance Manchester, I inevitably want to recommend our Urban Moves International Dance Festival taking place on Saturday 6 September. Urban Moves was established in 2005, led the way and laid the foundations for what is now a national trend: taking professional contemporary dance performance out onto the streets, public squares and beyond. Our fifth festival brings you free contemporary dance performances in Manchester city centre. Acrobatics, b-boying and BMX biking all combine in Etta Ermini Dance Theatre’s Roadworks. In an outdoor promenade performance, Akademi’s Ascension uses the language of Kathak, a classical indian dance, to ascend one of the nine cycles of heaven as described in The Divine Comedy.

Acrobatics, b-boying and BMX biking all combine in Etta Ermini Dance Theatre’s Roadworks

As the days get shorter and the sunlight fades, dance moves inside and we take our seats back in the theatre. Following hot on the heels of the Long Walk to Freedom, a film about Mandela, Contact Theatre brings Dark Cell / Mana, a double bill of dance from South Africa as part of Afrovibes 2014, to the stage. Afrovibes is a biennial festival connecting the arts of South Africa with the UK.

The first in the double bill, Dark Cell, is, as the name suggests, inspired by from former political prisoners of South Africa’s Robben Island. In contrast, the concept of life force, or power, flows through Mana, an ensemble work that is a choreographic collaboration between Birmingham based ACE Dance, Music’s Gail Parmel and South African choreographer Vincent Mantsoe. Mana restores hope through spiritual ritual in this energetic marriage of contemporary dance, afro fusion and martial arts.

In October, the Manchester-based Company Chameleon premiere their new work Beauty of the Beast, which takes a close look at the male of the species. The work that initially made Company Chameleon’s name was Rites, another intimate exploration of maleness. Beauty of the Beast at the Lowry, choreographed by Anthony Missen, revisits this theme and extends this exploration into the realms of the power and influence of the group, the tribe, the gang, into competitiveness and hostility. Performed by five exceptional male dancers, the piece will also reveal the vulnerable men hidden behind this unified façade.

At their best Chameleon have a rare ability to strip away theatrical distance, to transfer emotions through a considered physicality which intimately reflects something of the world around them. So – challenge accepted?

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