Dance Umbrella – 4 weeks!

While you are sightseeing in London this month, you might come across dance performances in some pretty strange locations (like in parking lots, on bridges and on the side-walk) as London’s annual dance festival brightens the city until November 7th.

Started in 1978, at the first Dance Umbrella, there were only 12 companies and four soloists; last year there were 59 performances in two months, 92 per cent full. Val Bourne, it founder, was a former Royal Ballet dancer, who was inspired to set up Dance Umbrella by the radical modernism of American choreographer Merce Cunningham and his leading dancer Carolyn Brown.

From this modest start, her festival has shaped cultural taste about modern dance in Britain today. This year promises to be another explosion of “imaginative spectacle, physicality, musicality, abstract reverie, and emotional drama too” says Ismene Brown reporting for the Telegraph.

Dance Umbrella welcomes all ages, nationalities and styles as performers and has commissioned, produced and presented new dance pieces in London every year since 1978.

This year’s festival returns with a fantastic program of new dance works by established performers and introduces fresh talent from all around the world — bringing to London 2009 the figures currently making dance history — Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Mark Morris, Pina Bausch, William Forsythe.

This year’s headliner is Michael Clark — Bourne has fostered this young British choreographer — who was the Royal Ballet School bad boy, as a crazily-creative artist, when Bourne first watched him 20 years ago. Now, Clark is world-famous. His company is the 25th festival’s opening public attraction. (Sept 30, at Sadler’s Wells). “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Dance Umbrella,” he says.

This year, London visitors can also discover colorful human sculptures on London Bridge, be inspired by a series of new dances from Africa; see the Taiwanese Cloud Gate dance troupe; enjoy dancers from Israel and Holland and more.

The over-riding premise of Dance Umbrella is that it believes everyone should experience dance, without having to pay for performance tickets. Part of the festival is free; part are ticketed shows, many seats being extremely affordable. It is committed to collaborating and working in partnership with artists to create and present the highest quality new dance.

Dance Umbrella feels it is largely responsible for the explosion of interest in contemporary dance in the UK, and maybe that is so. Certainly there’s increasing public awareness of the art-form and the interest and patronage are inspiring artistic excellence. Many regard modern dance – when it is at its best – as the pinnacle of modern human expression.

Several other cities around the world have started versions of Dance Umbrella of their own, so check them out too: Boston, San Antonio, Austin, Ontario and Vancouver, to name a few.

Our body is our instrument for self expression — whether we use our eyes and hands, our ears and hands, or our whole body. Receive its gifts with Joy and create your own, after you’ve seen the brilliance around you. Be inspired to tap your own deep well of creativity.. If you are in London during this next month, be sure to visit Dance Umbrella!

* Dance Umbrella, Sept 30-Nov 8; at Sadler’s Wells (020 7863 8000), Barbican (020 7638 8891), Queen Elizabeth Hall (020 7960 4242), The Place (020 7387 0031), Tate Modern (020 7887 8888), Greenwich Dance Agency (020 8293 9741).

London’s Dance Umbrella – more here!

©2009 Mystic at Travel Vacation Review