During Hidden Door Festival 2017, I helped out on the Theatre Team. I also was a successful applicant to the programme, curating an evening of dance. The evening of dance went well, and so, I asked if we could expand on this, and if Hidden Door could have it’s very own dance strand, to complement its eclectic, multi-art form programme strands. I couldn’t believe it when they said yes! And so there it was, we were introducing a dance programme.
We had an open call, which received over 300 applications from across the world. We couldn’t believe it, and certainly had our work cut out, to look through all of the applications, many of them incredibly high quality.
Successful applicants were a mix between international and Scottish and varied from ensemble dance, to solos, to dance made for the stage, to dance popping up around the place when the audience least expected it.
“Hidden Door successfully introduces international dance strand” The List
The programme began with the wonderful Janis Claxton Pop Up duets. They popped up in the main hall of the auditorium, at The Launch Drinks, giving everyone a taste of more to come.
“Over ten days, Hidden Door will play host to 16 different dance works, each taking advantage of the unique spaces Leith Theatre and the State Cinema has to offer. And if there’s one person who knows how to do that, it’s Janis Claxton. Her POP-UP Duets (fragments of love), have surprised passers-by in locations across the world, and fit the Hidden Door programme like a glove. Whether they were popping up inside the theatre, clearing a space outside, or emerging unexpectedly from a bank of seating, the couples delivered Claxton’s emotionally-charged choreography with beauty and grace.” (Kelly Apter, The Scotsman, 4 star review)
That night dance was followed by Claricia Kruithof, creeping from the crowds as they awaited a gig to start. It was amazing to see how many new people engaged with dance, as she performed her exciting solo.
SHHE – Su Shaw and Eve Ganneau also performed in the basement of the State Cinema. This was the first time this space was used for dance, and fitted perfectly. They moved their lights around creating ambience, and the beautiful voice worked together with a loop pedal allowed the improvisation to build. Delicate movement beautifully performed.
The weekend progressed with more Pop Ups, and with Screendance. Scottish based artists Natalia and Owa Barua performed their South East Asian inspired Screendance in the State Cinema. As well as an introduction to Collettivo XL, an Italian duo, incorporating projection seemlessly into their choreography, happened on Sunday.
To be followed again on Monday, in the Leith Theatre, as an introduction to the two dedicated dance showcase nights. Here we were joined by Aberdeen based Eowyn Emerald and Dancers performing Trinary, a piece collaborating with lights and colour and Edinburgh based Aerial Dance Theatre, All or Nothing, performing a new work-in-progress, Window’s against the back of the Leith Theatre. What was most fun about this evening of dance was moving the audience around with us, allowing different pieces to be perceived from different locations: suiting the pieces as best they could.
I love when there are ways to encourage an active audience, and hopefully the different viewing locations really added to the excitement of the evening.
We welcomed Becky Namgauds to Hidden Door. A London based choreographer, experimenting with a mud pit! This piece was incredible! The dancers transfixed the crowd, and the outdoor and unusual setting fitted perfectly to Hidden Door. Whilst watching, I felt the dancers become less and less human like; the unusual, exhausting movements taking it away from anything I had seen before.
Wednesday presented another evening of dance, this time welcoming two Scottish choreographers, Roisin O Brien and Leeanne Dobbie. Roisin took inspiration from president Trump for her choreography, which was decisive and clear. She worked with musicians Silo Portem, who performed live on the stage, which really brought a multi-artform, collaboration aspect to the evening. Leeanne looked at the Japanese working culture, and brought three athletic dancers to the stage. It was really important for us to support Scottish artists and it was an absolute pleasure to see, and be able to support the quality works created.
Eowyn Emerald and Dancers presented Trinary again, but this time they also performed a duet at the very beginning of the indoor part of the evening. They stood, waiting as the audience entered. I loved seeing the audience faces as they walked in, and the ‘hush’ that followed as the audience eagerly awaited them to begin. They did not disappoint.
The audience entered through Simon Filde’s work ‘Pilgrim’ exhibited as an installation. This work was a series of films, which had been filmed at the Leith Theatre itself. It fitted perfectly, and it was a joy to show the work where it was created.
We also had the wonderful Jung In Lee perform her solo, Skins, which fell to critical acclaim. It was a real pleasure to begin this South Korean connection; the work was incredibly engaging and they were lovely to have around!
“Korean dancer Jung In Lee’s solo piece ‘Skins’ was a crunchy, robotic look at the articulations of her body; like a Meccano ballet, she worked out a cold, emotion-void study of ragdoll, body-popping and angular shapes as if she was an animated character in a video game.” (Claire Sawers, The List, 4 star review)
The final weekend welcomed Scottish Dance Theatre. Velvet Petal was performed in the basement of the State Cinema. The location fitted the piece perfectly, and a standing ovation followed the grungey, hypnotic dancing. This event was one of The Herald’s Top Ten pick’s for things to do that weekend, and I can see why: the choreography by Fleur Darkin was electrifying!
We welcomed Claricia Kruithof once again, as well as Janis Claxton’s duets, and it was a real pleasure to continue with the pop up nature of dance happening around the festival, hopefully encouraging new audiences to engage with dance that may not have before.
We welcomed Hagit Yakira, Israeli London based choreographer. I have worked with Hagit before, and she was one of my lecturers at Dance School. I have always found her work to connect with the audience, and her duet, inspired by breath and connection, really did so here too. It was a real pleasure to welcome Hagit to the festival, and we all felt incredibly inspired by her work and her presence.
And finally we finished with more screendance; this time by Kai Wen-Chuang and Lucas Chih-Peng Kao. This piece looked at home and identity, as well as connection to place and how this makes us who we are. I felt this was something that certainly resonated with me, and the work was very thought provoking. The screendance itself was exquisite, and seeing the dancers respond to it live made it all the more moving.
All in all, the first dance programme at Hidden Door seemed to be a success! I am delighted that dance is now showcased at this festival, and hope that this will provide more opportunities for Scottish based artists, as well as welcoming international acts to the festival. It is a real pleasure to be able to view dance, and the whole experience left me feeling rather inspired and full of new creative ideas. I really hope that it did this for the rest of the audience too.
I would like to say a massive thanks for all of the contributors that made the programme what it was; it’s been a pleasure to meet and work with you all!
All photos by the wonderful Chris Scott