International Dance Festival Birmingham 2016 celebrates a successful fifth edition

1 Jun 2016

Dancer Ben Jones in Corey Baker Dance's PHONE BOX as part of IDFB 2016 - Dani Bower Photography

Dancer Ben Jones in Corey Baker Dance’s PHONE BOX as part of IDFB 2016 – Dani Bower Photography

Audiences of over 52,000 enjoyed an impressive range of world-class dance performances and events at International Dance Festival Birmingham 2016 (IDFB 2016), up by over 50% in comparison to the previous festival in 2014.  One of Europe’s biggest and most diverse dance festivals, the fifth edition from 1-22 May, produced by DanceXchange in partnership with Birmingham Hippodrome, was a considerable success.

Taking over the city with dance at some of the city’s finest venues, including Birmingham Hippodrome, The Patrick Centre, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, The Crescent and Warwick Arts Centre, and complemented by a huge programme of free dance performances in the streets and squares of the city, IDFB welcomed audiences to 37 ticketed theatre shows and 65 free outdoor performances.

From Compagnie Philippe Saire’s Black Out, an intimate experience of light, sound and movement viewed from above, to the poetic acrobatics of The Ricochet Project’s Smoke and Mirrors and the pulsating live music and emotion of One Dance UK member Hofesh Shechter Company’s Political Mother at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the programme offered exceptional quality to suit all tastes. Carlos Acosta’s A Classical Farewell at Birmingham Hippodrome and Olga Pericet Company’s Sin Titulo at One Dance UK member DanceXchange’s The Patrick Centre played to sell out audiences over consecutive nights. The festival’s mini season of choreography from the Indian sub-continent was also well received, including a sell out evening from Aakash Odedra  and Sanjukta Sinha.

A feather in the festival cap was Canadian contemporary company Ballet BC’s first ever performance in Europe, which was a great critical success and audiences should look out for dates in London soon.  IDFB is fast gaining recognition from programmers and promoters as a place to see new work not previously presented in the UK and this year the festival welcomed visitors from Edinburgh Festival, Pittsburgh Dance Council, Adelaide Festival, Perth International Festival, Sadler’s Wells, and the Guggenheim.

65 free performances in outdoor places and unusual spaces attracted estimated audiences of almost 25,000. As part of this, the wacky new commission Phone Box by Corey Baker Dance, popped up in spaces across the city, amusing shoppers and creating a buzz on the city streets, as well as further afield at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. Phone Box is now touring festivals across the UK this summer.

Centenary Square LIVE NIGHTS, a huge free mini-festival within a festival, sought to grow the scale and impact of IDFB, with a series of outdoor performances accompanied by food stalls from award-winning Digbeth Dining Club.  Concentrated on four days within the programme, LIVE NIGHTS brought together several dynamic festival commissions taking over the city square with a line up of entertainment, not least the spectacular headline event The Machine Show – a striking depiction of a futuristic world, with live music from French band rinôçérôse, a female ‘android’ en pointe and impressive robot moves from Popping champion Spider Salah.  The events attracted audiences of over 15,500, plus further live streaming views of 7,601.

IDFB 2016 included a dedicated Festival Hub for the first time, a central meeting place, with a pop up café from independent café bar Cherry Reds, and a programme of talks and workshops, all housed in Birmingham’s iconic and rarely opened Municipal Bank building on Broad Street. The centrepiece of the transformed banking hall was Cells, a huge, stunning kinetic sculpture by Japanese artist Shun Ito.  This new commission by IDFB was the highlight of Ito’s Cosmic Birds exhibition which was viewed by audiences of over 6,600.

IDFB 2016 offered many ways for people of all walks of life to take part. The Festival Hub hosted a wealth of workshops, talks and tours. The IDFB picnic engaged community groups at Ward End Park in Hodge Hill. The Paint the Town Red programme offered the opportunity to enjoy participating in styles as diverse as Bhangra, Bollywood, Swing, Lindy-Hop, Jazz, Jive and Flamenco. This festival included two new commissions created with community casts at their core.  Csaba Molnár’s Eclipse engaged 10 local dance students and artists, and Kei Miyata’s In A Landscape featured a community cast drawn from local yoga, tai chi and martial arts groups. Put Your Foot Down also presented a line up of talented young performers from around the region and 13 members of DanceXchange’s Centre for Advanced Dance Training had valuable performance opportunities as they prepare for potential professional careers in the dance world.

The festival also supported two key dance industry events – The BENCH Conference organised by One Dance UK member 2Faced Dance Company, examining the leadership role of women in dance, and Navadisha 2016 organised by  One Dance UK member Sampad South Asian Arts and New Dimensions, posing questions crucial to South Asian dance today. These welcomed partners from across the dance sector and attracted an impressive list of delegates to the city, including playwright, novelist and critic Bonnie Greer who delivered The BENCH’s welcome speech.

David Massingham, DanceXchange’s Artistic Director and Co-Artistic Director IDFB16 said: “It has been a huge pleasure working with so many fantastic international artists over these past weeks, both bringing their work to the stage and creating new productions. I believe our thrilling programme has had a transformative effect on audiences. The branding and visibility of the festival across the city was the envy of many of the international programmers who came to see premieres and IDFB is grateful to Birmingham City Council and Centro for their support with this. We’d also like to thank Arts Council England and our many festival partners.  IDFB is truly a team effort.” 

Mark Rogers, Chief Executive, Birmingham City Council said:  “Birmingham City Council is pleased to have been able to support IDFB 2016 for the fifth time. This festival has been more visible than ever in our city streets – and has offered a wealth of great entertainment for residents and visitors alike as well as reaching out to communities beyond the city centre. We are proud to celebrate it as a signature festival, helping to cement Birmingham’s place as a distinctive, attractive international city.”

Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England said: “Over the last three weeks the International Dance Festival Birmingham has made its mark on the city, celebrating both the wealth of dance talent Birmingham has and giving people the chance to enjoy an exciting mix of performances by artists and choreographers from around the world. Since launching, the festival has become one of the jewels in Birmingham’s cultural crown and it’s great to see public investment from the Arts Council making the event happen, from its world premieres and outdoor spectaculars to events that have got people up and dancing.”

Gary Topp, CEO of Culture Central, said: “IDFB is a strong expression of Birmingham’s cultural strength. It is a welcome blend of the international with the local, the community energy with the cultural organisations and it creates a strong sense of place and identity. IDFB is one of the ways that Birmingham reveals its exceptional capability in the dance sector”  

Fiona Allan, Birmingham Hippodrome’s Artistic Director & Chief Executive, and co-Artistic Director of IDFB 2016 said: “As founding co-producers of IDFB, we’re thrilled this year to be contributing over 70% of festival audiences for ticketed events.  We are truly privileged to have such a fabulous stage for major dance companies, playing to over 100,000 dance patrons annually.”

IDFB 2016 is funded by Arts Council England and Birmingham City Council. The Festival is produced by DanceXchange in partnership with Birmingham Hippodrome.  IDFB would like to thank our festival venues Birmingham Hippodrome, The Patrick Centre, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, The Crescent and Warwick Arts Centre.

Details on the whole festival, and the events which took place, can be found at