Citymoves set to celebrate 10th DanceLive Festival

Company Wayne McGregor. Photo: Rick Guest 

Ahead of DanceLive Festival's tenth anniversary we spoke to Ian Abbott, Director of Citymoves about the history of the festival and what they've got planned.

Citymoves aims to make a difference through dance. How are you doing that?

Citymoves started in the late 1980s with a series of dance development roles focussed on making a difference through dance for people with additional support needs. Fast-forward 25 years and we’ve grown and embedded within the city to provide opportunities for hundreds of people in a diverse set of communities through our well-loved dance classes.

On the front cover of our most recent class programme, we feature Lesley Black – a member of Step Forward (our integrated adult dance performance group) for over 20 years. It's important to celebrate and recognise our whole community and reinforce the message that everyone can dance, not just those with virtuosic and trained bodies.

Our outreach work in Rosewell Care Home provides seated and standing dance activities, conversations and reminiscences about dancing in Aberdeen in the 1940s and 50s alongside a ‘fine piece’ and a cup of tea. It really brought home the value and positive impact this work has as it helps to reduce the social isolation and invisibility some of the participants can feel. Meanwhile, young people are able to come to Citymoves and work towards their SQA Higher Dance qualification or audition for our youth dance company, Fusion.

You’re part of a network of dance agencies in the UK. What does it mean to be part of that?

The network of dance agencies, organisations and development officers is one of the strengths of the UK dance scene. These organisations are providing support to some of the most vulnerable people in their communities, and offer bespoke programmes of socially engaged practice spanning mental health and well being, physical fitness, as well as offering support for artists. 

There is a collective wealth of expertise, history and power in these organisations, which is often held by individuals. However, there have been calls for both dance agencies and venues to be more transparent with programming, artist support and commissioning criteria - the risk being that it could otherwise feel like a closed shop. Since moving to Scotland I've witnessed a significant level of investment and support given by Creative Scotland to independent artists (such as Joan Cleville, Caroline Bowditch, Marc Brew and KaSt) and I believe this goes some way towards shifting that power.

Indepen-dance 4. Photo: Ian Watson 

You must have seen many exciting things since you joined in April. What have been the highlights?

My first day coincided with the Citymoves Spring Show, where I got to see a number of our classes and performance groups such as Quicksilver and Pulse perform and reap the fruits of a term’s work. It was a joyous celebration of the participatory work Citymoves does so successfully.

I spent time at Tramway in May and June at Dance International Glasgow, which provided an opportunity to see many new works by artists based in Scotland – the highlight being Claire Cunningham's unflinching solo “Give Me A Reason to Live”. I also had the chance to go to Paris for the “Focus on Australia” season at Theatre de Chaillot and was transfixed by Stephanie Lake's duet Dual, while Edinburgh Fringe Festival provided a number of highlights including Guru Dudu's “Silent Disco Walking Tour”, “I Heart Catherine Pistachio” by Encounter and “Ghost Dance” by Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru.

Citymoves offers a number of residencies for professional artists to develop new work and test out ideas, and since joining I’ve got to see Tamsyn Russell and Jack Webb demonstrating expansion in very interesting fields of choreographic movement. It's important that the audiences of Aberdeen get to see such works in progress.

Also, our Youth Dance Company Fusion participated in an international youth exchange with DanceWorrrx from Regensburg, spending a week in Germany making a new work together. Following that, both groups came back to Aberdeen and performed the work over half a dozen times across Aberdeen City and Shire as part of Aberdeen International Youth Festival.

And you’re about to become an independent organisation too… what are your hopes for the future?

With independence and charitable status comes a board of directors and we have a breadth of skills, expertise, and support from individuals who have been working with Aberdeen City Council to ensure a smooth start to the next set of adventures. Opportunities for Citymoves are rich, varied and, excitingly, some are still unknown. The ability to apply to trusts and foundations alongside the chance to engage with partners further afield with Creative Europe bids will help us tell the story of Citymoves and the North East of Scotland in international territories. I hope Citymoves begins to have a national voice, helps to shape the ecology of the art form and offers open, receptive and supportive partnership to others across the country.

From February 2016 we'll be starting a partnership with Aberdeen Performing Arts to ensure there is a regular opportunity to see dance at The Lemon Tree venue, which will build on the appetites whetted each year by DanceLive.

UPG Team. Photo: Richard Baybutt 

We’re looking forward to DanceLive Festival in October. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, what have you got in store for us?

Citymoves sees DanceLive15 as a rounded and rich event that offers people many different ways to engage.

We've commissioned “Choreospondance” by Casson & Friends, which invites people to write a letter describing a dance performance they would like to see. Using as many of the letters as possible four new mini dance works will be created in unusual places across Aberdeen - we've already had letters from across the UK and Australia. “Choreospondance” is part of a strand of work that looks at Adventures in Authorship (featuring Joe Wild, Cultured Mongrel Dance Theatre, Zena Edwards and Tamsyn Russell), and gives people the opportunity to people to influence the outcome of work.

We'll also host a daily public conversation with some of the UK's finest choreographic minds, including Wendy Houstoun, Claire Cunningham and Roberta Jean. And the first ten people to attend the conversations will get a free birthday drink of their choice!

We will have a hearty presence of fine Scottish work including All or Nothing, Ian Johnston, Gary Gardiner and Adrian Howells, KaSt and Indepen-dance 4 who're working with our very own Step Forward to re-adapt part of the The Gadfly Project as well as Company Wayne McGregor’s first visit to Aberdeen with “Atomos”. We also welcome a fart-friendly, scientific and interactive work for children called “Windibops” by Moxie Brawl. We're excited to be presenting “HUG” by Verity Standen, which will see each audience member blindfolded and individually hugged by a singer. It's a genuinely unique physical experience and, if you're brave enough, it’s also one of the most emotionally moving performances you'll ever take part in.

Find out more about Citymoves.

DanceLive 15 takes place between 9 and 20 October 2015 throughout Aberdeen City and Shire featuring dozens of performances. Here's more on just a couple of the shows:

On Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th October STEAM will see the UPG Team animate a skeletal scaffold steam locomotive through scenes inspired by the silent movies of Buster Keaton, gun fights of the Wild West, the mystery of the Orient Express, the rooftop stunts of James Bond, the heartbreak of the First World War and the dark future of inner city commuting.

Here is a preview of what to expect:

On Sunday 18th October Caroline Bowditch presents her intimate and enticing show exploring the life, loves and legacy of painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954), exposing little-known facts about the infamous woman, remembered for her art.

Find out a little more about the show:

On 20 November, a month after Dancelive 15 finished, CityMoves released a video recreating some of the amazing performers from the tenth festival all in Lego. Created by stop-motion artist Graham Love with audio supplied by Kai Murphy from Verity Standen's performance of HUG, watch it now:

This article was published on 25 Sep 2015