Brighton dance celebration returns

After being forced off the calendar by the pandemic last year, Our City Dances returns to Brighton once again for a community celebration of dance.

Rose Kigwana
Rose Kigwana

Organised by South East Dance in collaboration with a community steering group, Our City Dances 2021 will take place online and outdoors from Monday, July 19-Saturday, July 24 – the last one before they open their new home for dance, The Dance Space next year.

Beginners breaking workshops, an online disco party and an invitation to join Brighton & Hove-seafront regular Lya, aka BLK Diamond Dance to “dance like everybody’s watching” are all part of the line-up at this year’s free celebration of all things dance. This year’s event will cover a wide range of dance types for a wide range of ages with events including Varnam Workshop, Beginners Guide to Breaking, Walking Stories, All These Things We Can Make and Our City’s Dance Party.

As spokeswoman Rose Kigwana explains: “It’s an annual community dance festival that we at South East Dance have been running for the last four years. However, we didn’t run it last year because of Covid. It was just too early (in the pandemic) to know how we might do it, but the two years previously we had got lots of people involved. I think we can build back slowly. It is still going to be outdoors but also online and we won’t have the large-scale events. There will be 30 people at most. It will definitely be smaller.

“But it is important for us – important for us that we are known by the community and that we are seen by our local community and that the local community feels that we are part of them. It will be a mixture of performances that you can watch or workshops that you can be part of or that you can watch, and it will be lots of different types of dance forms as well and events that should appeal to lots of different ages. There will be about 15 events and about ten different artists or companies taking part. Some of them are from Brighton, but because we are online, some of them are from much further way away. But all of the artists have never been part of the festival before. They are all new to us. That was a choice we made. We are committed to working with new artists and to bringing new artists to Brighton. There are many artists that we work with often, but we are also really keen to reach out.

“I have always thought dance was really important, but with the last year, with people stuck more in their homes and with their physical activities really limited, I think dance is even more important than ever. It gets the endorphins going. It brings some relief.”

And it all comes in preparation for the opening of The Dance Space next year.

“We are still in the final stages for the building. We are expecting final completion imminently. It has been at least 20 years since Brighton had a new cultural centre opened. We don’t have that many arts or cultural spaces in the city, and the south-east region is the only region that does not have a dedicated dance centre. It should have opened in 2012. I don’t know about the earlier part of the story, but Brexit and Covid have delayed it.

“The Dance Space is being built mainly for artists to make new work and to rehearse it in there. We are going to have performances, but our key purpose is not as a performance space. It will be a space for artists to do technical rehearsals. It is very much a research and creative space, but also a public space for workshops where the public can come in.”

As for Our City Dances, it has been co-curated by South East Dance and by a community steering group “made up of people from all walks of life and from different parts of the community. They meet once a month and they help us curate the festival, advising us as to what they think the community wants us to do.”