A place for dancers like you: A week of free classes and world-class performances marks the public launch of The Dance Space
Brighton & Hove has a strong reputation as a city that’s well equipped to support both artists and audiences hungry for culture, so it’s somewhat surprising that until now there has been no dedicated space to create, experience and take part in dance.
On 16 July that’s all going to change when The Dance Space, the city’s first purpose-built dance house opens, bringing with it a year-round programme of classes and events designed as much for the dance novice as for the professional dance community.
Here Cath James, Artistic Director of South East Dance, the charity behind The Dance Space, reflects on the journey to this point, what’s in store for the launch and how she’s looking forward to seeing dance help lead the city out of the pandemic.
If you’ve not yet explored the new Circus Street development, next door to the University of Brighton building on Grand Parade, you haven’t experienced Brighton & Hove’s newest fledgling neighbourhood. Complete with sculpture by Alex Chinook and independent coffee shop White Cloud – with more independent shops and restaurants in the pipeline, Circus Street is an extension of the Cultural Quarter Brighton & Hove is so well loved for.
And at the heart of it all is The Dance Space – a stunning, aluminium-clad three-storey building with an iconic rust-coloured steel spiral staircase, designed by award-winning architects shedkm. As a piece of architecture, The Dance Space is a very contemporary statement. As an addition to the city’s treasure trove of cultural assets, it’s been built to be welcoming and environmentally sustainable – a place for the whole community to experience and take part in dance.
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone – especially anyone who’s been involved in a major building project – that the journey from vision to reality hasn’t happened overnight. Over a decade ago, our late CEO/Artistic Director, Jamie Watton recognised the need for a dedicated space in Brighton & Hove for dance artists to create, rehearse and perform work. Too many dance artists were being forced to travel elsewhere to access facilities designed specifically with dance in mind. And for an artform and activity that’s captured the imagination of so many people in recent years, it felt only right that there should be a place people could have a go at dance of all kinds.
Twelve years on from the launch of our fundraising campaign, Brexit-related building delays and a global pandemic notwithstanding, we are celebrating what feels like the long-awaited arrival of the city’s new dance house.
But now it’s here, it’s really only the beginning. A new arts and cultural asset needs people to bring it to life, so we’re inviting the whole city to join us at The Dance Space and challenge themselves to see dance differently.
We’re hosting a very special edition of our annual free festival, Our City Dances, this year. To celebrate the launch of The Dance Space, it will be a bumper week-long celebration of dance with more than 50 free events, classes and performances.
Highlights include a brilliant collision of hip-hop, clogging and ceilidh from ground-breaking dance company Folk Dance Remixed. This is a chance to learn some street dance moves around a bespoke maypole, set to live music, or just come and watch – the choice is yours.
There will be performances from world-class companies such as Stopgap Dance, who will be entertaining us with their punkish new piece celebrating individuality and difference, complete with a live soundtrack from art-rock band Moulettes.
There will be a chance to hit the catwalk and strike a pose with Faye Revlon, who will be giving us a taste of Ballroom Culture – a subculture created by Queer and Trans People of Colour that originated in Harlem in the 1960s.
And one of our own commissions will be coming home with Club Origami – an absolutely joyful riot of paper and play for children under six and their families, from Japanese choreographer Takeshi Matsumoto, fresh from a sell-out international tour.
There will be lots of opportunities to have a go at dance too, whatever your age, ability or preference. As part of our launch of The Dance Space we’ve partnered with some fantastic local dance artists and organisations to make sure our classes speak to what people want in the city.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to try ballet but thought you might be too old: we’ve got a ballet class for older adults. Maybe you’ve been inspired by Strictly to have a go at ballroom: join us for Tango or Rumba Latina. Maybe your kids or teens love moving: we have classical Indian, contemporary, ballet and street for them. Or maybe you want to look after your joints or keep moving for health reasons: join us for Pilates or dementia-friendly classes.
The clear message we want to convey is ‘come and have a go and see what happens’. Our vision for The Dance Space is based on welcome and inclusivity, we want it to be a place where everybody will feel welcome to develop a relationship with dance that brings them joy and feeds their soul.
As we continue to take tentative steps to be together again in a world where Covid continues to challenge that, it feels like it couldn’t be a better time to be offering the city a place to come together as a community, and try something new, inspiring and life-affirming.
We can’t wait to see you at Our City Dances 2022 and at classes and performances at The Dance Space in the months and years to come.
To see the full programme and book free tickets for Our City Dances 2022, celebrating the launch of The Dance Space, visit www.southeastdance.org.uk
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