Giving dance a great deal more Latitude

If you exercise like the BalletBoyz, don't count on developing their physiques. Photo: Danny North
Katie is an award-winning arts journalist specialising in dance and physical theatre
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I haven’t been to a festival that wasn’t Dance Umbrella for yonks. But this weekend we packed up, hooked up the caravan and trundled off to Henham Park in Suffolk for Latitude – one of the biggest offerings on the UK festival scene.

Everyone here is dancing – from the sequin leotarded high kickers spilling out of the hurly-burly café theatre tent with babies Bjorned to their chests in a promenade performance, to the drunken revelers swaying along to an impromptu rendition of purple rain after finding a camouflaged piano in the woods. Ecstatic undulations of Kraftwerk boogiers and merry stomping of Maccabees fans follow Dance East’s pop-up fun/fitness workshops teaching everything from Irish dancing to Zumba.

The best thing about Latitude is how you are constantly being exposed to cultural offerings you wouldn’t necessarily otherwise experience. Drifting around the park from stage to stage there are hidden gems everywhere.

[pullquote]I missed out on The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein (sob) Rashdash’s The Frenzy and a whole bunch of filth in the cabaret tent.[/pullquote]

Small stages nestled in the woods show bands, films, stand up comedy, roller skating, live art – performance of every kind to stumble upon, sit by, take in, soak up, before moving on to the next, with information pixies pointing you in the right direction and huge flower lanterns lighting your way.

The line up is relentlessly good, for music fans and those who want something more. Headline acts aside there is a fabulous amount of dance and physical theatre on offer. Boy Blue Entertainment, one of the UK’s finest hip hop dance companies krump for those who care and Hiru Dance Organisation perform cutting edge choreography in pink boiler suits. In the Outdoor Theatre arena in the forest we see Push, a poignant, hilarious, touching and uplifting piece of physical theatre by Tangled Feet catering for the oodles of new mums on the scene and Swing Patrol performing and teaching swing dance steps to an eager audience.

In Pandora’s Playground we experience the vintage vaudevillian vibe of Les Enfants Terribles’ Marvellous Imaginary Menagerie (one of my personal highlights of the whole festival) and BalletLORENT’s The Night Ball treats late night audiences to the perfect festival ballet experience with tutu’d ballerinas dancing solo on the side of huge swan lanterns drifting over the lake before an aerialist, attached to a magnificent lunar hot air balloon flies above our heads, somersaulting and gliding in the darkness. It’s a deliciously tempting way for people to experience ballet in a new way.

The dance highlights, programmed by Emma Gladstone for Sadler’s Wells on the Waterfront stage were The Ballet Boyz’ The Talent 2013 – a sexy, striking celebration of masculine strength and energy – and Spanish sensation Rocio Molina’s de-constructed contemporary flamenco; passionate, boundary-blurring and intelligent. But let’s not get too deep with the old analysis – this is dance to be enjoyed. Whether you’re completely new to it or a wisened balletomane (and there were plenty of both, vastly raging in demographic) the festival dance experience is culturally indulgent and positively hedonistic.

There’s so much to see that it’s impossible to fit it all in – I missed out on The Famous Lauren Barri Holstein (sob) Rashdash’s The Frenzy and a whole bunch of filth in the cabaret tent. And that’s why I’ll be coming back next year – for more delectable dance in this perfect, utopian environment.