Out of Many, One

(The Jamaican motto Out of Many, One People is the inspiration for this month’s blog title. The Jamaica moto encompasses the diverse heritage of the Caribbean and nods to the Latin phrase E pluribus unum, one from many). 

May has been a wonderful opportunity to celebrate what dance can mean in terms of bringing people together.  Often diversity can be confused with disparity, however reflecting on Let’s Dance International Frontiers has allowed the opportunity to respect, highlight and give voice to the diaspora.  As Brenda Dixon-Gottschild eloquently summarised; “we are all human, but we are not all the same”.  When considering dance from African and African Caribbean, there are many different aesthetics all encapsulated by the term “Black Dance”.

LDIF19 sought to unpack this.  The workshop programme brought together Jeanguy Saintus from Haiti, Thomas Talawa Prestø from Norway, Alesandra Seutin from Zimbabwe (via Belgium and the UK).  A round trip of these three countries is over 17,000 miles. The practitioners worked alongside participants four days towards a showcase performance, highlighting the richness of techniques; contemporary whilst rooted in tradition.

The Black Dance: A Contemporary Voice conference also provided a unique gathering through both the contributors and delegates, people who, have changed the face of the international dance ecology. From Ronald K. Brown’s keynote where, we discovered that no other choreographer has more works in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre repertoire, after Alvin Ailey himself, through to Chester Morrison’s sharing of the founding of Black Dance movements in the UK through to Gladys Francis’ closing paper, encapsulating everything that LDIF and Serendipity is. The dialogue around Black dance is still very much needed.

LDIF19 has left me with happy memories of the positive outcomes of collaboration; The gathering to celebrate the launch which saw dance from Haiti in the heart of Leicester Cathedral. Catching people stare through the windows of the Manifest exhibition at Adizdo’s Mashiki masks. Both Deaf and hearing audiences staying around after Urban Jazz Dance Company’s performance long after ‘last orders at the bar’ had been called (and signed), through to the finale performances of Evidence that had everyone on their feet.

I am grateful to everyone who was a part of LDIF19, and everyone who has been a part of the journey so far. Later this month I attended Surf the Wave in Bournemouth and Poole and was delighted to see Lanre Malaolu’s Elephant in the Room, first developed for LDIF17 as part of Autograph.

Next year will mark the tenth edition of Let’s Dance International Frontiers (don’t forget to save the date 29 April 2020 for the launch). 10 Years, 10 Countries, 10 Voices: Black Classics. I’m excited to be able to share the programme as it unfolds throughout the forthcoming year, to celebrate the connections and friendships that have been formed throughout the last decade and to keep pushing boundaries putting diversity at the forefront of dance.