International Dance Festival returns to Billingham

Published: 5 August 2019
Reporter: Peter Lathan

Fundacion Danza Libre Bogota, Columbia
Balbir Singh Dance Company and the Absolutely Legless Irish Dancers
Shenzhen Arts and Culture Association Credit: Danielle Cutler
South Korea's ULSAN High School of Arts Credit: Danielle Cutler
Grupo Folclórico Aruanda, Brazil Credit: Danielle Cutler

The annual Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance returns to the Teesside town from 10 to 18 August for the 55th time when ten countries—Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Georgia, Ireland, India, Slovakia, South Korea and the United Kingdom—will be represented.

The Festival’s theme will be 'Follow Your Dreams' and many of the events are inspired by one of the world's leading figure skaters, John Curry OBE, whose work drew inspiration from a combination of ballet and modern dance techniques and who would have been celebrating his seventieth birthday this year.

There will be an opening and closing ceremony, arena shows, an ice-skating spectacular, a special flash mob movement, a night of Indian food and dance and a host of children's workshops.

The ice-skating spectacular The Creative Spirit of John Curry will star three of Europe's leading ice dancers, Mark Hanretty, Vanessa Bauer and Nina Ulanova, who have appeared in the TV show Dancing on Ice alongside Torvill & Dean.

The programme has been devised by Artistic Director Olga Maloney and Balbir Singh of Balbir Singh Dance Company and will feature performances at ARC Stockton, Middlesbrough Town Hall Crypt and in Darlington town centre.

The programme comprises Grupo Folclórico Aruanda from Brazil with the Samba; China's Shenzhen Arts and Culture Association presenting Traditional Chinese Classic Dance; Colombia's Fundacion Danza Libre Bogota with Traditional Folklore (including Salsa Columbiana); Grupo Folklorico "Costa Rica" performing Salsa & Swing Criollo; Georgia's Ensemble Bagrati with a traditional military inspired dance; the Balbir Singh Dance Company from India and the UK with traditional Indian Kathak dance; the Absolutely Legless Irish Dancers performing traditional Celtic dance; Slovakia's Folk Ensemble Šarišan with Traditional & Contemporary dance and South Korea's ULSAN High School of Arts with Traditional Fan and Farmers' Dances.

Keeping a local North East connection, Newcastle-based contemporary company Eliot Smith Dance will feature heavily in the programme.

Other festival highlights include Scenes of Childhood (a family concert), Love and Spice, 1001 Dreams, Irish and Indian Dreams and a flash mob movement inspired by Don Quixote, the Olympic medal-winning routine by John Curry.

“The festival has become part of Billingham's fabric,” said Artistic Director Olga Maloney, “and people look forward to the celebrations year-on-year. We are now marking fifty-five years of bringing this wonderful event into people's lives from school children to grandparents and aspiring dancers to tourists visiting the region. We really do entertain and educate everyone who experiences the occasion.

The Creative Spirit of John Curry is a great example of how we are looking to bring dance influences from different areas to make new contemporary pieces, and to have some of the world's top performers lined up to show off their talent is exciting beyond belief. We are always proud of the festival's achievements and never forget where our passion, ambition and dreams are rooted!”

Full details of all Festival events, including tickets and booking, can be found on the Billingham Festival web site.