Sun & Dance in Manchester Piccadilly Gardens
The UrbanMoves International Dance Festival came to a hot conclusion. Dancers from around Europe descended on Manchester and surrounding areas on the weekend of 25th - 27th July 2008. A bi-yearly event which last happened in 2005, due to lack of funding in 2007 and was therefore postponed until 2008.
The performances in Piccadilly Gardens were between 1pm and 5.30 p.m. The gathered Sunday afternoon crowds in the urban oasis were treated to Southern European temperatures and contemporary dance from around Europe including street dance from Spain, a tango in the air by a group of aerial dance practitioners, not to mention the Cie Gianni Joseph dancers whose three sessions on the dance floor ended in the large fountains.
Remarkably the Hofesh Shechter dancers had to reduce the length of there performance because the unusally warm and sunny conditions had heated the black coloured main dancefloor to a temperature where they would have burned themselves.
Wired Aerial Theatre treated the gathered crowds to a tango inspired flying extraviganza with the dancers wired to allow them to forget some of the constraints of gravity. The dancers gracefully rose into the air and dancing partners helped to direct some of the peter-pan like flying. When two of the male dancers were attached to the rigging a few 'Matrix' inspired fight like sequences were performed. Wired Aerial Threate at times appeared to fly over the surrounding buildings.
Cie Gianni Joseph's dancers were seen from afar approaching the dancing stage, all dressed in varying shades of purple and pink. Floating in the gentle breeze above their heads, helium balloons in complimentary colours helped to pick out the four dancers in baby-doll dresses from the gathered crowd. The dancers walked around the stage handing out most of the balloons to the children in the audience. Once on stage the dancers released the remaining balloons, which drifted above the gardens into the blue sky, only punctuated by the occasional white fluffy cloud.
After 20 minutes or so of dancing on the stage the dancers appeared to be folding down the tops of their dresses, revealing fabric flower covered bikini like tops. The dancers moved onto the flat platform which houses an ornamental fountain in the centre of the gardens which is designed to allow for the public, if they should so wish, to actually walk through the geezer like water. With the sound of rushing water followed by the loud screams from the gathered young children the water spayed on the dancers as they continued to dance, sharing the fountain with the manic youngsters. In the second act, a while later, four male dancers did an almost identical echo of the original dance the four women dancers performed - doing the balloons and stripping down to just their trousers at the end and yes also getting soaked in the fountains.
Towards the end of the afternoon all eight of the Cie Gianni Joseph dancers performed together. The three dances were described by the very descriptive titles of Woman, Man, Woman Man. The gathered crowds were heard to be upset with the fact that the fountains had been switched off for the dancing but the screams of delight when the gathered younger folk realised that they would get away with sharing the aquatic dancefloor with the performers was deafening.
A group of Spanish break-dancers whose flight was cancelled only just managed to get across to the UK after the flight they were waiting for for four hours was withdrawn. Arriving with very little time to spare in Oldham in a Taxi having had no sleep had to get straight up onto the dance-floor. The athletic ability of the break-dancers all dressed in white was evident from the second beat of the techno electro drum - taking it in turns the different dancers performed signature and near impossible feats of flying, spinning and that funny windmilly things that break-dancers can do.
The shows in Piccadilly Gardens were only a small selection of the performances that happened. The event started on Friday 25 July and continued through until the Friday. Exchange Square and Piccadilly gardens were the main performance areas but other performances happened over the weekend at Kay Gardens, Bury, Albert Square, Manchester and Cathedral Gardens to name a few. Further details of the event can be found at the events website