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  • Writer's pictureYumi La Blanca

London as a Dancing City - Revitalising the culture at GDIFestival 2021

It might feel a little chilly recently, but it’s not too late yet to embrace the summer feeling in London - we’re spoiled for choice at GDIFestival until 11th September.

GDIF stands for Greenwich + Docklands International Festival, hosting a rich collection of local and international performing artists who appear to entertain us in various outdoor sites across the East London area. As the official pamphlet claims ‘healing together’, the whole event for this year is dedicated to recover the arts and culture from the trauma of the pandemic.

Among so many diverse performances in many interesting places, I’d like to feature two vivid examples which demonstrate spaciousness and experimental spirits of this cultural festivity.

‘Finale’ by Delrevés

Delrevés is a Barcelona-based ‘vertical dancing company’. What it means is that they dance on the facade of a building, instead of the floor or the ground, using a rope hanging from the top of the building to support the body. It’s not wall climbing but wall dancing. At GDIFestival, they chose the contemporary architecture of Ravensbourne University in Greenwich Peninsula, enhancing the visual impact.

‘Finale’ features two ballerinas dancing classical pieces extracted from ’Swan Lake’ and ‘The Nutcracker’ in such an extreme body position. Although they describe their style as ‘vertical dance’, the body angle of the dancers are actually ‘horizontal’ to the ground. I can’t imagine how scary or exciting it is to dance in that way, hopping and landing on the wall in pointe shoes, but they might be experiencing a very similar feel to flying.

Even if you’re not a big fan of classical ballet, you’d be awed by their physical strength, braveness as well as gracefulness. As a ballet fan myself, it was enchanting. The only setback was that, while the view of the dancers high up in the air was simply amazing, I occasionally needed to look down to rest my neck muscles.

‘Finale’ by Delrevés (Caixa Forum, Zaragoza)

‘Future Cargo’ by Requardt & Rosenberg

‘Future Cargo’, the latest creation by Frauke Requardt and David Rosenberg, was another thrilling visual experience.

In the middle of an empty piece of land in Silvertown on the Thames, a 40ft lorry of mysterious origin reveals a shipment of androgynous dancers in silver bodysuits. Looking like visitors from outer space, they appear one by one, gliding in loops from left to right on a travelator. At first they are robotic, but gradually develop variations of more human-like expressions through the language of contemporary dance. The lights, costume, repetitive and synchronised moves, hard electronic music on personal headsets, all enhance a somewhat sci-fi feel and surrealness of this show.

While it’s not easy to extract a simple storyline, the whole flow actually provokes imagination and creative interpretation. Personally, I liked when they started to put colourful tops on, enjoy dancing to the rhythm, and go against the flow of left to right, as if indicating individuality out of a robotic group unison. I felt the quality was futuristic as well as humanistic.

Requardt & Rosenberg: Future Cargo | Official Trailer

London as a dancing city

There are so many more participants at this festival, all sharing their love for arts, while taking advantage of interesting architecture and local space in our reemerging London. Through GDIFestival, we can witness both the culture and the city to be revitalised. Until 11th September, it’s still not too late to enjoy this festivity of outdoor performing arts. We dance with London, or London itself is dancing.

GDIF 2021 Full Programme Trailer

Greenwich + Docklands International Festival: 27th August to 11th September 2021


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