Body Festival a chance to dance
19 September 2013
“Everybody dances. We’re just providing a platform for it,” says Adam Hayward, Artistic Director of the Body Festival, on in Christchurch from 27 September to 13 October.
Last year, 31,000 people took part in the Body Festival as audience members and active participants. Half of them participated in dance classes, workshops and forums, and Adam describes this active participation as the festival’s “point of difference”.
Appointed the founding Artistic Director in 2002, Adam is the driving force behind this annual dance festival and its vision. “From the outset, I wanted the festival to be about participation as well as presentation. So if you watch some flamenco or salsa, for instance, you can then go to a workshop and give it a go.
“What I love most about the festival is that mix of watching and doing; the idea that it’s non-judgemental and non-competitive. I remember watching a line-dancing workshop. The youngest was five and the oldest 93.”
Partnerships with the health sector
The Body Festival has always promoted dance as a vehicle for mental wellbeing and to increase physical activity, Adam explains. That’s why it attracts partnerships with the health sector, including the Mental Health Foundation and Active Canterbury.
This year, Red Cross New Zealand has come on board, and is supporting the Have a Go workshops and providing transport to people needing it.
In addition, the Body Festival has joined forces with the All Right? campaign, developed by Canterbury District Health Board and the Mental Health Foundation to encourage Cantabrians to check in with each other about their wellbeing.
The festival has had tee-shirts with the words “all right to dance” printed on them. It’s a theme supported by a varied programme, including performances by Touch Compass Dance Company (“HOTBOX Rogue”), Jolt Dance (“I will wait for you”) and Jen McArthur (“Echolalia”).
Since the earthquakes in Christchurch, the Body Festival is bigger than ever.
“We didn’t view the earthquakes as challenges,” Adam says. “We viewed them as opportunities to use a whole bunch of new venues and go into places like Sumner, Lyttelton, Rolleston and New Brighton.”
Exhibitions celebrating dance
There are also two exhibitions celebrating dance: “Look at me I’m dancing” (Linwood Community Arts Centre) and “You can see me everywhere” (Christchurch City Council Civic Offices).
Last year, the Body Festival set up a pilot programme called “You can see me everywhere”, where disabled people became involved in the festival as ushers and programme sellers, film crew, and lighting and sound crew.
This year’s exhibition continues this exploration of “seamlessly integrating people perceived to be living with a disability”.
Digital cameras were given to a number of people with disabilities and they were invited to take photos that captured what they saw when they thought of the word “dance”.
Council hosts Arts and Accessibility Forum
At the opening of the exhibition, on 30 September, Christchurch City Council is hosting the Arts and Accessibility Forum.
In a video made last year about “You can see me everywhere”, Adam says: “There’s nothing to stop us – festivals, events, big organisations – seamlessly integrating people.”
He hopes the Body Festival’s programme will serve as a model that other festivals around the country will adopt.
For more information about the Body Festival and its programme, please visit its website.