The biennial festival now in its 25th edition returns to Nottingham to captivate us.

Tonight the pristine studio space has turned ‘pop-up’ canteen to feed all the guests, audience and staff equally, and Indian is on the menu provided by Nottingham caterers, ‘Indian Nights.’ Warming spices and delicate flavours delight. Hospitality and dialogue are put at the centre of this practice, that of hosting and unwaveringly collaborating and making space in the face of stringent cuts and political uncertainty. Matthias Sperling, artist and co-curator of the programme, announces: “We are ready to make our contribution”. This year’s focus on ‘Magic and science’ – the generative power of performance, of “gathering” – coheres a breadth of artistic practices in dance today. They articulate a felt-sense of social, political and ecological urgency and artistic unrest.

Themes of hospitality, collaboration, unrest and transformation follow in the opening performance Music For Lectures/She Dancing by Coe, Burrow and Fargion, relaying the unknown and unheard experience of the dancer (Coe) in collaboration with Burrow and the Fargions introduced as a rock band. On entering we are greeted by Coe performing gestures around the space and audience members. She is smiling, touching, furtively embracing, taking the time to greet all around. She jumps, rotates, tiptoes, circles. She feels the space above her head, twirls, inserts herself between two. This is an exercise in exploring what the body and space can do, and importantly what they can do for each other – what are the limits, the contours and capacity of the dancer’s body? what are the limits of space, time and being with? What grammar of movement and intent must the dancer obey? And what new forms and sensations may emerge from disrupting such order? She knows. She knows the fullness that comes from a “re-orientated world from that wobbly felt-sense, from this misty unknown experience”. She Dancing is a radical feminist dancing-voice, wild and learning to speak and honour herself, not a binary argument, and definitely not a representation by another “thank you but absolutely no, thank you.” She Dancing is the voice that, courageously, under our gaze, is building alternative ways of being in the world from the inside/outside/inside. “Dance arrives in us” while music unfolds like an essential partner – generous attentive dynamic present – creating alluring cinematic frames and rhythms: narrow, close and ever-expanding landscapes. In them, we see more, go deeper and touch closer.

Written by Maud Lannen, Nottdance 2019 Reviewer