MDI (Merseyside Dance Initiative) is a charity and one of the UK’s leading dance development agencies; a multi award-winning organisation whose mission is “inspiring people through dance.” MDI uses dance to transform people’s lives; be they artists, participants or audiences. It is MDI’s ambition to create the best environment and right conditions for artists and their dance work to flourish so that more dance is being produced in the region that is excellent enough to export to the rest of the UK and internationally.
Leap is MDI's festival of world class dance that we have been programming and creating since 1992. We have developed a bold and ambitious plan to programme Leap 2017 at a new temporary ‘pop-up’ venue in the heart of Liverpool’s creative docklands. LEAP is an international dance festival for Liverpool in the heart of the City; bringing together the community, and celebrating excellence in dance by presenting new work by companies based locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. A biennial event since 2013, Leap will return to an annual format post-2017. We focus on diversity in our art-form, and encourage participation by offering a programme of high quality performances, workshops and talks from local and visiting artists. This new project, for which we are seeking funding, will transform a warehouse into a vibrant family-friendly temporary venue that will form a hub for artists and audiences alike for the two-week-long festival.
We want to test the idea of a ‘pop up dance space’ in support of creating, in the longer term, a dedicated space for dance in Liverpool that houses our ambition to create a sustainable model of doing business that enables dance to thrive in the region. We want to become a model for artistic excellence in dance. Critical to this will be the support and development of the very best talent. We want dancers, producers and choreographers to individually and collectively drive their own creative artistic development and achieve their potential; supported and facilitated by exceptional and inspiring teachers and professionals. We want them to be equipped with the skills, attributes and awareness to operate in a changing artistic landscape. The region will increasingly become a place where artists have the freedom and support to flourish, so inspiring the next generation of dancers and choreographers to see their future here and building a foundation for the future of the art form is key to the success in testing this model.
Leap 2017 will shine a light on dance, on the city, bring it out of the shadows, have it seen, make it visible and demonstrate that actually, yes, Liverpool is a dance destination.
Camouflage - Seen and Unseen
The theme of Leap 2017 is Camouflage - Seen and Unseen. Liverpool is a vibrant cultural city full of art and fast becoming a major tourist destination outside of London and with great patronage for music, theatre and visual art. However dance in the city remains, to a large extent, invisible. Leap 2017 will beat the drum for dance in our region and shine a light on the dance sector, on the city, and bring it out of the shadows. We’ll make dance seen, make it more visible to visitors and residents alike, and demonstrate that Liverpool is a genuine dance destination. We’ll explore individual and collective identity: how we choose what to see and what to show. How much do we own what we show? We want to explore on a larger scale what it might mean for a city, a region, or a country to be unseen. How are we perceived as a result of where we are? Where is our home? We especially want to explore displacement as a kind of invisibility. Can being invisible be a positive thing, by creating an unexpected place in which we might perform - dance - differently? What occurs when you spend too much time being invisible? Creating Leap 2017, and our longer term vision of a dance venue for Liverpool is all about being noticed, creating a scene, a thriving - and visible - community for dance.
The festival will focus on:
● Celebrating diversity and promoting internationalism: the work produced will be presented and created in a global context
● Producing a distinctive high quality diverse dance programme: we’ll inspire artists and audiences throughout the North West as we deliver artistic excellence that expresses the radical and diverse nature of Liverpool and the North West.
● Engaging a new audience for dance in Liverpool, especially from harder to reach and minority groups.
Risks and challenges
Leap 2017 will be the first festival of its kind in Liverpool; the first time we have programmed the whole festival all under one roof. This presents a number of very real challenges in and of itself.
The venue we are working with, Make Liverpool, is not a dance venue, it has never programmed dance performances before. We are working alongside Make to transform the space in to a venue fit for world class dance. This includes a number of technical challenges, as some of the works we will be showing will be technically demanding; so we need a venue that is fit for purpose in terms of staging, production and technical support, as well as accessible and comfortable for the audience. With twenty-five years of festival production to our name, MDI certainly has what it takes to meet this challenge; and with the technical support of organisations such as Unity Theatre and Make, we welcome this opportunity to thrive in new and exciting ways.
The northern docklands area of Liverpool is a thriving creative hub, with several unique and ground breaking companies operating in the area, including the Invisible Wind Factory and Wired Aerial Theatre Co. as well as Make. These creative enterprises have brought a lot of very positive attention to the area, but it is still a relatively new part of Liverpool to be programming performance events. However, we believe that the success enjoyed by the likes of The Invisible Wind Factory demonstrates that the people of Liverpool are ready to make this part of the city the most vibrant and innovative and be a beacon of creative spirit to the rest of the UK.
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