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Features Published 3 August 2017

Wilderness 2017

Rachel Elderkin talks us through the dance shows being performed at this year's Wilderness festival.
Rachel Elderkin
Wilderness Festival at Conbury Park.

Wilderness Festival at Conbury Park.

As the weekend approaches, Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire will transform into a world filled with arts, food and music as Wilderness 2017 gets under way. Now in its seventh summer, the festival presents an impressive line-up of music, theatre, comedy, dance, talks and debates.

This year I’ll be joining the many festivalgoers escaping London for the beautiful surroundings of the Oxfordshire countryside. Since starting out, the festival has played host to a growing number of dance companies. As a dance writer and dancer myself, this is the main reasons I’m looking forward to Wilderness 2017.

There are, of course, a number of challenges to presenting dance in an outdoor setting, particularly with the tempermental British summertime. There’s also the endless distractions of a festival site and the challenge of captivating an audience who have partied the night away or spent it discovering that flimsy tents are no match against adventurous insects.

Yet these challenges are also part of the magic of bringing dance to a festival stage. Performing outdoors is exhilarating and offers a unique chance to dance in front of new audiences. The work presented at Sadler’s Wells is, more often than not, seen in a theatre setting by the venue’s dance-loving audiences. At Wilderness, the dance performances on across the site can be seen by anyone who chances upon them.

But, rather than leave it to chance, I suggest you mark out some dance in your programme. A good one to start with would be Company Wayne McGregor at The Atrium. They’ll be performing excerpts from McGregor’s works Entity and Far.

Alternately, at the festival’s intimate theatre space, The Playhouse, there’s yet more dance on offer. C12 Dance Theatre return to Wilderness with ‘Sacrifice’, an all-female piece exploring the relationship between three sisters, while Uchenna Dance present their interactive dance-theatre production, The Head-Wrap Diaries. Through the stories of three female characters, their work uses comedy to explore beauty, hair and culture.

Also at The Atrium, Sadler’s Wells present an exciting programme of contemporary, flamenco and hip-hop, including performances from the artists of Breakin’ Convention – the international hip-hop theatre festival seen earlier this year in London.

And why stop at just watching dance? The ever-energetic Swing Patrol will be joining forces with Shirt Tale Stompers for ‘The Swing Off’ and then, if you feel inspired, Swing Patrol members will be offering tasters for those who wish to try some moves for themselves.

Rambert will also be holding a workshop based on their popular, and critically acclaimed, work A Linha Curva. This samba-inspired party piece is the kind of work that makes you want to get up and dance. I’m sure it will prove a fun way to test your dance skills and I’ll certainly do my best to grab a place at their workshop.

After a night under canvas, the mass morning yoga session with London-based yoga studio Stretch sounds the perfect way to wake up, shake off the night before, and prepare for an dance-filled day ahead. The beauty of including watching performances in your festival schedule is that, no matter how damp the weather, you’re sure to see some of the nation’s top companies and some beautiful works.

Wilderness is on the weekend of 3 -6 August 2017. Click here for more details. 

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Rachel Elderkin

Rachel is a freelance dancer and dance writer. She was a 2015 finalist in The Stage critic search and currently contributes to The Stage, londondance.com and international dance site, Fjord Review. She has written for a number of publications including The Skinny (Scotland) and LeftLion (Nottingham) where she was Art Editor.

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