The Big Dance set to take over Edinburgh
The programme, part of the Cultural Olympiad, will feature a world record attempt in the Grassmarket
If there’s one woman in Edinburgh with her finger on the dance pulse, it’s Morag Deyes. The artistic director of Dance Base knows who’s jetting into Scotland to perform, who’s taking their dancing skills elsewhere, and who’s making it happen right here. Or so she thought.
But it would seem the enormity of the aptly titled Big Dance dwarfs even Deyes’ knowledge of the local dance scene. ‘There’s more in the Big Dance programme than I realised even existed in Edinburgh,’ she says. ‘We sent a call-out to every dancing school, organisation and university, saying if you’ve got a dance group, register with us and we’ll allocate you space in the Big Dance programme. So people have contacted us that we wouldn’t normally hear from, and some of these groups are complete news to me, but they’ve been around for years.’
Part of a UK-wide programme of dance events, Big Dance Edinburgh will transform the capital’s city centre for an entire weekend. Taking place in open-air venues in St Andrew Square, the Grassmarket, Castle Street and Rose Street, as well as inside the National Museum of Scotland and Dance Base, Big Dance will feature a frankly staggering line-up of dance forms.
Aerial, African street jazz, ballet, ballroom, belly dancing, Bollywood, breakdance, burlesque, capoeira, cheer leading, contemporary, flamenco, Highland dancing, hula-hooping, Irish dancing, jazz dance, jive, salsa, Scottish country dancing, swing, tango, tap and zumba are all on the cards, plus films, lectures and an array of flashmobs popping up on Rose Street when we least expect it.
The Cultural Olympiad is the driving force behind all the Big Dance events, but it was down to local dance venues (in this case, Dance Base) to come up with the goods. ‘They wanted us to celebrate dance for all ages and abilities, and to incorporate as many styles as possible,’ explains Deyes. ‘And for it to be democratic, because it’s not a competition, it’s not a talent show – it’s just about people enjoying and celebrating dance.’
Some of the Big Dance activity you can just watch, some you can actively take part in, but all of it can be enjoyed without spending a single penny. Starting at 9am on the morning of Saturday 30 June, the event will culminate in a record-breaking attempt to stage the world’s largest tea dance at 5pm on Sunday 1 July. The current record stands at 306 couples, and to break it, certain procedures have to be in place, as Deyes is currently discovering.
‘The Tea Dance is going to be fantastic, I’m so looking forward to it,’ she says. ‘It will be a wonderful way to round the whole thing off, and it’s been really interesting finding out odd details like how big does a piece of bread have to be before it’s a sandwich? Because for the Guinness Book of Records, it has to be a genuine tea dance, with sandwiches, tea and cake. That’s the kind of detail I’m amused by.’
Registration for the Tea Dance is still open via bigdanceedin.co.uk or by texting tdance and your name to 64446. Bringing your own partner is advised, but not essential. And, should watching other people having fun dancing in any of the aforementioned styles, then the Big Dance programme has a plethora of classes and groups just waiting for your attendance. Is that one of Deyes’ hopes for the event, more people discovering the joy of dance?
‘Well there’s definitely going to be some of that,’ she says confidently, ‘because even basic science tells you that watching something enjoyable makes you want to be part of it – it resonates with something inside you. But the difference between seeing dance in a theatre and thinking either “maybe I could do that one day” or “never in a million years” is that at Big Dance, you’ll be standing in the street watching people who are just like you dancing. It’s completely accessible.’
Big Dance Edinburgh, Edinburgh city centre, Sat 30 Jun & Sun 1 Jul.