Imaginate 2013 puts an emphasis on storytelling through movement

Imaginate 2013 puts an emphasis on storytelling through movement

Îlo / Photo: Gilles Destexhe

Dance and physical theatre forms a large part of this year's kids' theatre festival

More than ever before, this year’s Imaginate Festival is using movement and dance to entertain audiences. Festival director Tony Reekie tells Kelly Apter why

When you’re programming an international festival, language is always going to be important. Will the audience understand the words and dialect? Does it matter? But this year, it’s body language rather than foreign language that’s pre-occupying Imaginate’s artistic director Tony Reekie.

Of the thirteen shows in this year’s performing arts festival, put together especially for children, five of them rely on movement to tell their story, with little or no speech involved. According to Reekie, he’s just moving with the times.

‘Part of my job is always to follow and respond to the interesting trends,’ he says. ‘So that’s why there’s a lot more dance in the programme than we’ve had before, because it’s really coming of age and people are starting to produce really high-quality work in a lot of different contexts.’

Included in the Imaginate line-up is Alles (All) by Dutch company Het Lab Utrecht, in which two dancers use their bodies to depict water, helicopters and earthquakes, and Îlo (pictured above) by Belgium’s Compagnie ChaliWaté, exploring the importance of water through comical acrobatics and dance. Scotland’s own Curious Seed dance company presents Chalk About, using chalk drawings and movement to question the meaning of life, while Irish company Branar Téatar do Pháistí delivers non-verbal puppetry work Mise – Story of a Girl.

Adults often think that children need everything spelt out for them during a trip to the theatre. Reekie, on the other hand, thinks it’s the adults, not the children, who need a helping hand to enjoy dance.

‘One of the great things about very good quality work with little or no speech in it, whether it’s physical theatre or dance, is what happens when an audience of adults watches how the children react,’ says Reekie. ‘Because adults can sometimes be quite reticent about what they’re about to see, but children haven’t yet lost the ability to express themselves with their body – they haven’t developed a fear of dance. So they’re naturally in tune with something that doesn’t rely on speech, a lot more so than adults.’

One of the most anticipated dance shows Reekie is bringing to the festival this year, is a double bill by Arch 8 Dance Group from the Netherlands. No Man is an Island and My True North both contain highly physical parkour movement, with the performers climbing and balancing on the walls and each other. The wow factor is expected to be in attendance.

As with all dance, however, trying to understand what the performers are saying in a literal sense, is a waste of time. As Reekie says: ‘Sometimes you have to relax, stop searching for meaning and just let it wash over you. And if the quality’s there, then you’ll absolutely engage with it.’

Imaginate Festival, various venues, Edinburgh, Mon 6–Mon 13 May.

Alles (4+)

Edinburgh International Children's Festival

Edinburgh's international children's festival of performing arts presents a programme of theatre, dance, storytelling and puppetry. It's an opportunity for children, their teachers and their families to see high quality Scottish and international shows. It's also a chance for programmers and artists to congregate, discuss…

Mise – Story of a Girl

A little girl lets one small problem grow bigger and bigger until she can't sleep and the stormcloud won't leave her head. A non-verbal performance told through puppetry by Ireland's Branar Teatar do Phaisti. Ages 6+.

Alles (All)

Two performances use everything at their disposal – their voices to sing nonsense, their feet to stomp, and their cheeks to make popping sounds and their hands to clap – to create a colourful and engaging performance that mixes dance, theatre and song into one. Ages 4–7.

Chalk About

Tackle the big questions of life – about identity and the meaning of it all – in this physical performance using mixed media props (including chalk outlines, as it were).


A desert plant finds help in its quest for water from a mysterious man. This quest for 'blue gold' is told through movement only, without dialogue, reaching from the poetic to the comedic as it highlights the importance of water. Ages 5+.

My True North & No Man Is an Island

The Netherlands' Arch 8 parkour and dance group present two duets of impressive physical strength and agility, using balance, architecture and each other to keep moving. Ages 10+.