Billingham dance festival announces shake-up

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ORGANISERS of a dance festival have announced that the week long festivities will be held every two years instead of annually.

After 55 years of entertaining the masses and inspiring generations of young and aspiring dancers, the Billingham International Folklore Festival of World Dance (BIFF) is shedding its skin and taking a different approach, which means an exciting two year cycle of activity.

Organisers will harvest new ideas in the year break with the culmination being the festival at the end of the 24-months.

BIFF’s rekindling will explore the festival’s appeal and influence across the whole of Teesside and beyond.

Olga Maloney, artistic director, said: “This is going to be an exciting opportunity to ensure that the Folklore Festival is around for another 55 years. We want this to be a refreshing way to rejuvenate a formula that has been at the heart of Billingham’s cultural calendar for over five decades. We are celebrated the world over by dance companies and artists who recognise Billingham as being a global player in international dance.”

Throughout the years 20,000 performers have graced stages in and around Billingham and 95 different countries have featured, including China, Mexico, India, South Korea and Brazil. Dancing styles ranging from traditional, flamenco, classical, Indian and contemporary are all featured at the festival. People aged from two to 92 have been involved.

The festival is supported by Stockton Borough Council and Arts Council England.

The new festival format will see BIFF gather creative influences in the form of one-off monthly events and community education showcases.

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These events will be a celebration of dance and what it means to the people of Billingham, young and old.

The ‘one year on, one year off’ way of working will ensure the dancers and audience members are left wanting more. The non-festival year will be a way for organisers to nurture ideas and prepare for an explosion of fun, creativity and world dance.

The first of the free BIFF community events to give people a flavour of what’s to come takes place on Friday, February 21 which will be a double bill by Balbir Singh Dance Company at Preston Park Museum in Stockton-on Tees.

The event is titled ‘Whistle Stop Tour of Folklore Dances from around the World’ and will start at noon and a second event titled ‘An Introduction to Indian Classical Dance’ will start at 2pm.

Councillor Jim Beall, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, Leisure and Culture, said: “BIFF has been a firm favourite in Billingham for more than half a century and the organisers’ decision to move to a new format means they can focus on a showpiece event one year, and on projects in the area’s communities the next.

“This gives BIFF a great opportunity to open up the world of dance to schools and community groups, while continuing to offer the big international festival for which they’re known. I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

Due to the success of BIFF’s collaboration with Arts Council England the relationship with Balbir Singh Dance Company, a national portfolio organisation, will continue as they look to be Festival Company in Residence over the next two years.

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The next festival will run from August 7 until 15 2021.



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