The LEAP festival programme of contemporary dance goodies is over for another year. As it’s not so easy for me to get out and about to watch evening performances these days, I took the option of trundling along to one of their daytime talks, in particular the free event at MDI’s HQ, ‘Displaced Bodies: In Conversation with Arno Schuitemaker and Max Diakok’.
The talk, hosted by Biennial head Sally Tallent, brought together two international performers to discuss how they established their practice, and the influence of politics on their work. My companion for the afternoon snored right through events, but got away with it by virtue of being three months old and sat in a pram by my side; however I always enjoy a peek behind the scenes and this was an intimate but enlightening event that found the common ground in two seemingly very different performers.
For example, each had found dance later in life after beginning in careers far removed from the arts – Schuitemaker was in his late 20s with a masters in engineering behind him, while Diakok had a background in law and 20 years experience in judo. Once they had got hooked on dance, they both found themselves striving to perfect the techniques that would take them to the next level.
Max Diakok, originally from Guadeloupe but now based in France, developed a contemporary style inspired by the traditional gwo ka of his homeland. Eventually, through studies of the dances of other cultures, he realised the common language between seemingly very different types of performance. “Exploring all that made me a different artist than before I’d left Guadeloupe,” he said. “My work translates – it is not about copying and pasting those influences but creating a language.”
Dutch choreographer Arno Schuitemaker says science is still a source of inspiration for his dance work. But in the Netherlands the arts are under threat from 100 per cent funding cuts and a right wing government that fails to see the value in the sector.
This event was one example of the diverse programming of LEAP, and a flavour of the international nature of the festival, which remains something of a hidden treasure in Liverpool’s cultural scene.