Glass gets the inside scoop on the Sadler’s Wells highlights at the festival event of the year
As we enter the thick of festival season it seems that every year more and more spring up around the world, each one trying to find new ways of differentiating themselves from one another. Latitude, it seems, has hit the nail on the head – figuratively speaking. More than just rock gigs, this now iconic British festival is a cultural behemoth fusing film, poetry, literature, theatre, dance, comedy and classical music, to name a few of its pursuits. Emma Gladstone, Artistic Programmer and Producer of Sadler’s Wells, one of the most iconic contemporary dance theatres in Europe, explains why they are celebrating five years of collaborating with the festival and what Latitude means to them. What prompted you to collaborate with a festival? I suppose we’re always looking to take work to new people and one of the pleasures about performing at festivals is that you reach people who wouldn’t normally think about coming to see shows in dance. So for me, one of the pleasures is reaching people who might not have otherwise known what we do. Some people think we still just do ballet because that’s a large part of our history, so it’s very enjoyable to try, with a mixed bill, to show some of the range of the work and the range of the styles and cultures that we present here.
Why did you choose Latitude festival? That’s quite a funny story actually. I was waiting for a gig in a very slow VIP queue and I was saying, “What are they up to, they better have left us tickets’ and I mentioned that I had given a ticket to the festival organiser for one of our shows at our theatre, so I hope he’d got one down for us. And the woman in front of me turned around and said, “Where do you work?” And when I said Sadler’s Wells she said, “Oh I’ve been meaning to get in touch with you!” And so that was Tania Harrison who does all the arts programming at Latitude. And so it sort of came about slightly by chance. We had already been to Glastonbury but it was … umm … a difficult situation there and in the end we decided not to. I suppose it’s easier to work in a situation that’s all about the mixture of arts going on and not just music. Yes, they seem to have an ethos of bringing more than just music to a festival so that it is a cultural pursuit as well. Yes exactly! And I think it’s such a great idea that allows people to go and see different things and just experience different arts in the same space. You don’t just go and see a gig every night, you can see theatre, cabaret, poetry and comedy. It’s just a really great idea. Can you tell me a little bit about the acts that you’ve chosen to take to Latitude? Sure! So we’ve got a couple of our own productions and one associate artist of ours, Jonzi-D, he’s known particularly for creating Breakin’ Convention, the international Hip Hop festival that we run, but he has also made his own work and we’re taking a ten-minute solo called Aeroplane Man which he’ll also be performing here in the studio in the autumn. It’s just a very funny, witty, sharp piece of dance theatre, so I’m delighted that he’s agreed to come along. We’re also taking Candoco, who are an integrated company, working with disabled and non-disabled dancers. They have their 20th anniversary this year and they have remounted their version of (legendary choreographer) Trisha Brown’s Set and Reset/Reset.
They were on at the theatre in February so it’s just great to be able to take them with such a fabulous bit of work and the music is by Laurie Anderson. I find the music heavily affects what I program because there’s no lighting to play with at the festival so the music’s really important. It sort of wraps them up really. We’ve also got Wah! Wah! Girls which is our kind of British Bollywood project that we’ve co-commissioned and produced, it has been part of the World Stages that’s going on this year because of the Olympics. On the Sunday we’ve also got a couple of duets from the Pet Shop Boys project that we were doing last year and this year, wonderful dances. Again, work that we have commissioned and produced in-house.
But as well as that on the Friday night there’s a wonderful group of French hip hoppers, and I suppose what I love is that they were here at Breakin’ Convention and they just blew me away and I just thought that they could go down really well and it’s just great, as a programmer, to have different kinds of spaces and places to program.
I suppose one the great challenges but also one of the great thrills is finding the right audience for the work that’s exciting or current. I think this piece, they’re called Serial Stepperz, is a lovely 20 minutes that mixes up all sorts of different hip hop styles, breaking and popping and locking and crumping and all these sorts of things. It’s a beautiful bit of pure movement really. But they’re really wonderful, wonderful dancers too. I just think we’ve a great mixture and I suppose that’s what I hope people will enjoy and usually it does get really good responses from people, what we put on there, and I’m really excited about it. You’ve done five years of festivals now, what are your top tips for surviving them? Ha ha ha! I think take footwear for heavy rain and strong sun. One summer the dancers’ feet got burnt because it was so hot on the stage and I’m not used to that. That just really made me laugh because I was used to rain, wellies and capes but actually one duet had to actually stop in the middle and put socks on to protect their feet – it was so boiling. The other thing is to get there in enough time to acclimatise because it’s such a different set up performing outside and it’s also like a 360º audience there on the waterfront stage so it’s also that people need to perform in a multi-directional way. So I think that’s another key thing. But otherwise I think I’ve learnt to be as brave as I can imagine in what I put on, to see how the audience goes with it and I think that’s a great thing, to be confident.