Dance Base – An award winning accessible dance and festival venue

Photo from the production of Lady Macbeth: Unsex Me Here.

With glass-roofed dance studios looking up to Edinburgh Castle and all the excitement of the Grassmarket on its doorstep, Dance Base is one of the most energetic and unmissable venues of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Winner of the Euan’s Guide Award for Accessible Venue in 2015 and a Highly Commended Accessible Venue in 2016, Dance Base is a spectacular example of how accessibility can be achieved on festival nights, days and all year round as a dance school.

You have lots going on in your festival programme this year! How many studios and rooms are turned into stages for the festival?

Two of our four studios (Studio 1 and Studio 3) are converted into fully functioning theatre spaces. We also have a durational work taking place in another space (Studio 2), but it will still be more of a dance studio than a theatre space. Finally, we have a site-specific work taking place in our Secret Garden for three days and then moving to Dalkeith Country Park for another two days.

How accessible is Dance Base for disabled performers? What is accessibility like backstage?

Dance Base is committed to accessibility for visitors, performers and staff. The nature of the Fringe is such that many of the spaces in our building change function from their original intent – for example, our Treatment Room, an office space, and one of our store rooms are all adapted into dressing rooms. The fact that those spaces are no longer used for the thing they are designed for means that there can be new challenges for accessibility, but we talk to the performers in our programme about their access needs and do our best to accommodate them. It certainly helps that the building has previously won Euan’s Guide Accessible Edinburgh Festival Awards, so it has a good standard of accessibility throughout, with level access, lifts, induction loops, and large accessible toilet spaces.

There have been some very imaginative inclusive choreographed performances at Dance Base in the past. What have been some of the most exciting performances you have hosted and what has made them especially inclusive?

We have been proud to have welcome performances in the past by some of the leading disabled artists in the dance world. Claire Cunningham’s ‘Give Me a Reason to Live’, ‘Dancer’ by Ian Johnston, Gary Gardiner and Adrian Howells, ‘A:Version’ by Indepen-dance 4 and ‘Falling in Love with Frida’ by Caroline Bowditch have been particular highlight shows by disabled dancers in recent years.

Caroline Bowditch and Company are back this year with ‘Snigel and Friends’, a beautiful piece about a snail and their insect friends, made for babies of 0-12 months. The piece was created to address the fact that there’s very little performance work made for children of that age featuring visibly disabled performers. We’re also excited to welcome ‘Lady Macbeth: Unsex Me Here’, by Company Chordelia and Solar Bear, a gender-reversed dance theatre adaptation of Macbeth, featuring BSL as an integral part of the choreography.

What can people expect at Dance Base’s Inclusive Hip Hop and Inclusive Party Playlist classes?

All classes at Dance Base are intended to be as inclusive as possible, but classes like Inclusive Hip Hop, Inclusive Ceilidh, Inclusive Contemporary, and Inclusive Party Playlist are specifically designed to welcome disabled and non-disabled dancers in a fun, relaxed setting. Those classes give the experience of each dance style but with the freedom to accommodate different access requirements and different modes of expression.

Finally, what else is happening at Dance Base this August alongside Fringe shows? Will there be classes and other events running?

In August, Dance Base becomes very much about performance, with 21 shows from 12 countries. Alongside that performance programme, we run a modified version of our class programme, with an emphasis on health and wellbeing classes, like Gyrokinesis®, and Pilates and Scaravelli Yoga, as well as a number of classes for professional dancers.

Check out reviews of Dance Base on Euan’s Guide!

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Locations: Edinburgh

Tags: interview, Fringe, dance, culture, arts

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