Edinburgh International Festival announces 2024 dance highlights

Aakash Odedra's 'Songs of the Bulbul'.
Aakash Odedra's 'Songs of the Bulbul'.

The Edinburgh International Festival, taking place this 2 – 25 August, has announced its 2024 programme, featuring works in dance, opera, music and theatre.

Inspired by philosopher Byung-Chul Han’s book, The Disappearance of Rituals, the Festival will explore the importance of collective experiences to bind us closer together.

“This year, the Edinburgh International Festival celebrates Rituals That Unite Us as we inaugurate new and reimagined rituals, in a programme that will bring artists and audiences closer together than ever before,” said Festival Director Nicola Benedetti. “We invite you to seek and gather with us this August.”

Legendary Brazilian dance company Grupo Corpo, which blends Brazilian forms with ballet and contemporary dance to create a unique style, will present two UK premieres. Gil Refazendo pays a transformative homage to one of the godfathers of Brazilian music, Gilberto Gil. The dancers pivot between graceful movements and high-energy motion to the sound of Gil’s eclectic mix of samba, bossa nova and electronica. Gira, which means ‘spin’, draws on rhythms and movements inspired by the rites of Afro-Brazilian religion Umbanda. In Umbanda riturals, participants dance and spin, releasing control of their bodies to the spirits of deities. Gira evokes these rituals, with dancers jumping and floating through ritualistic movements, ballet and contemporary.

Grupo Corpo’s performances are joyful, illuminating the uniqueness of Brazilian culture. The performances will run 5 – 7 August, at Edinburgh Playhouse.

Aakash Odedra will present the world premiere of his Songs of the Bulbul from 9 – 11 August, at The Lyceum. This piece creates a sensitive dialogue between the Indian classical dance Sufi Kathak and Islamic poetry. Bulbuls are a common songbird throughout Africa and Asia. In Sufism – a mystical practice of Islam that emphasises a spiritual closeness with God – bulbuls symbolise the beauty of the natural world and the pursuit of religious enlightenment. Odedra’s dance work explores the ancient Sufi myth about a captured bulbul, which sings an exquisite tune before perishing from despair.

Combining Arthurian cosplay and emotive contemporary dance, Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young will present their major new dance work, Assembly Hall, from 22 – 24 August, at Festival Theatre. Set in a crumbling community hall, a group of medieval re-enactors gather for their Annual General Meeting. However, things are not looking good. Membership has taken a nosedive, debts are creeping up and the group has become divided into opposing factions. Unless something drastic happens, the re-enactment society will be shut down forever. But as the meeting progresses, the lines blur between past and present, reality and myth. Ancient forces have woken, and it becomes increasingly clear that the quest to save their society from dissolution is a matter of life and death.

Kidd Pivot’s award-winning productions seamlessly blend dance and theatre. Young’s recorded text is married with Pite’s razor-sharp, witty choreography to create a genre-defying piece woven together by two masterful storytellers.

This year’s Edinburgh International Festival will also include Opéra-Comique’s new production of the opera Carmen, the UK production premiere of Komische Oper Berlin’s The Marriage of Figaro, theatre works such as Hamlet and After the Silence, and much more.

For more information and the full festival programme, visit www.eif.co.uk.

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