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by David Mead

April 2011 -- London, UK

MOVE IT, London’s four-day dance exhibition may now be in its sixth year, but for various
reasons I had never managed to get there. If I’m being honest there was also a part of me that had
studiously avoided it. I sort of figured that it probably didn’t have too much to offer someone more
interested in ballet and contemporary dance rather than what one might call the more commercial
entertainment side of the artform.

This year there were no excuses though. From reports of previous years’ events I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Even so, walking into the Grand Hall, a huge space larger than most of London’s main line railway stations, I was almost knocked over by the wave of energy and sound that greeted me.

MOVE IT is a heady mix. The main exhibition floor was filled with 160 stands featuring dancewear manufacturers and retailers, dance schools and academies, performing arts establishments, publishers, universities and goodness knows what else. But what really makes the show, and why most people seem to come, are the performances, masterclasses and workshops covering just about everything from ballet to Bollywoood bhangra, commercial street dance to Cunningham-based contemporary, and acrobatic rock ’n’ roll to zumba. And they certainly came. This year’s attendance topped 22,000, up 18% on 2010, with over 1,500 people taking part in a workshop or masterclass.

Many of the classes were packed to overflowing, and with people of all ages. Of course, with so
many people there you are not going to learn too much, and you are certainly not going to get
any personal attention. In fact, even with the teacher on a stage at the front and all miked up, it
must have been difficult to see and hear at times. The noise from other classes and the stages did
travel. But then MOVE IT is not really about that. It’s about being there, taking part, maybe trying
something new in a completely unpressured environment and, most importantly, having a good
time. And plenty of people were doing that.

Back on the main floor the dancewear retailers in particular doing a roaring trade, helped along by
a few special offers. There was also the chance to pick up information on a number of vocational
schools. Occasionally everyone stopped as another performance took place on the MAOAM
Freestyle Stage, a place where you simply turned up, booked your three minute slot, plugged in
your music and danced, usually to much enthusiastic clapping and cheering. The emphasis here
seemed to be very much on street dance and hip hop, but there was a bit more variety on the main
stage. Here the range of dance on offer was rather more varied, although classical ballet was a
notable absentee on the day I was there.

As fun as Move It was though, one of the most interesting things was noting who was not
represented. Not one dance company took a stand. Neither did any major dance venue, not even
Sadler’s Wells, one of the event supporters. And the major vocational schools were few and far
between with none of the top ranking schools or leading universities with more academic dance
courses represented. The Royal Academy of Dance were prominent, and their stand attracted a
steady stream of visitors, but where were the other the other major training organisations? There
were a few ballet workshops, but MOVE IT is very much an event that seems to see dance in very
commercial terms, much like prime time television; definitely more “So You Think You Can
Dance” than Royal Ballet, Rambert, Random or whatever.

MOVE IT doesn’t have everything and it’s not for everyone. But next year, if you haven’t been
and you like dance, put your doubts aside. Yes it’s noisy and crowded, but don’t let that put you off
because there really is plenty to see and do. And don’t forget your dancing shoes. You might just
discover a new form of dance for you.

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