Author: Nathan Akrill

A dance inspired by Dorset and East Devon’s Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site will open this year’s Lyme Regis Fossil Festival on April 29th to mark the South West’s celebration of UNESCO World Dance Day.

Desert Crossings is a journey of discovery, reflecting on the similarities between the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and the Skeleton Coast of Namibia, the work is an exploration and reflection on the two very different regions, which are united through their shared history recorded in the rocks on which they stand.  The cliffs of the Jurassic Coast are made of rocks that formed between 250 million and 65 million years ago.  During that time, movement of the earth’s tectonic plates divided one super continent, Pangaea, into the land masses we see today.  As we moved, the environment shifted from desert to marine, followed by forests and swamps and finally a warm tropical sea.

Desert Crossing part of the Creative Coast events at the Lyme Fossil Festival.

Desert Crossings reunites the deserts of Africa and the UK through a journey of dance, text and music examining common themes of landscape, location and shared memory.

South African choreographer Gregory Maqoma travelled to the Jurassic Coast last summer to develop the work with five dancers.  It is the result of an exciting partnership between several organisations. State of Emergency commissioned the new work supported by Creative Coast and Dance South West.  Through the partnership with Creative Coast, Desert Crossings also has the backing of UNESCO, so it was an obvious choice to celebrate World Dance Day in the South West.

Deborah Baddo, Artistic Director of State of Emergency said

“As we draw to the end of our UK Spring Tour of Desert Crossings, State of Emergency are enjoying the positive feedback on the show and reflecting on how far we have come since our initial conversations and ideas about the project two years ago.  Desert Crossings has been very well received, with great feedback and excellent reviews in The Times and The Stage Newspapers amongst others. In addition to the actual performances we have enjoyed the enthusiastic engagement by young people who have participated in our workshop programme that link the themes of climate change with dance. We have managed to get across  the message about the geological impact of climate change and have really got the young people thinking about our world in new ways, which has been really rewarding.

We worked closely with the expertise of Anjana Ford from the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Team to make the work as authentic as well as as creative as possibly could.  We now prepare for the last UK performance at the Fossil festival on 29th April at The Marine Theatre, Lyme Regis, before heading off to South Africa where we will be performing Desert Crossings at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown. We hope that 2012 will see the next stage of development of Desert Crossings as we develop and adapt the show for an outdoor audience.  Watch this space!”

The Lyme Regis Fossil Festival will take place this year 29 April – 1 May, 2011 and is proud to be a partner of Creative Coast.  In addition to Desert Crossings, all weekend we’ll enjoy the company of Professor Nutt and his lovely assistant, who will accompany an interactive Pliosaur that will be roaming the streets of Lyme. On the sea front you’ll find the MEMO project, with their massive Portland stone sculptures and ‘sculpting stations’ where visitors can have a go at carving, and on Friday the Purbeck Clay Festival team will be working alongside MEMO too.  Also at the Marine Theatre Forkbeard Fantasy’s ‘All at Sea’ cabaret will take us on a journey with 7-yr-old undersea explorer Dora Blurt on Sunday. At the Malthouse, there will be several films, including Cape Farewell‘s latest ‘Burning Ice’, and ‘End of the Line’, and two episodes of David Attenborough’s series ‘Blue Planet’.

The Festival has a full schedule of walks, talks, boat trips and performances. Our schools day will return in 2012 (assuming Prince Harry doesn’t pick that weekend to get married…), when the Fossil Festival (4-6 May, 2012) will be the launch event for the Jurassic Coast Earth Festival 2012.

The centrepiece of this year’s Festival is the Grand Marquee, on the Town Beach, which has displays and hands-on arts and science for the whole family. Our largest partner is London’s Natural History Musem, who brought about 35 scientists from different disciplines in 2010. Other partners in the Marquee include the Jurassic Coast partnership, Natural England, Lyme Regis Museum, the National Trust, Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre, Dorset AONB, Dorset Wildlife Trust, Bristol Natural History Consortium, National Museum of Wales, National Oceanography Centre, Plymouth University, Dorset Geologist’s Association, Dorset’s Important Geological Sites (DIGS), and the Buckland Society. Finally there is the Fossil Fair, with fossils from a dozen local specialists, collectors and traders.

There is a full programme of Fossil Festival talks for a general audience at the Woodmead Halls on Saturday and Sunday, and some specialist talks Friday and Saturday evening at the Malthouse at the Town Mill. And for those of you raring to get out and about into our gorgeous Jurassic Coast landscape, there are fossil walks, rock pooling, and a number of nature walks run by our Festival partners.

Walks, talks, films and performances are available to book online at the Fossil Festival website https://www.fossilfestival.com/ or you can buy them in person or over the phone from the Lyme Regis Tourist Information Centre, 01297 442138

Daisy Sutcliffe, Jurassic Coast Arts Coordinator

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