What started off with just 50 enthusiasts has now turned into one of the biggest dance festivals in the UAE, with this year's line-up featuring 300 professional and amateur performance artists from around the globe.
Up to 3,000 participants are expected to attend the event, which started yesterday and continues until Saturday, including The Final Dance Jam, according to Ahmed Salsa, the founder and co-director of the Dubai International Dance Festival.
"The festival is a catalyst for the creation of new work, creative activity and artistic collaborations with organisations throughout the UAE, the Middle East and the rest of the world," says Salsa. "This is the only dance festival in the Middle East that brings the entire dance community together for a weekend of celebration of music and dance."
Artists include the Cuban-Italian duo Seo Fernandez and Alessia Cornacchia; the Italian/American, international salsa couple Natalia Lopez and Marco Ferrigno; the award-winning UAE and Colombia-based BNF Dance Company; the Dubai and USA-based Familia De La Salsa Dance Academy; Cuban dancer Aloy Junoc; the Michael Jackson impersonator known as Mike Jack; and a host of others.
"We were looking for artists with a diverse talent to ensure maximum variety," says Salsa. "Each year, we like to introduce one or two new dance styles in either the workshops or the shows. For example, this year we introduced a beautiful dance style called kizomba [a style of African dance first developed in Angola]."
"Exciting workshops" are also on offer for those wishing to pick up some moves from the professionals.
"It takes a perfect blend of several qualities to create a truly effective dance teacher who can have a lasting impact on virtually every student," says Salsa. "This year's workshops have an incredible line-up of dance instructors teaching and performing a diverse style of dances."
Workshops include tango, hip-hop, salsa, reggaeton, Afro-rumba and even belly dancing. "It is purely a talent showcase that offers a great opportunity to dance lovers, professionals, amateurs, students and all related artists to get together on a common platform," says Salsa. "I'm personally very fortunate to have had the opportunity to witness the growth and development of the dance scene in Dubai with the influx of very talented instructors and performers alike over the past few years."
Increased numbers of qualified dance instructors from acclaimed global dance institutions are expected to come to the Emirates, says Salsa, and their contribution will help create a more "mature state" and move the dance community forward.
Keeping it in the Familia
With such a steady increase in interest, Dubai has already established itself as a major spot for dancers worldwide, says Chris Dissanayake, the co-founder of DIDF and the managing director of Familia de la Salsa. "For international dancers it's a great destination, not only to dance but also to see the beauty of Dubai. Especially when we go to other festivals across the globe and talk about our festival, all international dancers have a great interest to come," he says.
This year, Familia de la Salsa has planned two shows. "The adult team has a show called Seduce Me. It is created with lot of love and passion. It's about a love affair between two people who only have one night left before they go back to their regular life," he says. For the children's group, a theme show based on Grease has been prepared.
"All those who love music and dance can attend the festival and enjoy it, as it offers one single platform to meet a world of talents. The growth of the festival over the past five years shows the strength of the dancing community here," Dissanayake says.
The event also aims to act as a platform for those with talent, but who face a lack of opportunity.
Tickets cost between Dh50 and Dh550 and are available at various locations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi including via www.timeoutdubai.com and www.dobazaar.com. For more details visit www. dubaidancefestival.com